OneNews: The Chiefs
Hosts: Ed Lingao, Roby Alampay, Amy Pamintuan
Airing date: 20 September 2018
ED LINGAO: Of course you’ve heard it time and again: It’s a position that’s just a heartbeat away from the presidency. But at this point, nothing seems as remote from the current Vice President as the presidency itself.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Its current occupant, President Rodrigo Duterte, has been very vocal about his dislike for his Vice President, Leni Robredo. In fact, the President says he would rather turn over the reins of government to anyone but the Vice President.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Taking it a notch higher, the President last week accused the opposition, which the Vice President heads, of plotting his downfall. In this episode of The Chiefs, where is Leonor Gerona Robredo in all of these? Can the P33resident count on her to watch his back? And when the time comes—if the time comes—can she rise to the occasion?
ED LINGAO: Welcome to The Chiefs. In this episode, we are joined by Vice President Leni Robredo. Ma’am, thank you for joining us. Welcome to One News.
VP LENI: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Welcome, Ma’am.
ED LINGAO: First of all, thank you for taking the time off to be with us today. I’d like to start off with something that’s quite recent: Just last week, the President—well, I don’t know if you’ll call it a press conference or a talk… a talk show—the President said the opposition is having a destabilization plot attempt by October—in fact, beginning September 21, until October—to oust him. And that includes the LP, CPP-NPA, and the Trillanes group. Let me ask you first, at the outset, do you have any plans to be president—[laughter]—whether by October or by 2022?
VP LENI: Ano iyon, Ed, eh… You know, the accusation of the President is completely baseless. He was telling us—and this is what alarms us, really—he was telling us that the information was coming from conversations which were forwarded to him by foreign… a foreign government friendly to the country. That is alarming and that is against the provisions of the Constitution. It is alarming in the sense that if it is true, is the President agreeing to interference by a foreign government? That is violation of our rights to privacy.
ED LINGAO: It is wiretapping.
VP LENI: It’s wiretapping. And… and… you know it’s really against many provisions of the Constitution. That is one.
Another is there is really no truth to it, so if it is at all an intelligence gathering or information, we would like to warn the President that he’s being fed wrong information. There is no… there is no basis at all. We have not had any talks with the CPP-NPA. The only talks we have with Magdalo was our attempt to put up a coalition, a united opposition ticket, for the 2019 senatorial elections, and my visiting him (Trillanes) at the Senate premises. But other than that, we don’t have any dealings with both of them. It is very clear to us that we don’t see eye-to-eye on… Especially with the CPP-NPA—our ideologies are different. The CPP-NPA has always been very clear on their positions, even before President Duterte became president.
But you know, what really alarms us is our President has gone to the extent of telling us that he was willing to forego constitutional provisions just for the sake of information-gathering. We’re in a very difficult position if it is at all true.
ED LINGAO: But you haven’t answered my question: Do you see yourself as President, whether this year or three years from now? Well, take it a step at a time…
VP LENI: Well, Ed, every vice president who runs for this position carries with her or with him the responsibility of being ready just in case something happens to the President. But if the question is, is it something that I’m hoping for? Definitely not. Is it something that I am working on? Definitely not.
What I want to see is I be given the flexibility of doing what I want to do as Vice President. And when I say “flexibility,” you know… if you look at our Constitution and our laws, it really relegates the Vice President into a mere… you know, ceremonial—the Vice Presidency into a mere ceremonial position. And when I… right after the inauguration, we attempted to reinvent the office and make it more advocacy-heavy. We developed our own core advocacy program, and it’s an anti-poverty program which we call Angat Buhay. My only desire is we be given the chance to… you know… to do what we want to do as far as the advocacy is concerned—with minimum political interference.
There have been so much… you know… issues that have involved that… that have involved our office. And it’s not… it’s not very good as far as our office performing our advocacies is concerned, in the sense that, you know, we have to work with partners, we have to work—because we don’t have funds of our own—we have to work with local government officials. And it’s not very easy for the office to work with them if there is a lot of political squabbling between the President and myself.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Ma’am, I’d just like to go back to that day of the President’s tete-a-tete. [laughter] I think that’s the word. I’m just curious: Where were you when the President was speaking with… with… Atty. Panelo? And what… describe to us what was your reaction as he ramped up and was more categorical in these charges against you and against the opposition?
VP LENI: You know, honestly, I was not able to watch it while it was happening. I was at the office, but there were a lot of courtesy calls scheduled that day. My staff have been coming in the office telling me that it’s happening already, but I couldn’t get out of the… the… courtesy calls, inasmuch as they have been scheduled way before. I… I caught bits and pieces of it in the evening… in the evening that it happened. And you know, I was… I was really frustrated, in the sense that I was hoping that the occasion would have been an opportunity for the President to speak to the nation—accept that we have a lot of problems as far as prices of goods is concerned; that the government is on top of the situation; and this is what we have to expect, this is what the government is doing. But instead, it was… you know… many topics which were more political than anything else.
I felt that it was a waste of an… you know… waste of an opportunity to assuage the fears of our people insofar as inflation is concerned, insofar as the rice crisis is concerned. I thought that it was being scheduled for that particular purpose. So while I was watching bits and pieces of it, I was… I was really disappointed that it was not the case. It was really— A lot of it was devoted to Senator Trillanes. And I felt that at a time when our country was… was… is going through a lot of economic upheavals, it should not have been a time for the President to deal so much on political fights. And the interview, even if the questions were not related to Senator Trillanes, his answers would more or less veer towards him. And it was really frustrating.
AMY PAMINTUAN: So you’re not actively seeking to replace this President?
VP LENI: No. [laughs] You know, in all honesty, I feel that it will not be good for the country if we will have to go through another political upheaval in the likes of EDSA. I feel that we have gone through so much already. And as a citizen—not just as a Vice President, but as a citizen—what I wish for is for… for this administration to… you know… to start… start acting on the things that really matter. Start accepting that there are problems that are besetting us, and start acting on them.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Okay, but now the opposition refers to you as the leader of the opposition. What does that mean for you? And how does that change your persona and your approach, I mean, from just—not just—from being Vice President to now—officially, formally, publicly—as the leader of the opposition?
VP LENI: You know, as the leader of the opposition, it is not… it does not equate to destabilizing the government. When I said I was willing to exert effort to unite the opposition, what I meant was I felt that there were so many discordant voices in the opposition, that dissent was… that dissent was not something that the administration was listening to. I felt that there were a lot of policies which… which were objectionable. I felt that had the voices been more united, or unified… if the messaging was… was better, chances are the President and the officials of this administration would be in a better position to listen to our voices. Because the voices are very discordant, I felt that, at the time that I accepted, that if you will be able to speak in one voice, relay just one message, the chance that the administration will listen to us was bigger. And if the administration would listen to the dissent, we think that it will be in a better shape than what it is now.
AMY PAMINTUAN: So you yourself are not interested in replacing the President? But could you also categorically say that certain elements, maybe in the Liberal Party or in the opposition, are not actively moving to destabilize, which is what the administration actually is saying?
