Host: Mara Cepeda
13 September 2018
MARA CEPEDA: Hello and welcome to Rappler Talk. I am Mara Cepeda. We are here today with Vice President Leni Robredo. Hello, Ma’am. Welcome to Rappler.
VP LENI: Thank you, Mara.
MARA CEPEDA: So I’ll just dive right into my questions. The hottest issue in the past days is President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation attempting to void the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. With the way that the administration has been handling the issue so far, what does it say about the Duterte presidency and the government and how they act towards their critics?
VP LENI: Ako, Mara, a lot of things. First, the timing. I feel that it was handed down at a very unfortunate time, in the sense that we are in the middle of an economic crisis. The inflation rates are high, prices of basic commodities are soaring and people expect the President to, you know, be on top of the situation, talking to the people, accepting that there is a problem, assuring the people that government is on top of the entire situation. But you know, that expectation was not met in the sense that the President left for Israel and he was very candid in saying that one of the reasons why he was going there was to make the trip as a treat to retiring military officials, and then he left [then] this proclamation was handed down. So, the timing was not good.
Number two, it was really sloppy, sloppy work. The President should not have been put in that situation where not all the, you know, not all the edges were smoothened out first. Marami talagang problema. They were expecting the military to act on it swiftly. When the military did not, they were expecting the courts to act on it swiftly, when the courts did not… You know, all these things. They were citing grounds and the grounds they cited could have been, you know, could have been addressed before it was presented to the President. When they said that the reason behind the revocation of the amnesty was, Senator Trillanes did not apply for one, eh madaling… ‘di ba, napakadaling ma-verify. Kasalanan talaga iyan ng mga nakapaligid sa kaniya. And people are now pointing at Solicitor General Calida and it’s also one of the most unfortunate things about this whole… this whole scenario, in the sense that he is the Solicitor General. He is supposed to be the top lawyer of the government, you know, defending our democratic institutions, making sure that the rights of, not just the government, but the ordinary Filipino are upheld. Pero ito, it is now turning out that he is the mastermind behind all this revocation of amnesty na ano talaga, I think, this caused a big embarrassment to the President.
Biruin mo iyong President nag-declare ng something na hindi pala tama iyong grounds? Iyong inaasahan niyang mag-act on it, hindi nangyari, ‘di ba? Parang, ano iyong na-project doon? Ang na-project doon iyong weakness ng Pangulo. It could have been totally avoided, having made their, you know, groundwork really well. Pero they did not. Parang nilagay nila iyong Pangulo in a situation where na-weaken talaga iyong kaniyang presidency.
MARA CEPEDA: Are you saying that the President was ill-advised with this—
VP LENI: Ako, I would like to think so. I read some of his statement; lalo na iyong mga first statements parang he was so sure that Senator Trillanes did not, you know, did not apply [for amnesty]. He was so sure that there was no admission of guilt. And then ngayon, may biglang kabig. We saw his one-on-one conversation with Attorney Sal Panelo, iba na naman iyong grounds na sinasabi. Ang sinasabi niya na ngayon, defective iyong proclamation ni Pangulong Aquino. Eh ito, Pangulo iyan eh. Dapat hindi sinasabak sa isang laban na hindi pinag-aralan.
MARA CEPEDA: Before I ask you about that one-on-one interview with Salvador Panelo, what—you mentioned before that this whole ordeal Senator Trillanes is strengthening the opposition coalition. Can you elaborate on that, Ma’am?
VP LENI: Kasi we all know where the opposition forces are coming from: Iba iyong Liberal Party, iba naman iyong grupo ni Senator Trillanes—in fact, Senator Trillanes belongs to the Nacionalista Party—mayroong mga cause-oriented groups. Marami, maraming mga lumalabas na mga opposition forces and if you recall, I think it was last month that I said during an interview that I was willing to try to unite the opposition forces and we are at that stage. We are at a stage where we are trying to, you know, lay down which ideals do we share. Kasi ano naman iyon eh, just finding the least common denominator—the least common denominator between all of you and you decide to work on that least common denominator.
Pero with the Senator Trillanes thing, parang even without so much effort, we all find ourselves in one—fighting for one ideal and that ideal is, you know, opposing the abuse of power, which was so… so obvious in the revocation of his amnesty.
MARA CEPEDA: Let’s go into President Rodrigo Duterte’s one-on-one interview with Presidential Chief Counsel Panelo, Ma’am. You mentioned it was—nasayangan ka; it was a wasted opportunity. What were you expecting for the President to talk about?
VP LENI: Ako, when it was first announced that he was going to address the nation at 3 o’clock on the following day, a part of me, actually, was relieved. I felt that it should have been done much earlier. I felt that the fears of our—of the Filipino people—would have been, you know, would have been put at bay if early on, the President already addressed the public, saying: “Mayroon talaga tayong problema. Pero ganito iyong ginagawa ng pamahalaan. Kaunting sakripisyo pa pero mga ganitong panahon, we will expect that things would be better.” Iyong tingin ko kasi, there is a study na sinasabi na the more people are afraid, the more people are confused, the more na iyong inflation nada-drive. It was a study conducted among Southeast Asian nations and I think, that’s what is happening in the Philippines.
