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    Message of Vice President Leni Robredo for the Archer Talks

    Message of Vice President Leni Robredo for the Archer Talks

     

    Hello sa lahat po na kasama natin ngayong hapon sa webinar na organisa ng Archer Talks and Eagles Meet! Maraming salamat sa mga alumni na mula sa De La Salle University at Ateneo de Manila for organizing this event. Payagan niyo po ako na habang meron tayong maiksing presentation ay may ipapakita po akong slides para lalong ma-imagine ninyo ‘yung ikukuwento ko sa inyo. Pero sobrang napapanahon itong topic natin ngayong araw: Ano nga ba ang puwedeng gawin ng bawat isa sa atin para tumugon sa krisis na kinakaharap natin?

    Ito pong tanong na ito speaks of an important truth: Na miski marami sa mga hamon natin, structural ang ugat, and therefore naghahanap ng mas malawakan at mas unified na tugon, rising to the big challenges still begin with our personal choices as individuals.

    Gusto kong simulan 'yung sarili kong tugon from the lens of my own experiences. Most of you know 'yung pagpasok ko sa politika, hindi by design or by intent. ‘Yung aking late husband, si Jesse, na parehong Atenista saka Lasallista… ano siya, Ateneo High School, De La Salle College. Siya talaga ‘yung pulitiko sa pamilya namin. He was mayor of Naga City for six terms. Habang mayor po siya ng Naga, I worked as a human rights lawyer and was connected with an NGO called SALIGAN. Pero noong nawala po siya, when we lost him in 2012, ako 'yung naisalang bilang Representative namin sa distrito, [sa] Third District of Camarines Sur, to make sure na ‘yung local political party will not disintegrate. Kasi ‘yung plane crash po nangyari siya at the heels of the 2013 elections.

    Wala akong preparasyon. Walang mahabang training. Walang experience bilang kandidato. Pero ang tinalo namin noong 2013, isang very well entrenched na political dynasty. Pero ang totoo po noon, parang transition candidate lang ako dapat. Isang term lang dapat ako. And in fact, habang nakaupo ako, inihanda ko na ‘yung papalit sa akin. I was supposed to go back to private life and take care of my daughters after.

    Pero naiba. Naiba ‘yung maraming plano. When I was asked by the Liberal Party to be Secretary Mar’s VP, I knew all the odds were against me. I was running against five incumbent senators who all had national exposure, habang ako po ay relative unknown. Nagsimula ako 1% in the surveys, pang-anim sa anim na kandidato. Pero gaya ng sa lahat ng bagay, ang naisip ko: Walang hindi nadadala sa sipag. At the end of the campaign season, ako yung national candidate who had traveled the most around the country. Pinapakita ko sa slide dito, may mga media… may mga media articles na parang sinundan nila ‘yung lakad naming lahat. Ako ‘yung pinakamaraming napuntahan. Talagang sobrang sipag ko noon. It was an uphill battle, but eventually we succeeded: In June 30, 2016, I was sworn in as vice president.

    Pero ‘di pa doon natapos ang laban. Panalo na tayo, pero I had to contend with a long drawn electoral protest. Hindi pa umiinit 'yung upuan ko sa opisina, dinumog na kami ng mga trolls. 'Yung disinformation operations laban sa akin, nagsimula actually when my numbers started picking up noong campaign ng 2016, at tuloy-tuloy pa rin hanggang ngayon. Hindi pa man nagsisimula ‘yung term ko, sinasabi ni Presidente that he had no intention of giving me a Cabinet post.

     

    Ang nasa isip ko noon: Hindi naman puwede na anim na taon akong… kami na nandito sa OVP, tapos panay ceremonial work lang ang gagawin natin. So from day one, inilatag ko na ang vision ko para sa Office of the Vice President: Transforming ourselves into a more relevant, more responsive, and more advocacy-heavy office.

     

    Pero ang tanong kasi noon sa akin: Saan tayo kukuha ng resources? Isa kami sa may pinakamababang budgets in the bureaucracy. Isa rin sa pinakamaliit na workforce. Ang baon lang namin, ‘yung confidence, that many people from the private sector would want to help, a network of people who knew kung nasaan ang mga kailangan ng tulong, and a deep knowledge of the mindset and processes needed to help sustainably.