VP LENI: You know, I can only speak as far as the Liberal Party is concerned. I am very sure that the party is not—
AMY PAMINTUAN: Or its supporters?
VP LENI: You know, it’s very difficult to speak… speak for the supporters of the party, because I don’t really know who they are at this point. I was… I was telling some people earlier that we don’t even have a… you know… a clean list of who are still at the party, inasmuch as every day the landscape changes. There are members of the party who take their oaths of allegiance to another party without even informing us beforehand.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Yes, but if you don’t mind, Ma’am, that’s the Liberal Party. But you are being built as the leader of the opposition. And I think it becomes— I mean, all sympathies with you, but it becomes a much more messier ano… that line is not as clean-cut when you start to take in who else is in the opposition. In particular, on the extreme, Senator Trillanes. And Senator Trillanes does not take the same more moderate line as the Liberals. He does takes the extreme line and more vocally saying na dapat—
VP LENI: But you know, Roby, it was very clear among the different opposition groups that what I was willing to take was to head… head a unified opposition, which will field just one ticket in the 2019 Senatorial Elections. My feeling about the matter is the 2019 elections is still our best bet to… to strengthen our democracy—especially the Senate. We think that the senatorial elections is one of the most important in 2019. And by leading the opposition, it was very clear to them that that was what I was… I was ready for. There was no ousting, trying to oust the President. There was no talk of a unified move to destabilize the government. Because if there was, I would not be a part of it. What I was saying was, I wanted to unify the voices so that the administration would listen to this unified voice. And when we say unified voice, this is expression of dissent to policies of the government. And it was very clear to all the opposing groups that this was the direction where we were heading. That is the reason why I cannot speak for the other… you know… opposition groups, which have their own agenda.
ED LINGAO: I understand when you say that EDSA 1 would have been enough. We had EDSA 2 and EDSA 3, that seemed to be… two EDSAs too much already. However, I’d like to ask you whether or not— When you say that you don’t want to… the Liberal Party is not interested in ousting the President, what about having the President resign? I mean, an ouster, a plot, or a coup attempt, or a conspiracy to destabilize is different from calling for resignations. Because some members of the opposition, the general opposition, have called on resignations.
ROBY ALAMPAY: And it’s constitutional.
VP LENI: That is not a party position. You know, personally, I don’t think the President will resign.
AMY PAMINTUAN: It’s not your position?
VP LENI: It’s not. It’s not even the position of the party. If… if—I’m not very sure if some members of the party have expressed a call for resignation, but if at all one or some of them did, it’s not a party position. I don’t think the President will resign, so we’re not calling for that.
ED LINGAO: So at this point, you’re committed, the party is committed, to working with the President until 2022?
VP LENI: Well, the party is committed to being a dissenting voice to all the policies of the government we think are not doing our country any good. And we think the government should shape up. And we think by working with the government, that would include not agreeing to… you know… policies that we think are not good for the country.
ED LINGAO: As fiscalizers?
VP LENI: Yes.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Okay, Madam Vice President, we’ll… we’d like to go deeper into all of these, including these matters about the opposition. We just need to take a break. Please stay with us. The Chiefs will be right back.
[break; end gap]
ROBY ALAMPAY: Welcome back to The Chiefs. We’re are still with Vice President Leni Robredo. Ma’am, prior to the break, you were talking about what you embraced and what you accepted when you were asked to lead the opposition. And you said this was clearly, specifically, in the context of unifying voices—specifically heading into the elections…
VP LENI: Yes, of 2019.
ROBY ALAMPAY: In 2019. And in 2022 as well?
VP LENI: Not yet. [laughs]
ROBY ALAMPAY: But you also talk about building a coalition.
VP LENI: Yes.
ROBY ALAMPAY: How broad is that coalition? I mean, how far left and how far to the right does it include? And is it possible that… that potential broadness is also what is being construed as—because it’s no longer about party lines of the Liberal Party once you start including people from the Left and the Right. So how broad is that coalition?
VP LENI: There… As of now, there are about five groups in the coalition: that’s Liberal Party, that’s Magdalo, Tindig Pilipina(s), Akbayan, and Aksyon Demokratiko. That’s about it.
ED LINGAO: The Makabayan bloc?
VP LENI: No, no. The Makabayan bloc is not part of the coalition. There are alliances with civil society groups, and these are… the alliances with them are also with the coalition of the civil society groups. And this is a coalition of the different sectors—farmers, fisherfolk, urban poor, laborers, etc. So the… the… all the members of the coalition, the agreement was all of them will send two representatives each to the advisory council, and the advisory council is the one who meets regularly. I am not part of the advisory council. We have representatives to the advisory council. But they do update me from time to time. We’ve attended, if I’m not mistaken, two meetings already. In fact, when the… when the… when the news broke out about the proclamation issued by… by President Duterte, regarding Senator Trillanes’ amnesty, we were in a meeting. Senator Trillanes was there. I was seated beside him. It was the second meeting of the coalition.
The agreement was that they would decide on… on the nominees for the ticket, but they are giving the final decision to me. There are still discussions on whether or not we will field a complete slate, meaning 12 candidates. Some of us think that it would be better not to have a complete slate, while others think that it would be better to have one. As of now, we have, if I am not mistaken, about 18 names? They have not… they have not forwarded yet to me the names. I don’t know if they will weed out the initial 18… 18 names. But the agreement was that it should be submitted to me by the end of—before September 25, I think. Because September 25, the Liberal Party will have its National Executive Council Meeting also. And the agreement was that as a party, we will announce who the Liberal Party nominees will be for the slate. But because the filing was moved to October 11, I think the announcement will be at around that time—of the coalition slate.
ROBY ALAMPAY: You make it sound like fielding a full slate is a matter of choice and is a matter of strategy. More cynical observers will say, “No, it’s probably a shallow bench,” or weakness on the part of the Liberal Party.
VP LENI: Actually it’s what’s the discussion is, that it might be perceived as a weakness… of the coalition—not just the Liberal Party, but of the coalition. But some of us also think it would be better to field an incomplete slate, but quality talaga iyong names, rather than push for a full slate but there will be other names in the slate who are not, you know, as acceptable, or as… you know… as passionate as the other names. So it’s still a matter that should be decided by the advisory council. As I’ve said, the agreement was I make the last call. I make the final decision. But I was telling them I’m… I’m a little uncomfortable with… you know… saying “this is it” when it’s against what they have been meeting about. So I said that I will… I will… raise observations or objections as we move along, so that was why we had that second meeting. But we should be meeting again soon. I think the ideal time to meet again is by the end of this week or early next week, in preparation for the announcement.
ED LINGAO: Yes, Ma’am… But how will you define “quality”? Would it be something that has to do with advocacies, with freedom-fighting? Or would it include, for example, popularity? Would you have actresses and actors?