Kung naaalala natin, mayroong projection sa gobyerno iyong 2 to 4 percent inflation rate. Iyon nga, na-sobrahan na natin ng milya-milya iyong ating projections and I think a part of that is we are not able to… we were not able to successfully manage the people’s expectations and fears.
So iyong sabi niyang kakausapin… mag-a-address siya ng public, sabi ko, “Finally.” Finally, haharapin na niya tayo. Sasabihin niya, saan ba tayo patutungo? Kasi in the past several weeks or months, iba-iba iyong statements ng pamahalaan. Mayroong mga officials of government na nagsasabi na kulang na kulang iyong supply ng bigas. Itong si Secretary Piñol, sinasabi niyang wala namang kakulangan ng supply ng bigas pero nagsa-suggest na i-legalize iyong smuggling, those things. If the representatives of the President come out in public and their statements, you know, are not the same, this only adds to the confusion eh. So ako, ang expectation ko talaga, iyong kapag Pangulo na ang nagsalita, ito na iyon eh. Pero you know, instead of doing that, parang ang daming mga bagay na at a time like this, hindi na muna sana—dapat isantabi muna. Halimbawa, iyong fight with Senator Trillanes kasi gaya ng sabi ko kanina, I think it’s ill-timed. Huwag naman kapag ganitong panahon na dapat pinagkakaisahan natin iyong paghanap ng solusyon.
In fact, kami from the Liberal Party, mayroon kaming inihain na mga mungkahi. We already made several suggestions. In fact, our LP senators and our LP members at the House of Representatives already filed a bill na nandoon iyong aming mga mungkahi—iyong Bawas Presyo Bill. Hinihingi na i-suspend muna iyong pag-implement noong second tranche ng excise tax sa gasolina. Pero wala eh, parang iyong one-on-one conversation with Attorney Sal, tackled a lot of things na parang, I think, only brought more confusion rather than in-allay iyong fears ng mga tao about the rising prices.
MARA CEPEDA: But he did say, Ma’am, that he is already looking for the replacement of NFA Administrator Jason Aquino. Were you satisfied with that? You have been calling for his resignation.
VP LENI: Ako, I have been calling for his resignation, I think, if I’m not mistaken, as early as March. Iyong dahilan lang, he was saying na, “Jason Aquino told me that he’s already tired.” Iyong sa akin, a lot… there is already a lot of inefficiency in the way that the rice crisis has been managed. Tapos naghahanap ka ng kapalit dahil pagod na iyong nakaupo. Tingin ko hindi iyon eh. Naghahanap ka ng kapalit kasi iyong nakaupo hindi maayos iyong pag-handle ng sitwasyon. Pero kapag sinabi mong… parang mas binigyan mo pa ng halaga iyong pakiramdam noong nakaupo na dapat pinagsisilbihan iyong taumbayan kaysa sa nararamdaman ng taumbayan.
Dapat sana sinabi na, “Ako, disappointed ako the way things have been handled. I already gave him a—“ ‘di ba? Parang, his papers, and ask him to leave: “Give me some time. I’m looking for a replacement,” iyon sana iyong expectation ko. Pero kung sasabihin mo na kaya mo siya ire-replace kasi pagod na siya, parang that’s very insensitive to the sentiments of the ordinary Filipino na naghihirap na for seven months.
MARA CEPEDA: How severe na po ba, Ma’am, iyong rice crisis base doon sa nakikita niyo kasi nag-iikot po kayo ‘di ba?
VP LENI: Iyong sa akin, I was in Zamboanga Wednesday last week. Pagpunta namin sa Zamboanga, ang haba ng lines. The good thing about it is mayroon nang NFA rice at 32 pesos sa Zamboanga. Iyon iyong sad thing about it is hindi pa siya ganoon ka-available to everyone kaya siya pinipilahan. Mayroon lang na ibang outlets na may NFA rice. Mayroong limit na hanggang five kilos lang ang puwedeng bilhin. Nakaka-create pa rin siya ng panic eh, kasi baka maubusan, etcetera, etcetera. We talked to some people—mahirap lang sila—na hindi nakakakuha ng NFA rice so napipilitan silang—iyong kausap ko sabi niya 60 pesos per kilo iyong binibili. We had—I was with Senator Bam—we met with a few people doon sa public market. Iyong pinaka-nakakalungkot doon kasi may several doon na nagsasabi na, “Kami, Ma’am, iyong kinakain na lang namin iyong parang grated na cassava in lieu of rice kasi hindi na talaga namin kaya.” Mayroon isang nagsasabi na, “Hindi na namin kaya ng three meals a day.”