     

    So ang naging operationalization noon ay 'yung Angat Buhay. Eto ‘yung aming anti-poverty program, which we launched as soon as we started work at the OVP. We positioned our office as a sort of a conduit: May gustong tumulong, may kailangan tulungan, at nandoon kami para magpatupad ng mga programa na sustainable, empowering at scalable rather than cosmetic one-time, big-time assistance.

     

    Ang isa pang alam namin: Darating lang ang tulong kung may tiwala sa amin 'yung mga gustong tumulong. Kapag nagpabaya kami, kapag nagbigay kami ng dahilan para mawalan ng tiwala sa amin ang mga partner organizations, siyempre ang magdurusa, ‘yung aming mga communities.

     

    Kaya nga naging imperative sa amin ‘yung pagsiguro that we earn the trust of the public. Sa unang taon ko pa lang sa OVP, ‘yung pinagtrabahuhan namin ang aming ISO Certification, which we achieved in 2017. Every year, hanggang ngayon, nare-recertify kami. Tinutukan din namin 'yung pag-achieve ng unqualified opinion ng COA, which we have been getting three years in a row already—bale 2018, 2019, 2020.

     

    We made sure that all transparency and accountability measures were in place, pati na ‘yung professionalizing our ranks. We devote a lot of investment in… pagpapahusay sa aming mga staff. Never akong nakialam sa kahit isang appointment or promotion ng empleyado namin sa opisina. Everyone gets in or is promoted through a merit-based system. May committee kami na naghahandle nito, at hindi ako miyembro ng committee na ‘yun.

     

    Ang bunga nito, ‘yung tagumpay ng Angat Buhay. We have partnered with more than 330 organizations. We have mobilized a total of P441 million worth of resources in 381 communities nationwide. Hindi pa dito kasama ang COVID response operations namin.

     

    Ang dami nang naging proyekto under Angat Buhay. Just to give you an idea, magki-quick rundown tayo dito.

     

    Sa mga lugar na napakataas ng dropout rates sa high school, nagpatayo kami ng mga dormitories sa loob ng mga campuses. Example nito sa Sumilao, Bukidnon; Balangkayan at Salcedo, Eastern Samar; Siayan in Zamboanga del Norte; meron din sa Negros, among many other communities.

     

    Sa agriculture, iba’t iba yung programa namin. May mga farmer groups na equipment ang aming ibinibigay para ma-mechanize na sila… ma-mechanize na nila ‘yung kanilang operations, and this has yielded amazing results. For example, itong nasa picture na nakikita ninyo, isang farmer group ito sa Cabatuan, Iloilo na binigyan namin ng mga equipment. In no time, mahigit doble na ‘yung increase ng yield at income nila. May mga farmers rin kami sa Bicol, whom we have trained to be farmer-entrepreneurs. Marami sa kanila, nakumbinsi natin na mag-shift na sa high value crops. Kung dati, halos sukuan na nila ang pagsasaka dahil mahina ang kinikita, ngayon, marami na silang kontrata with institutional buyers—mga restaurants, groceries, mga hospitals at hotels—at tuloy-tuloy all year round ang pagsu-supply nila.

     

    In San Remigio in Cebu, we have mental health program, at nagpatayo kami ng mental health facility doon so that mental health patients are already getting a fresh start at our mental health facility.


    Nagtayo rin kami ng mga Angat Buhay Villages in places reeling from disasters. ‘Yung nakikita ninyong picture ngayon is in Marawi. We built this after the siege. Ano ito, completely private funds. This was also followed by several villages in Camarines Sur, for survivors of the landslides and storm surges noong sunod-sunod na bagyo noong November of last year, and in Albay also for families whose homes were buried by lahar. So ito tuloy-tuloy ang pagpapagawa namin ng mga bahay.

