Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo, an alternative lawyer and public servant, is the 14th Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. After years of working with the poor and the marginalized, teaching the less fortunate about their rights under the law, Leni, as she is popularly known, emerged into national consciousness following the loss of her husband, long-time Naga City Mayor and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo. Called upon to carry on his legacy of good governance, she stepped into the political arena in 2013, when she won as Representative of the Third District of Camarines Sur.
Leni Robredo graduated elementary and high school, in 1978 and 1982 respectively, from Unibersidad de Sta. Isabel (formerly Colegio de Sta. Isabel). In 1986, she graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines - Diliman. She completed her juris doctor degree in 1992 from the University of Nueva Caceres and passed the Philippine Bar in 1997.
Occupation before politics
Before entering public service, Leni Robredo was a researcher and economist at the Bicol River Basin Development Program Office from 1986 to 1987. She was an Economics professor at the Universidad de Sta. Isabel from 1987 to 1997, a job she took on while earning her degree in law. After passing the bar, she joined the Public Attorney's Office until 1999, rendering legal assistance, counseling, and other legal services to indigent litigants to ensure their free access to the courts, as mandated by the Constitution. She then joined Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) - Bicol Chapter, where she was branch coordinator and lawyer for 13 years. Here, she represented marginalized individuals in court, and provided legal education for clients through legal clinics and helping them understand relevant laws by translating and publishing Bicol Versions of the text. Aside from this, Leni Robredo founded Lakas ng Kababaihan in Naga in 1992 and was President of Naga City Council for Women from 2008 to 2010.
Work in the 16th Congress of the Philippines
In 2013, Leni Robredo won as Representative of the Third District of Camarines Sur. During this time, she was Vice Chairman of two committees: Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, and Committee on Revision of Laws. She was also part of the Committee of Appropriations; Bicol Recovery and Economic Development; Climate Change; Human Rights; Land Use; Local Government; People’s Participation; Rural Development; Suffrage and Electoral Reforms; Welfare of Children; and Women and Gender Equality.
Among the laws she passed are:
- Philippine National Railways Charter Extension - Republic Act RA10638, an act extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways for another 50 years which was enacted on June 16, 2014
- Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015 - Republic Act RA10742, an act establishing reforms in the Sangguniang Kabataan creating enabling mechanisms for meaningful youacth participation in nation- building which was enacted on January 15, 2016
- Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act - Republic Act RA10708, an act promoting fiscal accountability and transparency in the grant and management of tax incentives which was enacted on December 9, 2015
- Open High School System Act - Republic Act RA10665, an act establishing and appropriating funds for the open high school system in the Philippines which was enacted on July 9, 2015
- Graphic Health Warnings Law - Republic Act RA10643, an act prescribing the printing of graphic health warnings on tobacco products which was enacted on November 15, 2014
- Decriminalizing Premature Marriage - Republic Act RA10655, an act decriminalizing premature marriages which was enacted on March 13, 2015
- Strengthening the Probation System - Republic Act RA10707, an act rationalizing and strengthening the probation system and amending the “Probation Law of 1976” which enacted on November 26, 2015
- Election Service Reform Act – Republic Act RA10756, an act rendering election service non-compulsory for public school teachers which was enacted on April 8, 2016
Term as vice president
Amid a productive term in Congress, she was called upon to run for the Vice Presidency, and rose above many odds to assume the second-highest elected post in the country. Determined to bring the Office of the Vice President closer to the people, she led the crafting of its flagship anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay – an endeavor inspired by six key advocacy areas; namely, food security and nutrition, women empowerment, education, healthcare, rural development, and housing. It has reached out to poor communities around the country, through the generosity of partner-organizations and individuals, most of whom are from the private sector. She also launched Istorya ng Pag-asa, a program that aims to spread hope and positivity by featuring extraordinary stories of ordinary Filipinos through words and portraits shown at events, exhibits, and social media.
Soon after her appointment as ICAD co-chair in 2019, VP Leni set out to work in the bid to harmonize government efforts in the anti-illegal drug campaign, meeting with various government agencies, local government units, and private organizations, and other stakeholders. She also visited several communities, including those which were deeply affected by the drug problem. Despite holding the post for only 18 days, VP Leni relentlessly sought to steer the anti-illegal drug campaign to a more holistic, data-driven, and humane approach, believing that the fight against illegal drugs is not only the fight of government, but of every community and every Filipino. She went on to release a report, which detailed the current state of the anti-illegal drug campaign, and the various gaps that need to be filled and proposed solutions to these.
Moving forward to 2020, the Vice President led her office in its initiatives, first to help communities affected by earthquakes in Mindanao and the Taal Volcano unrest in Batangas and nearby areas.
VP Leni continued to exemplify grace and resolve as she and her office stepped up, launching one initiative after another in response to the many needs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite limited resources, the Office of the Vice President launched many initiatives, through the help of many partners and donors, aimed at filling in the gaps found in terms of supporting frontliners and communities in need during this time—from providing PPE sets, locally produced protective suits, and medical supplies to frontliners across all regions of the Philippines; to providing free shuttle service and dormitories for frontliners in Metro Manila; to distributing relief packs, hot meals, and other assistance to communities; helping locally stranded individuals return to their respective provinces; giving market vendors and tricycle drivers a platform to boost their livelihood anew through community marts; giving livelihood opportunities and assistance to individuals, communities, and sectors who lost their jobs and sources of income; providing distance learning support for students, teachers, and their families; promoting mass testing and vaccination efforts; and providing free medical teleconsultation services to patients, among others.
The Vice President and her office remained relentless as Filipinos faced more challenges when Typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses barreled across Luzon towards the end of 2020. VP Leni was among the first in government to visit hard-hit areas, including those in the Bicol Region and the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan. Fostering her office’s culture of swift and strategic response, alongside the Filipino Bayanihan spirit, the OVP was able to bring relief assistance to many affected communities and, eventually, also start rehabilitation efforts through the BAHAYanihan housing initiative.
Under VP Leni’s leadership, the OVP has also gone to great lengths to professionalize its ranks and cultivate a culture of excellence there. The office carries a quality management system certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 9001:2015), which it first successfully obtained in 2017. It earned its recertification in 2020, maintaining its streamlined processes amid the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, the Commission on Audit has given the OVP an unqualified opinion—considered the highest rating from state auditors—for its financial reports in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Believing in the power of collaboration, and a faith in the people, VP Leni vows to keep working to help her fellow Filipinos, especially those in the fringes of society.