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Opinion

Leni’s momentum  

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

I first met Vice President Leni Robredo on February 21, 2019. I was then attending a Sectoral Agenda Building Conference organized by Ahon Laylayan sa Sugbo at the convention hall of the Sacred Heart Center.

Usually, you would know when a very important person (VIP) is scheduled to come because shortly before that, you’d feel a sense of haughtiness in the air, thanks to the mighty and snooty retinue of staff and associates that come with the guest of honor.

But not in the case of VP Leni Robredo. The only sign that she was about to enter the convention hall was the presence of the grim and alert-looking PSG men and women tasked to protect the vice president. Her staff was as down-to-earth and tactful as their principal.

I took photos of her from the moment she arrived to when she spoke at the podium. Some of those standing along her way toward the stage shook her hand while others dared to ask to take a selfie with her, which she obliged. Make no mistake, she still exudes that dignified if not regal aura befitting the higher office that she occupies, but it’s an aura that you know has been tempered by a sense of purpose.

As a developmental lawyer myself, I think I know where that purpose is coming from. Educated in Economics at the University of the Philippines and in Law at the University of Nueva Caceres, Robredo had for years worked with the marginalized sector under the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) in the Bicol region. She could have contented herself with being just first lady to his late husband, then long-time mayor of Naga City Jesse Robredo. But she chose to earn her chops rendering legal assistance to the poor as a lawyer at the Public Attorney’s Office. She then worked with various sectors under a social justice framework of lawyering as a SALIGAN lawyer.

This kind of background can never be faked. Because if you have it, it would show in the small yet impactful gestures of thoughtfulness and attention to details. I already commented here in my previous column piece that Robredo has the innate ability to be a good campaigner. This conference that I attended in 2019 was that particular occasion where I based my conclusion.

At the podium, somebody pointed to my direction and told the vice president that it was my birthday. Robredo looked at me and greeted me a happy birthday. I thought that was the brief end of it. Later during the picture-taking before the lunch break, I was standing at the back of where the vice president was sitting when she glanced towards me and greeted me again on my birthday. She smiled and joked about how large my “birthday party” was as lunch was waiting.

These small yet impactful gestures of thoughtfulness and attention to details, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s not something one can pretend to have. It takes years of immersing with ordinary people on the ground and comprehending the nation’s problems as they manifest in people’s daily struggles.

The latest Pulse Asia survey shows that Robredo is narrowing the gap between her and frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by 13 percentage points, as her support jumped by nine points from 15% to 24% while that of Marcos went down by four percentage points from 60% to 56%. That’s still a big lead for Marcos but it shows Robredo has the momentum with still a month to go before May 9. This momentum is brought about by the multitude of volunteers and supporters, most of them independently working for her campaign. It’s also brought about by what I described above as Robredo’s innate ability to sway people with her charisma and platform.

Volunteers and supporters of Robredo have already started house-to-house campaigns to convince those exposed to years of disinformation to reconsider their choices based on facts and not on false information from pro-Marcos trolls and social media accounts.

Those in Cebu who support Robredo should not make the mistake of thinking that Robredo is leading here against Marcos. That’s far from the truth on the ground, to be frank, although Robredo may not be that far behind. But Cebuanos will listen and will think hard about their choices come May 9. There’s still about a month to go to lay your case and plead it in a down-to-earth, tactful, yet effective way.

ELECTION

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