So ‘di ba, parang this should not happen to ordinary Filipino na parang nakaka-guilty na kumain ka na iyong iba naghihirap. Lalong nakaka-guilty na public official ka, wala kang magawa sa sitwasyon. Kasi ito talaga ano na—kailan ba iyong huling pumipila tayo sa bigas? Napaka-tagal na. Pagbalik ko dito—I think it was only last Monday—nakita natin sa—Sunday yata—nakita natin sa diyaryo sa Pasig and many other parts of Metro Manila, ang daming pila sa bigas. So ito, while masaya tayo na finally may NFA rice because for a long time hindi siya available, hindi pa rin talaga maganda na pinipilahan siya.
Pero para sana maiwasan na mangyari ito ulit, balikan natin bakit ba tayo nagka-ganito? Bakit ba tayo nagka-ganito? If we recall, siguro mga end of last year, mayroon nang… nagsimula na doon iyong disagreement ng NFA administration at saka ng NFA council. Ang pinagdi-disagreehan nila kung government-to-government ba or government-to-private iyong importation, na iyon sana could have been prevented kung mayroon nang nag-intervene sa… mayroon nang nag-intervene sa away nila, sasabihin, “Hindi ito iyong desisyon ko. Ito na iyong gawin.” Pero wala. Hinayaan iyong away na magtagal hanggang makapag-import tayo May? June? Sobrang late na. Iyong buffer stocks ng NFA by law dapat hindi siya bumababa ng 15 days; sa lean months, dapat hindi siya bumababa ng 30 days, pero March pa lang nag-dwindle na iyong supply to one day na buffer stock. Kaya noong nagtaasan iyong commercial rice, wala na tayong ma-flag na NFA rice sa market. Iyong pagtatalo noon hindi lang iyong NFA admin sana iyong NFA council pero pati iyong dalawa as against the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, si Secretary Piñol na kung naaalala natin, may mga statements [na] ayaw ng importation.
Iyong sa akin lang, dapat sana may nag-intervene na doon sa away na iyon on early on, sabihin na, “Ito iyong desisyon,” kaysa pinabayaan lang iyong disagreement hanggang by the time na nag-desisyon noong May.
MARA CEPEDA: Ma’am, mayroon din po bang mga intervention programs iyong inyong Angat Buhay to help, you know, the plight of Filipinos right now lalo na pagdating sa hunger?
VP LENI: Maraming programa iyong aming Angat Buhay. Mayroon kaming six thematic areas: hunger and food security, mayroong universal health care, etcetera, etcetera. Pero under doon sa rural development, we’re doing, parang inclusive supply chain programs in several localities. One of them is Metro Naga. Ang ginawa namin sa Metro Naga, kasi tinitingnan namin bakit ba sobrang hirap? Bakit ba iyong pinaka-mahihirap sa atin iyong mga magsasaka? Pero sila iyong nagle-labor ‘di ba? Sila iyong nagle-labor ng maaga, gising na hanggang gabi nagta-trabaho pero sila iyong mahirap. Kasi iyong… sila iyong walang access sa maraming bagay: wala silang access to capital, wala silang access to crop insurance, wala silang access to inputs, mga support services wala masyado. Ang yumayaman talaga iyong mga traders eh. So itong ginagawa naming inclusive supply chain, we’re making sure that the farmers can go straight to the market; kami iyong conduit doon.
Ang ginawa namin, inaya namin iyong mga hotels and restaurants in Metro Naga. Pinakiusapan [na], “Puwede ba iyong iba niyong produkto instead of buying them from farmers outside the Metro Naga area, puwede bang iyong dito na sa atin?” Maraming problema kasi una, iyong quantity hindi kaya; iyong quality, hindi. So there’s a lot of handholding involved. It’s a good thing that the provincial and regional offices of some of the national government agencies—DA, DAR, DTI—have been very cooperative. So ngayon, mayroon na kaming five products na nililista. Isa na doon iyong sili na napaka-mahal ngayon, mayroon kaming iceberg lettuce, mayroon kaming ginger, mayroong calamansi, and I think, iyong fifth is pipino. Pero ito, ito iyong mga products na binibili na sa amin ng local businesses. Malaking bagay siya sa income ng mga farmers. Malaking bagay kasi instead na mapupunta sa traders iyong benta, mapupunta na sa mga magsasaka. And we’re hoping to replicate this in Lambunao, Iloilo, which is also ang area of Angat Buhay. Gusto namin maging Metro Iloilo area siya. And tinitingnan din namin iyong some areas in Palawan, iyong mga tourist hub tsaka sa Bohol. So iyon iyong aming panaginip na kapag nagawa namin ng maayos iyong example, some other—whether government or private organizations—can also replicate.
