Why is the Philippine media so obsessed with current Vice President Leonor “Leni” Robredo? No other Vice President in the history of the Philippines attracted as much press coverage as she has over her term. She gets even more airtime than President Rodrigo Duterte does, which is ridiculous. Every Vice President ever voted into office usually stays in the shadows and only gets thrust into the limelight when the President is not available to attend a function or is incapacitated. This has not been the case at all with Robredo. In fact, Duterte was hardly ever unavailable during his six-year term, but the way the media has been interviewing Robredo and getting her two-cent opinion on every issue whether big or small, you would be forgiven for thinking that she has a bigger role to play than just being a spare tire. Such is the media’s bias for Robredo.
It’s an open secret that members of mainstream media in the Philippines are allied with the Opposition. They have played the role of kingmaker for decades since the late former President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986. Media personalities do not even hide their choice of candidate for the 2022 Presidential Elections with journalists wearing pink as a show of support for Robredo. She switched to pink in an effort to distance herself from yellow – the colour of Liberal Party, which is the party that has become synonymous with the losing team. Prior to that, however, journalists from big networks did not feel shy about showing their preference for yellow as well.
The irony is, despite Robredo being the Darling of the Media, she still gets consistently low ratings in popularity surveys conducted in the lead up to the coming elections. The recent report on the survey conducted by Pulse Asia shows that she only got 20%, which is way behind former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s 53%. She only received 14% in Metro Manila too. That’s baffling considering she had a lot of exposure to residents from the National Capital Region.
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One wonders what happened to those who supposedly voted for Robredo in the 2016 elections. If she really won as Vice President just like they say she did, where are those voters who made her win? It seems they are nowhere to be found! Perhaps there is truth to the allegation that she only won due to electoral fraud. One such allegation is there were ballots that were pre-shaded with Robredo’s name even before the election was held. We recall that during the vote recount conducted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, Robredo’s camp requested the tribunal to apply just a 25% shading threshold to evaluate the validity of ballots being reviewed. Unfortunately, the tribunal sided with her. The reason they allowed it was due to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) breaking its own rule and ignoring the 50% shading threshold rule with vote counting machines. Indeed, this mockery of institutions can only happen in Third World countries like the Philippines. No wonder a lot of people still can’t accept Robredo’s win against Marcos as legitimate.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that Robredo actually won as Vice President. Why then is she lagging behind Marcos today? It is surprising to see her low ratings since she has the advantage of being in the second highest position in government and she has the backing of big media giants. Meanwhile, Marcos is still getting attacked from left, right and centre.
Indeed, history books and media commentary have not been favourable nor kind to the Marcos family. Even President Duterte tried to downplay Marcos’s abilities as the next President after Duterte decided to back his close friend and Senator Bong Go for President. But this has not turned off Marcos supporters. Like what I have said in my previous articles, it was the failure of the Aquinos and their allies to institute reforms to help the country progress that put the Marcoses back in government and that could soon see them return to Malacanang. The people eventually realised that those who replaced Marcos Sr were not only more corrupt, they were also incompetent. Their only advantage was having the media behind them to help hide their indiscretions. But of course they could not hide Cory and Noynoy’s incompetence forever. In fact, much as they tried to appear competent, tragedies during their terms exposed the truth — that they were not after the welfare of the people. That gave the people enough reason to give Marcos a second look. Their supporters now believe they were wronged and were robbed of their place in history. Now the people want to help “correct” the history books. But I digress…
So why is Robredo unpopular with the voters despite her unfair advantage? Because she doesn’t act like a real diplomat and exhibits very little statesmanship. She acts more like a puppet. She doesn’t know how to play by the rules. As the current Vice President, she didn’t realise she should stay in the sidelines and allow Duterte to shine. She, instead, wanted to be in the limelight herself and this she did by criticising Duterte incessantly. That was her biggest mistake. One doesn’t criticise a popular President unless one is prepared to lose supporters. She wasn’t smart enough to charm Duterte and earn his support.
Robredo just didn’t know when to shut up. She’s made so many stupid statements about issues and gaffes on record that became fodder for countless memes. Her campaign is all over the place because she keeps changing her strategy. One moment she is catering to the C-D crowd, the next she is on the cover of a posh magazine. The people can see through the façade and see the hypocrisy in her campaign. The people know she is not the brightest bulb in the room. They even gave her the nickname “Madumb” which has stuck like a rash to her personal brand since. The more Robredo talks, the deeper the hole she is digging for herself.
It is clear and becomes clearer by the day. Robredo may have “won” the Vice Presidency in 2016, but the majority of voters clearly do not want her to be the next President in 2022.
In life, things are not always what they seem.