VP LENI: Everyone… everyone of those, actually, but we all agree that popularity will be the last consideration. We… we… They were trying to come up with a matrix of things that every one of the candidates should possess, meaning what would be their stand on particular important issues. And these will be… you know… there will be no compromises as far as these are concerned. Medyo nadala na, Ed… Medyo nadala na about just having candidates who can win, pero pagdating ng tunay na laban, hindi handang lumaban para sa bayan.
ED LINGAO: Magbabaligtaran?
VP LENI: Oo, magbabaligtaran.
AMY PAMINTUAN: But of course you have to win. So you need popularity. You don’t equate popularity with winnability.
VP LENI: That’s true. That is why we might opt for a less-than-12. Because it has to be a balance of so many things. But we all agree that we will consider popularity last. It should be… it should be… it should be the candidates’ stand on particular issues first—
AMY PAMINTUAN: Okay.
VP LENI: —before we discuss winnability. It’s difficult if winnability is first in the list, because if that would be the most important consideration, we might be coming up with a ticket that is not so different from the ticket of the administration.
ROBY ALAMPAY: I apologize for this, gindi po ako nangungutya, but isn’t that the definition of a shallow bench—when you say that, you know, “number one, kailangan lahat ito naniniwala sa plataporma natin, kailangan lahat ito magaling.” Then after all of that, you can’t come up with a full slate?
VP LENI: Yes and no? Yes, because the reality really is it’s difficult. It’s difficult to find so many names with all the qualities that you are really looking for. But you know, it’s also a no, in the sense na ayaw din nating magpresenta ng mga pangalan just for the sake of portraying a… you know… a strong opposition. Iyong pakiramdam— Marami actually na names that are being… ano iyon… that are being nominated. Pero again, iyong… iyong worry namin is if we have— Halimbawa, may quality kang anim, dinagdagan mo din ng tatlo o anim din na hindi masyado, baka madamay iyong— We want to provide a contrast—
AMY PAMINTUAN: Speaking of popularity, Senator Antonio Trillanes has become very popular, or maybe notorious, thanks in large part to—he should thank President Duterte for it. [laughter] Are you feeling— People are starting to look at him as the leader of the opposition. Are you feeling this? How is this affecting your leadership of the opposition?
VP LENI: Ako, I don’t think… I don’t think it will matter. Kasi iyong pagiging leader of the opposition naman is just a means of uniting the voices. It does not mean that there just has to be one leader. Kung marami kaming puwedeng magtulung-tulungan to unite it—to unite these voices—it would be better.
Pero ako, I have… I have a lot of respect to Senator Trillanes. Siguro marami din kaming… iba iyong pagtingin namin sa maraming bagay, pero if you look at his track record, ano talaga siya, eh, kahit lone voice in the wilderness, handang… handang makipaglaban—
AMY PAMINTUAN: Exactly.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Iyon nga po, Ma’am.
AMY PAMINTUAN: That is the role of the opposition.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Exactly. I mean, hindi lang po sa magkaiba kayo ng history, magkaiba kayo ng posisyon, magkaiba ho kayong tao. Your character, your persona, is very different. But I think, going back to Amy’s point, do you feel that as well? Coming from the public, is it possible that the public, who wants an opposition in this day and age, under President Duterte, do you feel—do you acknowledge—that there is a segment of the public that will say, “I never voted for Trillanes but ganiyang oposisyon ang hinahanap ko?”
VP LENI: Ako, palagay ko maraming ganoon, Roby. Pero nakakalimutan kasi— Alam ko din, I’m fully aware that marami kaming kakampi who are frustrated na hindi ako ganoon kapalaban kay Senator… kay Trillanes. But people forget that I’m the Vice President. I’m the Vice President even of the people who did not vote for me. I’m the Vice President of people who come from the other side of the spectrum. I’m… I’m a breath away from the presidency. Maraming… maraming kailangang i-consider because of that. I… There would have been more flexibility for me if I was not the Vice President.
ROBY ALAMPAY: In which case, on the other side of it, could it be possible that one of the considerations could be that you are the Vice President and therefore you cannot be the leader of the opposition?
VP LENI: Pero, again… again, going back to what I told you earlier, it was very clear what I will be leading the opposition for. It was very clear that as far as… as far as the discordant voices are concerned, and these voices are fighting for the same ideology, I was willing to unify those voices. As far as putting up a unified opposition slate for the 2019 elections, I was… I was willing to head that. But I cannot be everything that they want me to be, because I’m the Vice President.
ED LINGAO: Coming from that, it almost seems to me as if that, yes, it is a job that you’re willing to take on, but it is not a job that you would have wanted—but you have it because you are also the Vice President. I mean, as far as leading the opposition is concerned.
VP LENI: Ano kasi, Ed, eh… Iyong buhay ko, parang, I was given a lot of things that I did not want in the first place. Pero the lesson really is, kapag nandiyan na, you embrace it. We… we have a lot of— Halimbawa, I never wished… I never wanted to run for—
ED LINGAO: Congress.
VP LENI: —a House—a seat at the House of Representatives, but circumstances kind of pushed me into it. But when I was… I was in Congress, I was very serious with my work as a Representative. I never… I never planned on running for the Vice… the Vice Presidency, but when I accepted the draft, I was very serious about it. People who have been working around me know how… how serious I am with the obligation that has been given to me. I know that I would have great difficulty in heading a political party, particularly the Liberal Party, because I was not a politician in the first place. It was my husband who was really a member of the Liberal Party. But because our constitution states that the highest elected member of the party would be the… the… titular chairman, then I had to embrace it. There are a lot of difficulties because I had not planned on it, but… you know… I have always— Despite the many constraints, I… in everything that I did, I always did to the best of my… of my ability.
And this is the same. I had not wished to be… to be head of the opposition. But because the circumstances called for it, then I would. But I need to balance it with the obligation that I have as Vice President.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Now that you find yourself in this situation, ano po mas mahirap—
VP LENI: [laughs]
ROBY ALAMPAY: —to be the leader of the opposition such as it is, or to be Vice President under President Duterte?
VP LENI: I think it’s a toss-up. It’s a toss-up, Roby, in the sense that both are really difficult. Sabi ko nga, binabalikan ko iyong mga nagyaya sa akin. [laughter] Those who took great pains in convincing me to run, they were all saying na, “Pinakamadali na tatakbuhan iyong pagka-VP.” [laughter] Tapos ngayon sabi ko sa kanila, “Sabi niyo madali.” Sino namang mag-aakala that the situation will be like this? Pero iyon talaga, eh. Ang gusto kong sabihin, iyong… iyong mahirap sa trabahong ito kasi lahat… lahat may angal. And it is part of— Parang… Parang, you don’t take it against them because you know where they’re coming from. But even then, you still have to… to make adjustments… kasi you have obligations to perform. Mas madali sigurong hindi ako Pangalawang Pangulo. Mas madaling maging… maging… miyembro o leader ng oposisyon, kasi wala kang constraints na dala-dala. Pero kung marami sa iyong inaasahan, Pangalawang Pangulo ka din, kailangan mong balansehin parati. Pero balansehin basta hindi mawawala iyong pagpapahayag ano iyong paniniwala mo. It’s… It’s a difficult balancing act. Pero I… ako naman kasi, when I accepted… when I accepted the obligation to run for this position, dapat… dapat kabahagi niyan iyong lahat na kahirapan.