Pero tingin ko, government has to invest more in agriculture. Iyong problema natin ngayon, hindi puwedeng hanggang stopgap lang tayo eh—iyong solutions. Hindi puwedeng short-term. Kailangan mas pang long-term na approach. Halimbawa, bakit ba iyong mga magsasaka ayaw mag-benta sa NFA? Kasi sobrang baba ng bilihan ng NFA. Bakit hindi kaya ng mga magsasaka na habulin iyong presyo ng NFA? Kasi ang taas ng production cost. So bakit mas mura pa iyong imported rice kaysa sa local? Kasi iyong imported rice, kaya nilang mag-produce ng rice at a much lower cost. So dapat ang iniisip na ng DA natin, papaano ba natin matutulungan iyong farmers to earn more sa paraan ng pagpapababa ng production cost. Kailangan gawaan ng… hindi ito puwedeng kung ano na lang iyong maisipan. Hindi ito puwedeng… Iyong pakiramdam ko kasi iyong mga sinasabi, halimbawa, I think it was during a Senate hearing the other day—yesterday or the other day—na sinasabi ni Secretary Piñol na parang barter, barter trade na lang or bumili ng rice—ay, sabi ni Presidente, buksan iyong Sabah; bumili ng rice sa Malaysia at a lower tariff rate. Iyong sa akin, okay naman na sumasagi ito sa isipan nila pero puwede bang upuan? Puwede bang upuan at pag-aralan ng maayos na hindi naman ginagawa na parang guinea pig iyong sitwasyon? Hindi lang iyong mga magsasaka pero the entire situation? Kung kinakailangang mag-bring in ng mga experts na hindi natin kaya, mag-bring in, pero seryosohin. Seryosohin na hanapan talaga ng paraan.
Halimbawa, iyong Rice Tariffication Bill. In principle, I am all for it. Mayroon lang akong mga agam-agam—halimbawa, hindi puwedeng i-implement ito na hindi natin na-prepare muna iyong mga magsasaka, na iyong assistance for them hindi maayos, na saka na lang sa kanila ibibigay. Hindi ito puwede kasi baka hindi maka-compete… iyong example ko kasi nito, itong TRAIN 1. Alam na natin na maaapektuhan nito iyong pinaka-mahihirap. Mayroon tayong safety nets, mayroon tayong 200 pesos a month na pangtulong sa pinaka-mahihirap, pero ano na ngayon? September na. Hindi pa lahat nakakatanggap. So kung mangyari ito [na] magkaroon tayo ng Rice Tariffication Law, kawawa talaga iyong mga magsasaka kasi ang gusto kong sabihin, papasok na iyong mga imported na rice, mas mura pa sa rice na pino-produce nila. Papaano sila makaka-compete doon? Eh ‘di lalo mo silang pinatay.
So iyong sa akin lang, while in principle okay lang, dapat sana iyong groundwork sinisimulan na. Ayusin iyong implementation. Hindi puwedeng ganito. Hindi puwedeng iyong ginawa sa TRAIN, iyon iyong mangyayari dito kasi mako-compound lang niya iyong problema.
MARA CEPEDA: VP, it took you a while to categorically say that you are uniting the opposition coalition. What was the trigger bakit— In July, that was when you categorically said it.
VP LENI: Ako, there was not one trigger. It was really a combination of so many things. Ako, I have to be very honest na right after we won and right after the inauguration, I had high hopes. I had high hopes with this administration. I was thinking na with the President’s seeming political will, baka ito na iyong… will bring the change that we have desired for so long. Iyong mga nauna naman sa kaniya maayos din eh, pero siyempre parating may kulang, and iniisip natin baka iyong kulang, siya nga iyong maka-fill ng gap. I was really ready to be very cooperative. Tingin ko, gusto ng taumbayan na nagkakasundo iyong Pangulo saka iyong Pangalawang Pangulo. I think, it will be to the benefit of the people if we work well together. So ako talaga, ano—ako, while I was very much against some of the policies of this administration, halimbawa, the way they dealt with the war on drugs. We disagreed on that. We were on opposite poles. Pero ang sa akin naman noon, I will make public my disagreement pero with the things we can agree on, I was willing to really work with the administration.
Pero kasi, parang from one bad policy to another, mahirap na din—mahirap na din na hindi kumontra. Ako, siguro alam naman ng tao na kung kayang tumahimik, tumatahimik lang ako kasi I do not believe na kailangang maingay all the time pero pasunod-sunod na kasi. And then this thing with the economy happened. Iyong sa akin, kapag tiyan na kasi iyong kalaban, mahirap na. Noong nagsimula na iyong problema sa bigas, mahirap nang hindi mag-boses eh. And I think there was really a cry for the different opposition groups to unite together. Gaya nga ng sabi ko kanina, a lot of us are fighting for the same ideas. Pero wala kasing… parang discordant pa rin iyong voices. Walang kumukumpas.
