President Duterte should NEVER forget Leni Robredo’s vicious campaign against him

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At the centre of all the chatter surrounding the ascent of Leni Robredo to the office of the Vice President of the Philippines lies the question: What will be her role in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte?

The future does not look too bright for the presumptive “vice president”. Putting aside the allegations of electoral fraud and the non-compliance of the Liberal Party to Commission on Election (COMELEC) rules around the submission of the party Statement of Contributions and Expenditure (SOCE) that cloud the office of the Vice President, there is little Robredo has to offer that would be of interest to Duterte. Robredo, by her own doing, has pretty much locked herself outside of the soon-to-be-President’s circle of trust.

During the campaign, Robredo had all but shot herself on the foot by by issuing evidently ill-thought-out statements that run counter to Duterte’s envisioned approach to straightening out the Philippines. Duterte, if we recall, rose to power on the back of a promise to apply more, shall we say, iron-fisted means to crack down hard on rampant criminality in the country. To that, Robredo has reportedly vowed to “lead the fight against [Duterte]” on that front. She goes further to assert…

“For me, it’s going to be a huge challenge [to work with Duterte],” she admitted in an interview at the tomb of her late husband, former interior secretary Jesse Robredo, where she paid her respects before voting.

“As a general rule, I think the vice president should be supportive of the President in spite of party differences. It’s your obligation to the people to work together. But there are some things that can’t be compromised. [Human rights] is one of those,” Robredo said.

To be fair, where exactly “human rights” begin and where that hard crack down ends is a point of contention in Duterte’s vision. Police, after all, require justification to shoot and kill criminals under Philipine law. However, it is also difficult to justify allowing an official who had categorically expressed an intent to lead a fight “against” you into your team, specially on an initiative that had been the cornerstone of your campaign.

Indeed, Robredo even cited her hometown in Naga City, Bicol where, she reportedly pointed out, local government there “were able to achieve the same results without resorting to those things”, to which Duterte responded by assuring her that his government would not interfere with Naga City’s affairs. According to Duterte…

“I do not also subscribe the style of her leadership. Tabla lang kami — she does not like me, I do not like her, so no problem,” Duterte told reporters in Davao City.

Robredo is also, lest we forget, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), the out-going ruling party presided over by out-going President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. She ran under the LP banner in partnership with its presidential candidate Mar Roxas. The LP had, over the course of the campaign, sustained a vicious attack on the persons of all candidates running against its fielded bets. In the heat of the campaign, Aquino himself called for a united front against Duterte. Aquino also referred to Duterte as “a future threat to democracy”. Roxas, for his part, mounted an agressive campaign to follow-through on that messaging and, in the final stretch to election day, attempted to forge a last-ditch “unity” alliance with another rival candidate, Senator Grace Poe, presumably to combine their respective voters’ base in the hope of beating Duterte who was, by then leading the polls.

Roxas reportedly described that call for unity as “a call for decency”, as if implying that Duterte’s government would be one that would be lacking in that decency. Roxas clearly harboured an intent to emotionally blackmail Poe into bowing out of the race under the assumption that her votes would go to him

In his statement made during a hastily called meeting with the press at his campaign headquarters, Roxas said that what is more important now is the future of the country than the political careers of any candidate.

“Uncertainty and the specter of a dictatorship are looming over our country once again,” he said. “I call for unity, I call for decency, I call for democracy, I call for the rule of law.”

So desperate was this project to win the election that President BS Aquino himself issued a statement in support of it framing the effort as “a demonstration of country before self”, essentially saying that Duterte’s presidency would be the death of Philippines. Indeed, Aquino even insisted that the prospect of a Duterte presidency “carried similar dangers to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.”

Leni Robredo was, of course, a party to this vicious vilification campaign. She ran under the LP banner, took to the campaign trail with Roxas and Aquino, wore the LP’s yellow colours, and sang from the same Daang Matuwid hymn book. Perhaps someone should ask Robredo what her position is today on that vilification campaign mounted by her party against Duterte.

It would be wise for Robredo’s handlers to caution her against even thinking of backpedalling from those statements of her party mates or distancing herself from the LP itself. Doing so would be a clear sign that all of what she said under the LP banner and while wearing those yellow shirts during the campaign were all lies.

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