ED LINGAO: Ibig sabihin kasing hirap kausap ang Liberal Party—[laughter]—iyong pakikipag-usap sa Pangulo?
VP LENI: Ako… ako… Ako, Ed, mahirap talaga kausap iyong mga pulitiko. Mahirap kausap ang mga pulitiko kasi parating may dalawang persona: mayroon iyong tao, mayroon din iyong pulitiko na kailangang manalo. Parating… parating iyong sukat ng— I say this every chance I could get: How do you want to be remembered as a public servant? Kapag kausap ko iyong mga pulitiko. Kung gusto mong maalala na sinurvive mo iyong lahat na political storms, iyon siguro iyong pinakamadali kasi lipat ka lang nang lipat. Kung sino iyong nasa… kung sino iyong makakatulong sa pagpanalo mo ng eleksyon, doon ka. Pero kung gusto mong maalala dahil sa nagawa mo, dahil sa paninindigan mo, iyon iyong more difficult part, because you have to be ready to make a lot of sacrifices. So iyong sa akin, I try to understand where everyone is coming from. Na mahirap talagang kausap iyong mga pulitiko.
That is also the reason why iba na iyong direksyon ng Liberal Party ngayon. We are trying to reinvent also the party. We don’t want it to be purely— Although it’s a political party, we don’t want it to be composed of politicians lang. In fact, we’ve started online recruitment already. And it’s been very encouraging. We’ve been getting professionals, students, ordinary Filipinos who believe in the same ideologies that we believe in. Palagay ko kasi ito iyong sustainability ng party, eh. And I am lucky na iyong aming party president, si Senator Kiko (Pangilinan), also believes in the same, parang, track that we want to pursue. Na dapat with or without politicians, may mga taong ipinaglalaban iyong mga adbokasiya ng partido. Because… we should have learned from the experiences of the par… the party in the past already—na every time hindi galing sa partido iyong presidente, talagang nabibilang lang talaga iyong members ng party. The party membership ballooned during the time of President Aquino, because President Aquino was a member of the party. Pero it was a disappointment when there was an exodus after he stepped down. But we should have expected that, because we did not prepare the party sa ganoong sitwasyon.
So now, we want… we want to take a different course, and we want it to really be composed of politicians and non-politicians who believe in the same ideologies. Sabi ko nga… sabi ko nga ngayon, because there are people who want to go back—iyong mga umalis, to go back—parati kong sinasabi na papag-isipan natin. Baka puwedeng iyong metric, our metric for success, is not the number of politicians that are still aligned with the party, pero ilan ba iyong mga bahagi ng party na handang makipaglaban para sa paniniwala ng partido? Tingin ko iyon iyong better way of party rebuilding.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Okay, we’ll talk about this, the role of the opposition, but we’ll pause for this break. Stay with us, The Chiefs will be right back.
[music; end gap]
AMY PAMINTUAN: Welcome back to The Chiefs. We are with Vice President Leni Robredo. I just want to go back to Senator Trillanes. Are all these things that are happening to him strengthening the opposition? The Liberal Party and the opposition?
VP LENI: Ako, I would like to think so. Halimbawa, I was telling you earlier that the only… the only relationship we had with Senator Trillanes before… before this issue was our being in the unified opposition. We see each other during meetings. Pero other than that, not so much. Parang, Magdalo was doing its own thing, the Liberal Party was doing its own thing.
ED LINGAO: He was with NP (Nacionalista Party).
VP LENI: Oo. Senator… Senator Trillanes is with NP. Pero when this… this issue… surrounding his… his amnesty… parang sumambulat sa atin, all of a sudden, parang mas naging… naging close iyong members of the opposition. We were one in saying that when we are fighting for abuse of power, talagang maglalaban-laban tayo. Ganoon naman talaga, ‘di ba? Parang… parang, relationships are strengthened when you go through upheavals such as this, eh.
AMY PAMINTUAN: And are you getting feelers from, let’s say, former party members or from other sectors to join your party or the coalition?
VP LENI: There have been several already, and most of the time, it is because of the 2019 local elections. A lot of our party members transferred to the ruling PDP-Laban party, but there have been problems within the party. Mayroong magkakalaban, pareho ng partido. Mayroong… mayroong candidates who have been forced to transfer to… to another… another party aligned with Hugpong. Things like these. And iba-iba siguro iyong motivations why they want to go back. Ang iba, realized na mas… mas… mas maganda pa na klaro. Iyong iba naman, parang nawalan ng… nawalan ng kasiguruhan kasi hindi alam kung sino iyong susuportahan ng partido, who will get the certificate of nomination from the party. So different motivations. Pero we have talked this over within the party, and we said that we will not anymore use numbers as our metric. ‘Di bale—iyon nga, as I was saying earlier, ‘di baleng kaunti, pero sigurado ka na you are together because you believe in the same ideals.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Okay. Now, very briefly, can you capture those ideals and that platform? I mean, what binds you… what binds you together? If you can do it in three words, what… what… what is common with all these people that you want to bring together?
VP LENI: Iyong sa akin, essentially, iyong Liberal Party, power resides in the people. It is really… it is really the acceptance that power is with the ordinary Filipino. Everything else comes secondary. Ano iyong gusto, ano iyong makakabuti, sa ordinaryong mamamayan. That is the essence of the Liberal Party. Hindi iyong strong-arm leadership. Hindi iyong— Ito… Ito… because power resides in the people, iyong paniniwala, stronger institutions, because stronger institutions would redound to protection of the rights of the ordinary Filipino. Free market—
ROBY ALAMPAY: And you are saying President Duterte is weakening all of these?
VP LENI: Yes. Iyong… iyong paniniwala talaga—paniniwala ko at paniniwala ng aking mga kapartido—na under the presiden… under the presidency of President Duterte, there have been a lot of— Parang, shaken to the core iyong ating institutions. Iyong ating courts, iyong ating Congress, even the Executive departments. Iyong pinaka-recent iyong COA. You know, it is very bothersome to hear the President tell the people, “Do not follow COA regulations.” We all know that COA is an independent body which should be beyond… you know… beyond… beyond the insti… beyond the… beyond politics. When you hear a President say do not follow this particular institution, malaki iyong problema natin.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Itulak nga daw sa hagdanan.
VP LENI: Itutulak sa hagdan.
ED LINGAO: Let me be just a cynic here: When you say power to the people and stronger institutions, don’t all political parties say this? Don’t all leaders say this? I mean, if I were a Duterte supporter, I could also tell you that the President is strengthening the institution of the Presidency. [laughter]
VP LENI: Pero ano iyan, eh… when you say “strengthening the institutions,” you do not refer to just one particular institution or one particular office.