Ako naman, I don’t think I’m the only one who can do that. Anyone in the… among the groups puwedeng gawin. Pero when I was asked if I was willing to try, sabi ko naman oo. And we started already. Halimbawa, when there was a lot of talk na iyong charter change, Federalism, nagpatawag na talaga ako ng regular meetings among the different groups who were opposing Federalism and charter change. Nagsimula na kaming mag-strategize, nagsimula how we will make sure that the voices are heard.
Iyong sa akin, nami-misinterpret kasi itong uniting the opposition with destabilization. Iyong sa akin, iyong uniting the opposition just making sure that our voices are loud enough and clear enough so that the President will listen to us. Walang desire na pabagsakin iyong gobyerno. Iyong desire lang, sana pakinggan kami ng gobyerno para maging mas maayos iyong pamamalakad. Tingin ko kapag bumagsak iyong gobyerno, damay naman lahat; hindi lang naman iyong government officials iyong maaapektuhan. Pero iyong sa akin, mayroon talagang pangangailangan na pag-isahin iyong boses—
MARA CEPEDA: But what kind of opposition leader will you be? You have supporters, I guess, who are expecting you to go as far as taking it on the streets or to be as aggressive as the President especially when he comes after you and tells that, for example, he prefers Bongbong Marcos to be his successor?
VP LENI: Ano kasi, Mara, eh, iyong sa akin, it’s very difficult to balance expectations and desires. Pero iyong sa akin lang, iyong mas gusto ko sana is to show that there is a different kind of leadership and citizenship than what the present administration is showing us. Halimbawa, kung dinadaan sa dahas, dinadaan sa lakas ng boses iyong pamamaraan, gusto kong ipakita na iyong calm saka quiet courage, mas iyong resulta ang maibibigay, mas malaki. Iyong attempt to silence critics, to silence the opposition, gusto ko sanang ipakita na iyong mabuting leadership ay na-a-achieve kapag mag-adhere ka sa prinsipyo na nire-respeto mo iyong dissenting opinions and ginagamit iyong dissenting opinions na iyon para mapabuti iyong pamamalakad. Iyong klase ng citizenship na empowered iyong mga tao na ipahayag kung ano iyong saloobin nila at kung ano iyong gusto nila. Hindi iyong natatakot na, “Hindi na lang ako iimik kasi baka ako na iyong sunod na mabiktima.” Gusto kong maipakita na posible naman iyong ganitong klaseng lider na iyong results na ma-a-achieve mo mas mabuti pa nga sa na-a-achieve ngayon. I think, there’s a dearth in that.
For two years, iyong pinakita sa ating leadership talagang shock and awe eh, ‘di ba—shock and awe. Talagang kapag hindi ka sang-ayon, mayroon ka na agad na brand; kapag hindi ka sang-ayon, destabilizer ka na o masama kang tao. Gusto kong ipakita na hindi iyon eh. But it’s very difficult considering that a lot of our supporters are already agitated dahil wala ngang katapusan iyong pagkakamaling ginagawa. Tama siguro si Senator Kiko. I read one of his statements na sinasabi niya na, hindi naman kailangan ng destabilizers eh. Kasi may kasabihan ‘di ba na tumahimik ka na lang kapag iyong nasa kabilang… nasa opposite side gumagawa ng one mistake after another.
Pero, I think, iyon naman iyong essence ng leadership ‘di ba? Binabalanse mo parati iyong desires saka iyong needs ng mga kasama pero showing them also that there should be a better way in doing things and handling things. Parati kong sinasabi na para sa akin, iyong magpo-provide ng stability sa atin iyong mas constitutional na pamamaraan. At ang constitutional na pamamaraan, iyong opportunity talaga natin iyong sa 2019 elections. Iyong pag-elect ng mga tao, lalong lalo na sa Senado, na mayroong lakas ng loob na salungatin iyong kagusutuhan ng pamahalaan kung mali naman sila. Ayaw natin iyong mga mambabatas na kung ano iyong gusto noong Presidente ay iyon na iyong gagawin. Parang tinatamad na mag-isip kung ano iyong mabuti para sa bansa. Pero para lang hindi, you know, they just do not want to get the ire of the administration, they do what the administration wants them to do—we don’t want leaders like that. We want leaders who are courageous enough to stand for whatever they think would be right for the Filipino people.
So iyon iyong gusto nating maging aktibo tayo—iyong 2019 elections. We are in the process of building a coalition slate among the different opposition groups. Maraming debate—will we put up a 12-man slate or less? Iyong sa akin naman, iyong sa akin, basta ang dapat nating i-put up iyong sigurado tayo.
MARA CEPEDA: And sinu-sino na po, Ma’am, iyong sigurado?
VP LENI: Hindi pa sa akin sina-submit iyong— The agreement was all the groups are represented in the advisory council. They meet regularly—I think they meet once a week—I met with them twice already. They meet once a week but the understanding was, at the end of next week, they will be submitting to me the names of the people that they vetted on already— wala na sa lista iyong… parang nag-ano na sila… This will be a shortlist already. Ang sinabi yata sa akin, 18 or 19 names?