     

    We have also energized entire communities in far-flung areas like Agutaya, Palawan. I don’t know if you have heard of Agutaya, but it’s a group of islands off Northern Palawan that can be reached by a 16 hour boat ride from Coron. I have been there twice already. For the first time, may ilaw na sa bahay nila dahil sa solar electrification initiatives natin with our private partners.

    Itong mga ito are just examples of the many projects that we have been doing in many of our communities, and nagawa namin ito not by imposing solutions on them, but by looping them into the entire development process. Kabahagi sila from start to finish. Nakinig muna kami; tinanong sa kanila, ano ba ang kuwento ninyo, ano ba ang kailangang tugunan? Tapos, we brought everyone together, harmonized 'yung efforts and resources, para ang initiatives, really powered by collaboration.

     

    This same principle is what keeps us moving forward, allowing us to do more with less and reach out to more people, especially in this time of the pandemic. Naging hamon pa rin ‘yung limited resources at logistics, pero tulad ng ginagawa namin sa Angat Buhay, we harnessed the good will of our people. Naging madali ‘yung pag-transition to COVID Response Operations dahil siguro nasa DNA na ng OVP 'yung empowering, bayanihan approach. 'Yung nakasanayan kasi namin from our previous initiatives allowed us to be more agile in our COVID Response efforts.


    By the time ECQ was declared in Metro Manila in March 2020, our COVID-19 Response Operations were already in place. We were then already providing PPE sets for medical frontliners in many hospitals. Noong naging mahirap ‘yung supply ng PPE because we were competing with the rest of the world, gumawa agad tayo ng medically-approved and locally produced PPE sets. Ang katulong natin dito this time, ‘yung mga local designers and sewers from our communities. So parang… hitting two birds with one stone, kasi ‘yung mga local communities nabigyan ng hanapbuhay while we were providing PPEs to many hospitals.

     

    When ECQ was first declared in March 16, na-paralyze ‘yung entire public transport system natin. Kinaumagahan, meron na kaming shuttle services. We plied 8 routes in Metro Manila, at kahit wala kaming background at all sa transport, nagawa namin na may eksaktong oras yung dating at alis sa bawat stop, gaya sa ibang bansa. We were able to serve 220,229 passengers all in all. ECQ lang namin ito ginawa, kasi doon lang naman na-paralyze ‘yung public transport.

     

    Nalaman rin namin sa mga pasahero namin while we were doing the shuttle buses na kailangan pala nila ng mga dormitories. Kaya that same week, nagbukas kami ng mga libreng dormitories para sa mga frontliners. We were able to open 12 dormitories in Metro Manila, which catered to 498 frontliners. Nagtayo din kami ng mga temporary shelters for medical frontliners sa loob ng Lung Center, NKTI, at Quezon Memorial Medical Center. Kapag nakita ninyo ‘yung picture, dinonate ‘yan sa amin ng IKEA. Di ba yung IKEA pabukas na dito sa atin? Nag-donate sila ng mga shelters, na sabi nila ginagamit nila ‘yan sa Afghanistan. And then we decided to convert them into temporary shelters. ‘Yung mga ospital na may space pa sa loob, nakagawa kami nito, and we partnered with local designers, local landscapers, para mabigyan sila ng oasis. So we called it our Oasis Project. Mayroon tayong tatlo—sa Lung Center, sa NKTI, Quezon Memorial Medical Center. Some of the shelters were used as triage facilities in other hospitals.

     

    Noong bigla namang nagka-surge ng cases sa Cebu, we replicated our programs there. ‘Yung ni-launch namin ang pangalan Bayanihan Sugbuanon. We were able to do bus and ferry shuttle services—‘yung ferry namin from Olango Island to Lapu-Lapu—which catered to 11,768 frontliners. We also opened nine dormitories—free dormitories—for 233 frontliners in Cebu.