ED LINGAO: Yes, Ma’am. I understand. But what I’m saying is that these are concepts that I think no one will disagree with, no political party would… would squabble against.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Or for that matter, these are concepts that many incumbents, including President Aquino, have been… have been vulnerable to. The Aquino administration—let’s just put it there, in all fairness—has been accused of selective justice, has been accused of weakening rule of law, and so on. So…
VP LENI: Ito… ito kasi… I think all presidencies go through a lot of… a lot of those criticisms also. And I… I would not even attempt to defend not just President Aquino—the presidency of President Aquino—but the previous presidencies. Pero ito, iyong liberal… iyong liberal thinking kasi, less government intervention, more power to the people. I cannot speak for the NP or for the PDP-Laban because I am not really very familiar with the ideologies of the other parties? What I can only speak of is iyong liberal… liberal democracy ideology, where government should strive to provide the infrastructure, so that people will make their voices… you know… will… can amplify their voices, provide for opportunities where… you know… the voices… the voices of the ordinary Filipino will be heard, providing ordinary Filipinos a seat at the table so that they can participate in policy-making and in governance—things of that sort. I’m not very sure how the other parties… the stand of the other parties are insofar as giving more power to the people and less government intervention. But… but… you know… when I speak of strengthening institutions, it’s not just the presidency that needs to be strengthened, but the balance of power between, you know, the different branches of government should be upheld. I would like to think that— That balance of power has been threatened time and again under this presidency. We see… we see a not-so-independent House of Representatives. You know, that is why I was saying earlier the fight for the Senate is really one of the most important fights in 2019, because we see where the pushback is under the present administration. So… you know… strong institutions make for stronger democracy.
AMY PAMINTUAN: You’ve categorically denied involvement in any effort to replace the President.
VP LENI: Yes.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Do you think there’s an active effort to replace you?
VP LENI: There is—
AMY PAMINTUAN: With the support of the administration? Do you feel— Well, we know there is an electoral protest, but it gets a lot of support, at least in the soundbites, from the President.
VP LENI: Ayon, the President has time and again expressed his preference of Mr. Marcos over myself, despite the fact that I won the elections. Despite the fact that the protest is still pending. The word of the President has a lot of influence over many agencies of… of the government. I would not say “institutions” because that will be stretching it too far. But the President has to realize that what he says has a big impact on how… how members of his official family would act on certain matters. So when he says he would… he would prefer a vice president like Bongbong Marcos, that says a lot. But you know… I always say this, especially to people around me, that we cannot lose hope on our institutions—the courts, especially. The Supreme Court, especially. We have had a lot of disappointments in the past, but we can’t lose hope, because if we give up on the Supreme Court, that… the Supreme Court is expected to be the last bastion of… of our democracy. And if we say the Supreme—wala nang pag-asa—because we hear this often, “Wala nang pag-asa iyang institusyon na iyan,” that’s like giving up on our country.
AMY PAMINTUAN: You’re not giving up on the Supreme Court—
VP LENI: I’m not.
AMY PAMINTUAN: —and the PET?
VP LENI: I’m not.
ROBY ALAMPAY: But beyond not giving up, you put your faith and you… you’re basically defending the Supreme Court. This will go even in the scenario where you might lose the Vice Presidency?
VP LENI: You know, it is always a possibility. With the way it has decided on several important cases, we know that the reality is it’s always a possibility. But when I say that we’re not giving up on it, it’s because there’s—we have our Constitution. And we took our oath to defend our Constitution. The judiciary—the Supreme Court, particularly—has the duty to interpret the Constitution. And as long as the processes are still… you know… are still unfolding, then we cannot say that we don’t trust it anymore. It’s up to the people to… whether or not they will accept actions or decisions of the Supreme Court
ROBY ALAMPAY: It’s up to what the people will say. But what will you say if the PET follows its processes and Bongbong Marcos is going to become vice president? And in some scenario, President Duterte steps down, gives way to Bongbong Marcos? You will respect that process? You will respect that and not call for protest? Not call for—
VP LENI: You know when that happens, that will be the time to say wala na talagang pag-asa iyong Supreme Court. And that will be an entirely different matter. But it will be irresponsible for me to say those things at this point, when the process is still unfolding. There are things we can accept and there are things we can’t.
ROBY ALAMPAY: But that’s like saying, “We have to respect the process for as long as hindi pa naman natin alam kung ano iyong kahahantungan? Pero kapag alam na natin… kapag nandiyan na iyong kahahantungan, I reserve my right to say the process was all wrong”?
VP LENI: Pero kung baligtarin natin, Roby, kapag sinabi rin nating hindi na natin… hindi na natin titiwalaan iyong process, then it’s like giving up at this point. And… and we all know that I can’t give up at this point because so many… you know… so many people are also pinning their hopes, not just on me but on me as a symbol of the rule of law and what is left for us to still believe in… you know… the democracy that still within us. Alam mo, mahirap sabihin ngayon na I don’t trust the process anymore, kasi kung sasabihin ko iyan, ano na iyong sunod, ‘di ba?
AMY PAMINTUAN: Are you satisfied with the way the process is going along—the pace, the way it’s being conducted?
VP LENI: You know, you are never satisfied. If I have my way, I would have wanted this to have been over in 2016. Kasi hanggang hindi pa siya tapos, Mr. Marcos just has the platform to do… to… you know… to make statements that are untrue. Mayroon lang siyang platform na iyong kaniyang propaganda ay nasasabi niya to suit his own political ambitions. Kung tapos na sana ito, wala na sana itong platform na ito. I would have wanted this to be over as soon as it was filed, because I know that it is baseless. And I think Mr. Marcos knows that he has no basis. But he’s still pursuing it kasi maraming political ambitions. But at the expense of the people, at the expense of our institutions. Kaya hindi naman ako… hindi ako mag-gi-give up sa laban na ito kasi hindi ko din—hindi ko mapapayag na he will trample on our… on our democratic institutions just to pursue his political ambitions. Talagang lalaban.
AMY PAMINTUAN: You don’t think he’s getting any support from the administration?
VP LENI: That is not for me to say. That is not for me to say because I’m not really privy to what kind of relationship he has with the administration. Iyong sa akin lang, I’m well aware that I am living in a… you know… in a universe where the circumstances are not favorable to me. Pero my belief is that ako iyong nasa tama, eh, so kailangan ko ipaglaban.
AMY PAMINTUAN: When was the last time you talked to the President, or you encountered him?
VP LENI: If I am not mistaken, it was in some event at the AFP, in Camp Aguinaldo. I’m not sure what event was it. If I am not mistaken, it was the turnover of command to the… to the—
AMY PAMINTUAN: And how was it? How would you describe your relationship at this point?
VP LENI: Parang non-existent iyong relationship. [laughter] But when we see each other… But when we see each other, he’s civil. But you know, I’ve been so used to being not invited, or sometimes I get invited but I get disinvited, even if it’s for occasions where by law I should be part of. Halimbawa, iyong LEDAC—Legislative Executive—
ED LINGAO: Development Advisory Council.
