“They say the presidency is destiny. Perhaps the tribulation that the Vice President had to endure is how the universe is strengthening her for the most difficult job of her life.” With this premise PhilSTAR columnist Andrew Masigan deems it fit to claim that Leni Robredo is ripe for the Presidency in 2022. In his piece “Leni on the right side”, Masigan insists that Robredo “is on the right side of democracy, human rights and due process. She is on the right side of the West Philippine Sea dispute. She is on the right side of good governance, decency and humanitarianism.” Evidently, Robredo’s cheering squad have learned no lessons from 2016 and 2019. They are banking on the very same losing position yet again.
I never liked Leni Robredo since her rise to prominence in 2012 after the death of her husband Jesse who was, at the time, Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). I never liked Jesse either. I was a frequent visitor to the Bicol region in the 90s because I had business to oversee there. We put up the first marine products processing plant at the Camaligan Fishing Port Complex. This was a small fishing port by the bank of the Naga River. There wasn’t much fish being landed. Leave it to the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority to construct fishing ports in some areas where it isn’t even viable. It’s a money-making project whenever that is the case. But still, like BDO’s slogan, we find ways. Octopus landed on the Eastern seaboard of the country are larger than those on the Western seaboard. We had to balance out our size breakdown for our buyers. It was better to process in the provinces because labor was cheaper and we could avoid having to deal with quality issues in Manila on account of the long travel time from the landing areas to Navotas.
Jesse Robredo was being touted as an excellent local government unit (LGU) executive but you don’t hear that from the natives of Naga. His hand was in every viable business in the city, including the central transport terminal. Girls as young as 15 years old were available from pimps for tourists and natives alike. There was also drugs in steady supply, mostly shabu and marijuana. Naga still had a large number of informal settlers. The situation was worse in Daet, Camarines Norte, so you had the people there going to the more progressive Camarines Sur to find work. Jesse established Kaya Natin shortly after Noynoy Aquino won the Presidency. Robredo was more of a Mar Roxas acolyte. He belonged to the Balay faction. But he also had a moist eye on 2016. His plan was to test the waters in 2013 and run for Senator. If he won, he would consider a Presidential run in 2016. Jesse believed that Mar Roxas wouldn’t be popular enough to win the Presidency. He wanted to be ready with an organization and a machinery. This was Kaya Natin.
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His plans were cut short by his death in the plane crash. That incident was bedevilled with inconsistencies. How did his security and aide survive with a broken arm? Why was there no autopsy of the fatalities? Why did the British technical diver who discovered the wreckage die from an apparent rubout? The theory is the security aide shot Jesse first then waited until the plane was near the Masbate coastline after which he proceeded to shoot the two pilots before jumping off into the open sea. What was the motive?
Robredo had been building up dossiers on government officials involved in illegal drugs and gambling. This was found out by Undersecretary Rico Puno who belonged to the Samar faction in the administration of then President Noynoy Aquino. It was precisely the reason why he was given that appointment. The dossiers were part of Jesse’s grand strategy to become President in 2016. He had the image and packaging having won the Ramon Magsaysay Award. He had the support of the non-government organisation (NGO) network and civil society. He was a La Sallite. He resonated with the masses.
Recall how Leni had to seek the intervention of then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to prevent Undersecretary Puno from opening and entering Jesse’s office at the penthouse of the Landsbergh Place condominium along Tomas Morato which was also the Robredo residence in Manila. That condominium is owned by them. The office at the penthouse unit was where Jesse kept all the dossiers he built up as DILG Secretary. It’s an open secret that the reason for Leni’s running for Congress was to keep political pressure on Jesse’s dummies for them to surrender the assets they held in trust for Jesse to Leni. This was probably the reason why Leni couldn’t stop herself from smiling in that now famous photo of her with top government officials standing by Jesse’s bier. She was finally free and with money to boot.
Leni only has a combined experience of nine years in politics. Her recent run-in with Senators Tito Sotto and Ping Lacson over “unification” bears out her inexperience. She hasn’t been able to unify the opposition despite being its titular head. Their disastrous showing in the 2019 midterm election is proof that she doesn’t have the voter base which “won” her the Vice-Presidency in 2016. If there was any logic to this then it should follow that Marcos wouldn’t place second or third in any Presidential or Vice-Presidential survey. But Leni is consistent with her single-digit ratings.
At this point, Leni is in a serious quandary because she doesn’t have the financial backing behind Isko Moreno, who is the nominal opposition candidate anointed by the anti-Duterte oligarchs. Leni running would take votes away from Isko. Worse, voters could shun the both of them and go with Lacson-Sotto instead whose tandem is actually the more viable option for those who are not inclined to vote for either a Marcos or a Duterte for the two top posts. Politics is always addition and all politics is local. Leni would also not have an easy time if she runs for Governor of Camarines Sur because she would be going up against the Villafuertes. It is for this reason that she is taking that long to decide. Even if she does, I don’t think she still has an exit strategy in place. Maybe she can win as Senator on the Aksyon Demokratiko slate.
The case of the Robredos is what usually befalls those who are evil and diabolical to the the point that there is nothing sincere about their character. This is why she and Jesse were actually a perfect match. Jesse played his cards wrong and so has Leni since 2016.
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