MARA CEPEDA: Eighteen—
VP LENI: Eighteen names ang sinabi sa akin. Ang sinabi sa akin, I will have the final say. Pero sinasabi ko sa kanila na iyong final say naman will still be parang a collaborative effort among all of us. Pero iyong sa akin lang, iyong mensahe na hindi naman puwede iyong bastusan kasi maraming taong umaasa sa atin eh. Hindi ito dinadala na dahil marami ka lang pera at marami ka nang pampalagay ng tarpaulin, puwede ka na. Hindi ito eh kasi lawmaking is a serious endeavor na nasa kamay mo iyong future ng iyong bansa. Hindi ito puwede porket mayroon kang pera pang-kampanya o mayroon kang supporters na handang lumaban [para] sa iyo, puwede ka na diyan—hindi iyon puwede. Kaya iyong sa amin, we want to provide a contrast.
MARA CEPEDA: Do you have any preferred candidates already in the names being floated?
VP LENI: Wala pa. Mahirap for me… mahirap for me to say kasi the final say will be given to me so it will be unfair to all the other names on the list. Pero ang… noong nakita ko kasi iyong mga ibang pangalan, hindi mo talaga ikakahiya. Ito iyong may long history of service to the nation. Hindi ito iyong mga basta lang naisipan na… alam mo iyon. Iyong pipiliin natin iyong mayroon nang track record na handang lumaban kahit sa mahirap na mga sitwasyon. Ayaw natin iyong basta lang may chance na manalo, puwede na. Ayaw natin noon kasi tingin ko, ito iyong panahon na kailangan natin ng mga tao na patriots. Iyon talaga iyong kailangan natin kasi mahirap, mahirap… This is an age of populism; maraming mga indications na gusto nang leadership is more of authoritarian iyong style. We have also had a long history na hindi iyan nag-work sa atin iyang style na iyan, at kokontrahin natin. We don’t want to wake up one day and find ourselves in the situation na iyong sinikwal natin dati, nandito na naman tayo. Nakakahiya naman sa atin. Nakakahiya sa mga anak natin, so kailangan natin iyong labanan. Pero iyong akin lang na ma-a-assure na hindi tayo magpu-put up doon sa kinakahiya natin. Ito iyong mga tao na handang handang makipaglaban and I think the fight is in the 2019 elections.
MARA CEPEDA: What challenges are you encountering in uniting the opposition, in the meetings?
VP LENI: Marami, maraming challenges kasi as I’ve said earlier, we belong to different groups. We may have similar ideals but we’re coming from, you know, different circumstances and motivations. Pero iyong parati ko lang sinasabi sa kanilang klaro na, “Why are we doing this? Why are we trying to unite the different groups? Kasi again, we want our voices to be clear, we want our voices to be loud para pakinggan tayo.” Iyon naman iyon eh. Iyon naman iyong essence ng dissent. You provide a contrary view to a prevailing belief, hoping that your contrary view will be able to reshape kung ano iyong kulang doon sa belief na iyon.
Ako, I have high hopes, especially because iyong mga nasa grupo naman—kahit grabe iyong mga debate—are all in agreement that as far as our similar ideals are concerned, everyone is willing to make compromises.
MARA CEPEDA: VP, you are mother first before you are a politician. How have you prepared your three daughters, especially na ito na, you are already uniting the opposition and of course, the attacks are going to be more relentless?
VP LENI: Ako, it’s something that… the guilt is always there. Iyong parang iniisip ko na how cruel I am to my daughters in the sense that I’m making them vulnerable to attacks they don’t deserve. Pero they’ve been holding up pretty well. Parang sabi ko nga, I forgot the fact that they were all born when my husband was Mayor already. So even if they have not actively taken part in politics, more or less they have a sense of… the responsibility that is upon their shoulders. Alam nila that because they are the daughters of their father and their mother, much is also expected of them. And ano naman iyon eh, you… parang the lessons you impart to them are not the things that you tell them but the things that you do.
So iyong siguro sa akin, nakakatulong din na nakikita nila that I’m not affected by all the negativity. They have been at the receiving end of so many fake news also and troll[ing], and masaya naman ako that they have not allowed these things to get in the way of what they are doing, or get in the way of how they see themselves. Pero iyon nga, as a mother, you still feel guilty kasi iniisip mo, “Nawalan na nga ng father iyong mga anak mo tapos hinayaan mo pang…” Siguro, had I just kept quiet in the background, I would not have—they would not have to go through all these, parang viciousness. Pero everything happens for a reason eh. Iyon naman iyong sa kanila. At least happy naman ako na they have a very clear concept of what is right and what is wrong. They are not affected by all the trolling that is happening around them. Siguro, if at all, mas lalo pa silang nagsa-strive to—not to make a name for themselves—but to prove that kaya naman nilang gawin iyong mga gusto nilang gawin even without the trappings that come with the position I have, or the situation that we are in.