VP LENI: Yes. I should be part of that. During the first… I think… after I got out of Cabinet, I was invited to the meeting of LEDAC. But then I was uninvited later on. These are things that I have to contend with.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Can you not just—I mean, in that example—can you not just show up as a matter of mandate, as a matter of legal requirement?
VP LENI: What I do is I… I submit suggestions. If I’m given—you know, we’ve been— When we were disinvited, we’ve been asking for the agenda, so that I would be given the chance to… you know, contribute, as… as part of my obligations. Sometimes we get, most of the time we don’t.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Okay. But going back to Amy’s question: What do you mean when you say that it’s “civil”? What does… what does a civil relationship—
VP LENI: He acknowledges my presence. Sometimes there are short conversations. But that’s about it. Walang… wala namang kuwentuhan. Walang…
ED LINGAO: No talk of government?
VP LENI: No anything.
ED LINGAO: No talk of policy?
AMY PAMINTUAN: You said you submit suggestions? Through which office?
VP LENI: I did… I did after the first meeting I was uninvited to. I’m not sure where we submitted it, if it was to NEDA or to the Office of the Vice President. But you know, we don’t—
AMY PAMINTUAN: Was it received by Malacañang?
VP LENI: I’m not really sure. It was in 2016.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Okay.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Kasi alam niyo na ngayon, kailangan may pruweba lahat ng galaw niyo. [laughter] Kailangan may pruweba.
VP LENI: Pero ano naman ito, eh, we get by. I mean, sinabi ko naman sa office na we don’t allow the setbacks to define our work in government. We try to chart our own course. There are a lot of… ano talaga… there are a lot of setbacks that happen along the way. Pero ang sabi ko nga, kapag hinaharangan iyong daan natin, hanap na lang tayo ng ibang daan. Huwag na tayong magsabing, “kaya hindi ko nagawa kasi hinarangan ako.” That should not be part of the conversation. That should not be part of the narrative. We… we work in whatever capacity we’re allowed to work. Ano naman, sometimes we get no interference, sometimes we get. But you know, it’s been part of our universe already.
ED LINGAO: Okay. Just hold that thought. We’ll just take a break. Please stay with us. The Chiefs will be right back.
[music; end gap]
ED LINGAO: Welcome back to The Chiefs here on One News. We are now on the final part of this conversation with Vice President Leni Robredo. We’ve been talking about… well… the question of whether or not you’re trying to oust the President. Well, let me rephrase Amy’s earlier question: Do you think the President is trying to oust you?
VP LENI: Iyon nga, I think I answered that already, that if you will base it on the pronouncements, we will think yes. He said… he said a few times that… he will not… parang— Hindi naman ganoon iyong pagkasabi. He said a few times that he will not be comfortable if I will… you know… if he will… if I will be the one to replace him, because I am “incompetent.” He said a few times that he would rather have Bongbong Marcos replace him than myself. If that would be the basis for… for my answer, then I think yes—
ED LINGAO: I mean an active move to oust you?
VP LENI: I can’t say. There… there are… there are reports from several people—but these are unconfirmed—that there are moves to do that. Even in my home province, some of the President’s men have been trying to… you know… to find ways to discredit me. I don’t know if it’s part of the plan to… you know… just what they did with Senator De Lima and Chief Justice Sereno and Senator Trillanes. You know, the manner by which they did these things to Senator Trillanes would be a confirmation that they… they… you know… they would go at great lengths just to… to silence critics or discredit the opposition. And hindi malayo that they will also do this to me. But I have no… you know… I don’t have any confirmed reports that there’s an active… active… you know… plot to… you know… to strategically attain that end.
ROBY ALAMPAY: They’re calling Bicol a—
VP LENI: Hotbed.
ROBY ALAMPAY: —a hotbed of drugs. They’re saying your brother-in-law is a drug lord.
VP LENI: Drug protector.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Could you speak to those things? Specifically on your brother-in-law. I mean, I’m curious about it.
VP LENI: Iyong sa brother-in-law ko, they based— If you see my brother-in-law, you would know firsthand that it’s not at all true. My brother-in-law is blind. But he’s the only—
ROBY ALAMPAY: Not just legally blind?
VP LENI: He’s blind. He’s blind… My husband comes from a family where blindness is… is really a disability of the family. My father-in-law is blind. Every other child in their family is blind. He’s the only male in my husband’s family and myself, so baka siya iyong easy target. But that… that information of the President was from somebody from Naga who was an erstwhile political enemy of my husband. Doon binase iyong statement. And I think it was totally irresponsible of the President not to… you know… not to have checked… not to have checked if there was veracity to these statements. Because he could have easily checked. But he didn’t. May narinig lang siyang nagsabi. This particular… this particular political enmity of my husband, the President endorsed for the mayoralty seat in 2016, kalaban noong incumbent mayor namin. Ano ito, forever a candidate, forever na nasa bottom of the… bottom of the list. He’s been saying a lot of things against my husband, my family, and if the President were responsible enough, he would have checked first before echoing what this person said—and he didn’t.
Iyong pagiging hotbed ng… ng Naga ng drugs, we were able to prove that there is no truth to it at all. It was based on records of the PNP na noong una kami iyong number one, sunod kami iyong number five, pero number five pala kasi Region V. The PNP leadership has since apologized already. But you know, that’s so irresponsible. Idadamay mo iyong buong city, na… Naga has been performing tremendously well, not just during the term of my husband as mayor, but even under the leadership of Mayor Bongat. We have been Most Competitive City for many years. Tapos sasabihin mong ganoon? Just because ako iyong puntirya.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Well, you and the President actually started out on good terms, he gave you a Cabinet post, and you were talking earlier about giving the Vice President something more of a role than being a “spare tire” in the government. You think this is still possible? And can it still be reconciled with your role as opposition? Because I think the falling-out started—your falling-out with the President started—when you began criticizing his war on drugs, right? Is it possible for the Vice President to improve the working relationship with this President, and still be an effective member of the opposition? Leader of the opposition, in fact.
VP LENI: Ako, there’s a great deal of difficulty with that. Parang… Parang, looking back, the President didn’t really give me a chance at first. I remember, right after we were proclaimed by Congress, I tried getting an appointment with him for a courtesy call, and to tell him that, you know, I’m extending my hand… If it will be okay—I think it will be for the good of the country if we will have a good working relation. But you know, I was never given that chance. During the inauguration, it would have been a good symbol to the country if we had the inauguration together, because it would have been a projection that we were willing to set aside our political difficulties for the good of the country. I think… a unifying president would have been what the country would have benefited from. Pero hindi pumayag, so we had our own inauguration, but I still—at every opportunity—I tried reaching out.
AMY PAMINTUAN: And he eventually warmed up.
VP LENI: And he eventually warmed up. I was finally given—
AMY PAMINTUAN: There was a time we were teasing you, the two of you.
VP LENI: Iyon iyong mahirap sa biyuda. [laughter] Iyon iyong mahirap sa biyuda. Parating— I remember people teasing with the President, sabi ko, siguro kung married ako hindi naman iyon mangyayari, pero dahil biyuda ako, every… every gentleman who comes my way na wala ding asawa or… or separated or whatever, parati sa akin na— But that is an aside.
AMY PAMINTUAN: But you were working, you were working together…
VP LENI: But you know, we were working together.
AMY PAMINTUAN: And it happened again.
VP LENI: The first few months… I was appointed July. The first few months were okay. I was attending Cabinet meetings, and in fact, I remember one time I started criticizing the extrajudicial killings already, but I never heard any complaints from the President about it. So I remember one Cabinet meeting, I even told him how appreciative I was that he was not taking it against me, as a member of the Cabinet, that I was vocal with my dissent on his policy on… on… on drugs.
AMY PAMINTUAN: And what did he say?
VP LENI: He assured me that it was going to be that way. So, you know, I was confident that I tried… I tried… I tried to keep quiet about so many things, but there were things that I just couldn’t be quiet about. And that particular thing was extrajudicial killings. So I was very public about it.
ROBY ALAMPAY: In terms of not being quiet about it, are there things—including EJKs and human rights—are there things that you think you should not just not be quiet about, but be more vocal about? Now, we’ve talked to some non-members of your coalition. Makabayan Bloc, for example, when Congressman Quimbo was here, we were talking about the possibility of building a coalition. And Congressman Tinio, I remember, they also expressed na—well, I was the one who framed it that way, it was my words—but basically, my impression was they were basically saying, “Bitin kami sa Liberal Party, eh. We need them to speak up on human rights,” and so on. And going to Amy’s earlier question about why is Senator Trillanes resonant now, is it possible that… that people want a more vocal, more assertive opposition—and Leni Robredo, for that matter?
VP LENI: I think they want it that I would be more vocal, but they keep forgetting that I am the second in rank. If the President is ousted, if the President resigns, if something happens to the President, I take over. Hindi maganda na ako pa iyong mangunguna na ipag… ipag… hingiin na siya palitan o siya ma-oust, kasi it will not—not just for myself, but even for the movement.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Not asking for the ouster. I’m just saying, in the context of being more vocal—as Filipinos would say, mas malakas bumanat, mas malakas tumira, walang patumpik-tumpik na ano— I mean, without having to cross that line of asking for ouster.
VP LENI: But you know, Roby, I have always been very vocal about the things I feel very strongly about. Violation of human rights, I have been very vocal about it. Just recently, this inflation thing and how government is handling it, I have been very vocal about it. But people want more fire. People want more fire—and that’s where I need to balance things, because I’m the Vice President.
ED LINGAO: We understand. But I think they’re not just looking for fire. They’re also looking for position. I mean, not just about you, ha. It’s also about the party that you lead and the opposition you represent. For example, the Liberal Party, the last two years, has been part of the supermajority in the House of Congress—in the House of Representatives. You only had a very small bloc in the LP that chose to stand as independents or as… as minority of sorts. But everybody else was with the supermajority. In that particular case, what kind of an opposition was that?
VP LENI: You know, there were a lot of debates, and there were a lot of considerations that have to be… you know… that have to be a part of the decision. Maraming mga posisyon sa House that you cannot be part of if you are not part of the majority. Halimbawa, iyong sa Committee on Justice. Iyong sa Committee on Justice, if you are not part of the majority, you will have no seat there. And it was the… the LP members of the House felt that it was important that we retain memberships there, so we will have a voice. Kung nakita natin, during the committee hearings on the impeachment of CJ Sereno, iyong may boses lang doon, Congressman Kit Belmonte and Congresswoman Kaka Bag-ao. And they had their seats there because they were part of the supermajority. Kung wala sila, walang bumoboses noong pakiramdam na kontra sa pakiramdam noong agos.
ROBY ALAMPAY: But you had the Magnificent 7.
VP LENI: But they were not part… if you remember, they were not part of the Committee on Justice, because they were not part of the supermajority. Maraming… maraming mga considerations na kailangang isaalang-alang, kasi there are important positions that need to be taken, para madinig iyong boses. It was… it was actually a thing—it was very contentious. It was very contentious in the sense that a lot of us felt na noong nangyari lang iyong exodus, everyone in LP should… should be part of the minority already. But what prevailed upon was mas mahalaga iyong trabaho. Mas mahalaga iyong trabaho, na mabigyan ng pagkakataon iyong dissenting voice na marinig pa din, rather than na na-relegate siya— If you remember there was a contest between the group of Congressman Danny Suarez and Teddy Baguilat, and eventually nag-prevail iyong grupo ni Teddy Baguilat—ay, ni Congressman Suarez—and hindi masyadong nakabuwelo, hindi masyadong nakabuwelo iyong grupo ni Teddy Baguilat. And the same… the same now.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Exactly. What changes now? Because you’re heading into 2019, and to the elections that you want to lead them, it goes to that point: What… what are we—specifically of the Liberal Party—This question is being asked specifically of the Liberal Party: What are we looking for? A Liberal Party in the opposition? On the one hand, people hold up the example of Senator Trillanes, “Iyan, banat nang banat, ‘di ba?” And now we appreciate that. On the other hand, you have the Liberal Party that, I think you’re saying is, “we have to be pragmatic.” What changes now heading into 2019?
VP LENI: Kasi ngayon buwelo na pagdating sa membership. We did not lose all our members all at the same time. Paunti-unti, eh. Paunti-unti. And at that time, mas marami pa iyong naiwan sa Liberal Party, and we can’t just say, “Ito iyong desisyon ko. We won’t listen to your voices anymore.” There have been several… several meetings… before the decision was made. And in all those meetings, nandoon, nandoon sina… nandoon iyong… iyong members of the supermajority. Talagang iyong majority of the LP in the House, they didn’t want to leave the supermajority. And you know, it’s always a balancing act, and there are a lot of things that is happening sa likod that not so many people see.
Ito iyong essence din ng Liberal Party, eh—na parating papakinggan iyong pakiramdam ng… ng majority. Sometimes it’s frustrating, lalo na kung iyong pakiramdam ng majority hindi kapareho sa pakiramdam mo. Pero iyon iyong essence ng partido, eh. Iyon iyong essence ng partido, na parating papakinggan lahat. And iyong pinakinggan, ultimately lumipat din. Iyon iyong masakit doon—ultimately lumipat din. Pero hindi nila masasabi na hindi sila pinakinggan, dahil sila mismo, they knew that there was a lot of struggle, there was a lot of struggle as far as coming up with a decision is concerned, in the sense na iyong personal mong mga paniniwala kontra sa… sa paniniwala ng mas nakararami. Pero iyon iyong partido, eh. Iyon iyong essence ng partido—na parati silang pinapakinggan.