MARA CEPEDA: VP, going back to the Duterte administration, what do you think is the impact of these issues on the rule of law in the country with other countries’ perception of the Philippines?
VP LENI: You know, Mara, it’s one of the most unfortunate things that happened after—to us—after 2016. Kasi whenever I am invited to speak or to attend a forum outside the country, parang nag-iba talaga iyong pagtingin sa atin ng mga tao. Parang nade-define tayo—from their eyes, from their perception—nade-define tayo by the very controversial policies and actions the President has chosen to undertake, lalo na iyong extrajudicial killings, the way we handled the anti-drug war. Ito iyong medyo common. Everywhere we go, kahit sa mga… sa Uber—sasakay ka sa Uber from the airport to your hotel—kapag nalaman ng driver na you are a Filipino, tatanungin ka na about your President, about the killings—nakakalungkot.
I think, just yesterday, I was reading an article online, iyong pag-slide natin sa corruption perception index. Nakakalungkot. Ang gusto kong sabihin, we have exerted so much effort to achieve where we were before. Tapos ngayon, nabago na ulit iyon. Iyong… I think the gift of every administration to an ordinary Filipino is not just maginhawa iyong buhay eh. Pero iyong maganda iyong pagtingin sa iyo ng iba. Tingin ko, all is not lost, depende rin iyon sa atin eh. Ayaw ko lang na parang gini-give up natin, na sinusugal na natin, iniiwan na natin lahat sa administrasyon kasi nasa atin iyon eh. Kapag sinabi natin na hindi ito puwede, hindi iyon mangyayari. Pero kapag tinatanggap lang kasi natin ng tinatanggap lahat, iyon talaga iyong… mas lalong ma-e-embolden eh iyong kasamaan. Kasi ‘di ba parang mayroon tayong homegrown values eh: iyong respect for others, iyong decency, iyong love for family. Pero ngayon, parang nakakalimutan iyon eh. Parang all of these homegrown values are being relegated to the margins. Maraming ideas that we have fought for so long na all of a sudden, nilulusaw.
Halimbawa, iyong konsepto ng human rights, we have fought long and hard to make sure that every Filipino’s human rights are respected pero ngayon, parang ginawa siyang masamang term. Iyong sana, huwag naman ganoon. Nasa kamay lahat iyong pag-push back. You know, our hope is always for every Filipino to realize that power is in their hands. Wala iyon sa akin, wala iyon sa media, pero sa atin eh. Kapag sinabi nating, “Enough,” kapag sinabi natin na, “This can’t be. This is not who we are,” hindi iyon mangyayari eh.
MARA CEPEDA: Down to my last few questions na po, Ma’am, looking back in October 2015, do you have any regrets in accepting the LP’s nomination for you to be the vice presidential candidate?
VP LENI: Parang regret is too strong a term eh. Siguro hindi naman regret but you always ask yourself, “Ano bang nangyari? Bakit ko ba—” “What was I thinking at that time? Why was I—parang—brave enough to take on the challenge?” I was so oblivious to the difficulties. Iyon siguro eh. Parang I thought that the hardest part of the journey would be the campaign—parang, how wrong I was. This is even… parang real life is even harder than the campaign.
Pero kasi, like my husband, I was also very fatalistic. Parang iniisip ko there has to be a reason why was… I am in the situation. Parati nang tinatanong, “Bakit kaya? Bakit ako dinala dito?” Pero sa akin, tinitingnan ko pa rin iyong the position being a government, being a public servant, is a privilege. Not everyone is given this opportunity to be in a position where you can make a difference, you can influence policy, you can do things. Ano na lang, paghusayan na lang. Parati kong sinasabi that there are so many limitations but let us not dwell on those limitations. Doon tayo sa despite the little that is, the little influence, the power that is given to us, papaano ba natin mama-magnify? Papaano ba natin mama-maximize iyong power na iyon? Kasi in 2022, these will all be over. Parang the worst part is after 2022, you will regret that you were not able to… parang to make use of your… the six years that has been given to you to change things. It’s frustrating in the sense that ano ka nga, second highest in the land, and marami kang kahirapan na nakikita eh. Paminsan gusto mo, alam mo iyong solusyon, pero wala sa kamay mo iyong solusyon. It’s very frustrating it gives you sleepless nights. Pero but then again, you don’t dwell on what is not there eh. you just do what you have to do. You just… parang you do what you can.
That’s why Angat Buhay is there because even if we don’t have funds to implement programs, at least we have some sort of influence to invite people to be on board; to be the bridge between the communities who need help and organizations who want to help can collaborate. Iyon na lang. Iyong sa akin, kung ano lang iyong nandiyan to just be able to maximize all of these things.