ED LINGAO: Something that may sound far-off, or maybe even far-fetched: What’s the possibility of the Liberal Party striking a deal or an alliance with the PDP-Laban? I know right now that sounds far-fetched, but in the late ’70s, early ‘90s, these two parties were practically—
VP LENI: You know, even until very recently, even until 2016 or the years or the months leading to the 2016 elections, iyong PDP-Laban parang pinsan iyan ng LP, eh. Parang very similar to the ideologies, sa mga paniniwala very similar. Pero when… when the President who ran under PDP-Laban became President, parang iyong nangyari sa Liberal Party in 2010, nangyari din sa PDP in 2016. A lot of people from other parties converged sa PDP-Laban. Parang, somehow, nawala iyong… nawala iyong pinaka-essence.
ED LINGAO: Iyong spirit.
VP LENI: Parang malayo na at this point to say that it will… an alliance will still be possible. Siguro sa lokal, it might be possible, in the sense na paminsan ibang-iba iyong lokal sa national. Pero sa national, parang malayo.
ED LINGAO: I asked that question because of what’s happening in PDP-Laban. They’re practically have been dropped in favor of Hugpong, so…
AMY PAMINTUAN: They will deny it. [laughter] No, are you getting feelers from some members of PDP-Laban?
VP LENI: Ako mismo, wala. Wala. Ako mismo, wala. Sa local, yes. Sa local, yes. Pero I think—
AMY PAMINTUAN: To join the LP?
VP LENI: To join the LP. Pero I think, to go back to what I was previously sharing with you, parang malayo siya, lalong lalo na kasi we decided that numbers will not a metric as far as the party is concerned. Parang, we will be… we will be happy with… with a few—
ROBY ALAMPAY: So mabilisan lang: Kris Aquino is not being invited to run?
VP LENI: We asked her, because there have been reports that she will run as… as… Quezon City… mayor… or there are supporters who are suggesting her name for the Senate slate? So we asked her. And she said she’s not interested.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Dingdong Dantes?
VP LENI: Dingdong Dantes has been a supporter of the Liberal Party from way back. Ano siya… He has been a partner in many of our advocacies. Maraming hindi nakakakilala kay Dingdong, pero as far back as when he was still a student, he was an advocate of many issues already. And the years leading to the 2016 elections, we have been working very closely with him. In fact, when my husband was still DILG secretary, he was working on a project with Dingdong. So he is one of the names we’re considering. Pero siyempre it will be to him.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Sino pa ba?
AMY PAMINTUAN: Lourdes Sereno?
VP LENI: Si… si CJ Sereno is not part of the Liberal Party, but is one of the names that’s being floated. I… I had initial talks with her already, and at that time, she was still not decided on whether she would run or not. That was just after the quo warranto decision. She was telling me at the time that she’s more inclined not to run. I don’t know if things have changed already. As I’ve said, I’m not part of the regular advisory council, but they will submit the report to me in a week’s time, I think.
AMY PAMINTUAN: Mar Roxas?
VP LENI: Mar Roxas… Mar Roxas, a lot of… a lot of our members want him to run. I talked to him already about it. He’s also undecided. He… He promised to at least think about it. We have yet to talk still, but he said, when I talked to him a few weeks ago, the decision will not come soon. I think he’d… he’d need more time to think it over. But I know that he would be a good addition to… to… to the line-up, if he so decides to run.
AMY PAMINTUAN: With all the things that are happening now—with Senator Trillanes and with inflation in particular and rice shortages—would you say, as leader of the opposition, that the opposition is stronger now at this point?
VP LENI: It’s stronger now. When you have a common… common thing that you’re fighting for, it makes the group really stronger. We’ve been very vocal as far as—not just our disgust on how the government is handling inflation and the rice in… the rice crisis. But we have, in fact—our… members of the party who are in the Senate and the House of Representatives, have in fact filed bills already that we think would help… help… you know… fight… fight more inflation from coming. We think it’s not just dissenting, but actually suggesting ways by which we think government should do.
AMY PAMINTUAN: You feel that economic problems are strengthening the opposition?
VP LENI: In a way, it is. But it’s not a welcome—you know, we’re… we’re affected by it all, so it’s not something— You know, you always wish to be more united, you always wish to be stronger as a coalition, but not at the expense of the plight of our people. We think when… when we talk of inflation, when we talk of our rice crisis, we should… we should be willing to set aside politics and work together as one.
We have seen so much suffering on the ground. You know, as part of my Angat Buhay—our Angat Buhay—program, I visit the poorest towns and munici—the poorest towns and provinces—at least two days every week. And we hear of the same complaints over and over again: how poorer they all feel now. How some people do not eat three square meals a day anymore. You know, while it helped strengthen the opposition, you would want it to be resolved right away. And we are frustrated, how government has responded to the crisis. We think that it would have helped if it was addressed directly when it was just starting, that people should have the impression that the President is on top of the situation. Because we all know that confusion and fear among the people will drive the inflation further. That’s why I was telling you earlier that… that during the… the interview of Attorney Panelo to the President, I was very frustrated that he did not address it in the manner that I felt that he should have, because it would have, if at all, assured some of our… some of our kababayans that government is on top of the situation.
ROBY ALAMPAY: Madam Vice President, we only have about half a minute left. We’ll let you have the final word to the people.
VP LENI: Iyong sa atin pong mga kababayan, nagdaraan po tayo ngayon sa matinding pagsubok. Iyong pagtaasan ng presyo ng mga bilihin, iyong pong kakulangan sa bigas. Iyong sa akin lang po, panahon ito para magkaisa tayo. Malapit— Totoong malapit na iyong eleksyon, totoong marami tayong mga hindi pinagkakasunduan, pero pagdating sa kahirapan ng ating mga kababayan, kailangan magtulungan tayo.
At ito siguro, hinihingi ko din sa ating Pangulo saka sa iba pang members of the official family, na assure us that you’re on top of things. Kinakailangan namin bilang mga mamamayan maintindihan na alam niyo kung saan kami dadalhin. Iyong nakakapahirap kasi ng sitwasyon ngayon… iyong… iyong ginagawa sa araw-araw ng pamahalaan, lalong nakakadagdag sa kalituhan. Iyong hinihiling lang sana namin, sabihin sa atin saan ba tayo patutungo? Ano iyong plano para sa bansa? Para— Iyon iyong kailangan para magkaisa tayong lahat. Mahirap magkaisa kung hindi alam kung saan… saan iyong daan. Kaya iyong sa atin, we look for leadership now. We ask the President to set aside all things political and concentrate on what’s urgent. And what’s more urgent than the hunger and the suffering being experienced by our people?
ROBY ALAMPAY: Vice President Leni Robredo, maraming salamat po.
VP LENI: Maraming salamat.
ROBY ALAMPAY: And that will be all for this edition of The Chiefs, but we hope what was discussed here will keep the conversation going. I’m Roby Alampay of BusinessWorld.
AMY PAMINTUAN: I’m Amy Pamintuan of The Philippine Star.
ED LINGAO: I am Ed Lingao of News5. And we are One News.
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