Pero iyong regret that I ran, siguro kapag nasa mother mode na ako. Parating iyon. Iyong parang naaawa ka rin sa mga bata na wala sila noong luxury to be themselves, to assert parang what they need to assert because parati silang tumitimbang kasi ako iyong Nanay nila. Iyon lang siguro iyong regret. Pero itong pagsulong dito, wala naman.
MARA CEPEDA: Ma’am, my last question for today, mag-e-eleksyon na and it has been three years since the start of the administration, what role should the Liberal Party be playing under the Duterte administration and is it meeting that expectation?
VP LENI: Alam mo naman, Mara, what happened to the Liberal Party, pero ito kasi, we should have expected that from Day One. Iyong Liberal Party naman was a small group of public servants before President Aquino became president. Lumaki lang siya ng lumaki noong nasa administrasyon iyong Pangulo who is a member of the Liberal Party. After nawala na siya sa posisyon, naglipatan ulit iyong mga tao.
It was an eye opener in the sense na, halimbawa ako, there is a very strong urge that if I have been given a chance to change things, one of the things that I will really change is electoral reform and strengthening of political parties. Kasi kapag ganito iyong landscape, dapat iyong political parties, iyong isa sa mga malalaki niyang role, dapat nag-i-influence siya ng policy eh. Pero kung ganito na kung sino iyong nasa posisyon, nandoon lahat, hindi talaga siya mabuti para sa bansa. So iyong sa akin, iyon. Kapag mayroon lang akong pagkakataon, iyon iyong talagang i-a-advocate ko.
Pangalawa, we have already decided to take on different track pero okay naman kasi kami nila Senator Kiko, who is the Party President, feel the same about this. Kaya sabi namin, dapat iyong party hindi na lang siya mga politicians. Dapat iyong mga party—iyong Liberal Party—iyong membership nito advocates. Kasi ayaw natin na nade-define iyong party ng eleksyon kung sino ang mananalo na presidente o hindi kasi hindi niya magagawa iyong kaniyang role kung ganiyan siya. So right now, ang recruitment namin is online, and everywhere I go, I meet with online applicants na nagte-take ng oath. Pero ito iyong mga applicants na may nurse, may teacher, may, you know, may mga estudyante, who believe in the ideals that the party stands for. Ito, ano siya, nakakataba ng puso kasi ito iyong mga members na sila iyong nag-apply, they are paying dues, and want to be part of hindi lang party rebuilding but the rebuilding of the nation.
Ako, tingin ko, dapat ito na eh. Kasi if the party is composed of only politicians, mahirap eh kasi paminsan iyong umiiral iyong pulitika, hindi iyong paniniwala. We hope that will change in the coming years. Siguro itong pag-sali ng mga advocates rather than politicians, sila iyong mga makakapabago sa direksyon ng partido. We are very hopeful. In fact, one of the best things that I do whenever I’m at the provinces is meeting these people who are ano talaga, mga masigasig, willing to sacrifice, dahil sa paniniwala. Tingin they are more dependable than politicians. Gusto ko rin parang kapag nagkataon, parang mas ma-professionalize iyong party; ma-manage siya na parang isang organisasyon na klaro kung ano iyong agenda, klaro kung saan papunta, klaro kung saan galing iyong pondo. There’s a lot that we can do.
Iyon iyong problema, Mara, sa posisyon ko din ngayon kasi lokal kami for a very long time. My husband was mayor for six terms. I was in Congress for three terms [Note: VP Leni served a three-year term as representative of Camarines Sur’s third district from 2013 to 2016 — OVP] So talagang iyon, iyon iyong klase ng pulitika na immersed ka on the ground. Tapos ngayon, after being in local politics for so long, nagkaroon ka ng opportunity para mag-detach and to look at things from an entirely different perspective. Iyong urge na maraming baguhin, nandoon.
Parang sabi ko nga, kung mayroon akong magic wand, iyon iyong gagawin ko eh na… Ang dami talagang puwedeng baguhin para mapabuti iyong bansa. Kailangan lang mahikayat mo rin iyong mga kasama to share your view. Hindi ito puwedeng, “Dahil ito iyong gusto ko, ito iyong gagawin ko,” hindi eh. Parang gusto mo na ipakita mo na, “Ito iyong pagtingin ko na pag-aralan natin kasi tingin natin, ito i-a-advocate natin.” Ang dami mong gustong… halimbawa ako, I’m excited to be given the opportunity. Paminsan, kapag iniisip ko na, “Siguro, kung member pa ako ng House of Representatives ipu-push ko talaga iyong ganitong…” You know, those things.
So iyon iyong dream ko, not just for the party, but for the party as one of the parties in the entire political spectrum.
MARA CEPEDA: And that’s all the time that we have today—
VP LENI: Thank you, Mara.
MARA CEPEDA: Thank you so much, VP Robredo, for accommodating us today.
VP LENI: Thank you. Salamat!
MARA CEPEDA: And there you have it, we have just spoken with Vice President Leni Robredo. I am Mara Cepeda. This is Rappler Talk. Join us again next time.
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