     

    Nakita rin namin na noong unang nag-lockdown, nawalan ng kita ‘yung mga small vendors at—ito ‘yung mga market vendors saka ‘yung mga nagtitinda sa mga talipapa—at tricycle drivers natin. So we launched an online palengke app called Community Mart. ‘Yung isa sa Kamuning, Quezon City; isa sa Mega Market ng Pasig; at ‘yung isa sa Muntinlupa. Hindi lang ito para magkaroon sila ng kita habang naka-lockdown, pero para na din makapagprovide ng delivery service na mura na galing sa market. Umabot ng P30.5M ‘yung total sales natin. As of now, ‘yung Muntinlupa ay tuloy-tuloy pa. Nakapagbigay tayo ng hanapbuhay hindi lang sa vendors pero pati doon sa delivery na mga TODA drivers.

     

    Aside from this, we have also been extending relief assistance to poor communities, pati na mga pagkain at soup kitchens. Bumibili kami ng mga gulay sa mga farmers. Ito ‘yung mga gulay na binili namin tapos nagpapartner kami with communities at nagkakaroon ng soup kitchens. Until now tuloy-tuloy ito. Nag-start kami nito March 2020, and until now, we still continue to do that.

     

    When DepEd announced it will do blended learning, we launched our Bayanihan e-Skwela initiative, where we did a gadget donation drive, providing about 3,647 gadgets to mostly college students who did not have the capacity to buy gadgets of their own. Karamihan sa kanila, cell phone lang ang gamit para mag attend online classes, and may mga cases pa na they have had to share their cell phones with other siblings. So sila ang prinioritize natin. We also produced instructional videos to help teachers and parents cope with distance learning. Ito, nagpartner naman tayo sa mga ad agencies, sa mga creatives, sa mga talents. We also set up Community Learning Hubs. We have Community Learning Hubs in 58 locations nationwide. Para ito sa mga bata na walang magulang na makakapagturo sa kanila sa bahay. We equipped our learning hubs not just with gadgets but also with tutors na makakatulong sa mga estudyante sa kanilang mga modules. As of now, we are catering to more than 4,000 Grade School students in our 58 community learning hubs.

     

    Para naman makatulong sa mga kababayan natin na nagtatrabaho, we also launched BayaniHanapbuhay programs for those whose livelihood were affected by the pandemic. May iba’t ibang components under nito: ‘Yung pinakauna ay sikap.ph, it’s a jobs matching platform for blue collar workers. We partnered with 394 employers and posted 29,364 job vacancies on our site. Actually ito, kulang tayo ng applicants. Of the 29,000 vacancies, kulang pa rin ang nag-aapply until now. So we’re partnering with LGUs, kasi ang problema namin ay online ito. So baka ‘yung mga nangangailangan ay walang capacity to do online jobs search. We are doing something about it.


    We also launched iskaparate.com kung saan binibigyan natin ng online presence ‘yung mga maliliit na negosyante na walang capacity na magkaroon ng online presence. As of now, meron tayong 131 na mga maliliit na negosyante na nasa iskaparate.com, pero tuloy-tuloy ngayon ang tech training natin sa mga gusto pang sumali. We also launched TrabaHOPE—this is a program we are doing with USAID and Philippine Business for Education. Isa itong apprenticeship program for 1,000 out-of-school youth, kung saan karamihan sa kanila ay nagtatrabaho na ngayon with our partners. Recently, we also launched a Social Entrepreneurs Program with DLSU and ING. Kaka-launch lang nito last month. And another program, ang tawag dito ay Upskills Training Program, also with ING and Dualtech.

     

    When our hospitals were getting congested, we launched our free telemedicine consultation service called Bayanihan E-Konsulta. Since we launched last April 7, we have received a total of 55,587 messages already. Ano po ito, Facebook. Bakit siya Facebook? Kasi ang Facebook ang may Free Data. We are aware that there are also a lot of telemedicine programs out there, pero karamihan sa kanila kailangan ng WiFi signal. Ito, we made sure na Free Data siya. And we have been getting a lot of messages. Right now na nagka-surge ulit, we continue to receive an average of about 400 cases a day. Para matugunan ito, we are doing Bayanihan E-Konsulta with the help of 1,184 volunteer doctors and 3,574 volunteer call bridging agents. Tuloy-tuloy po ito since April 7. Aside from this, we have been providing COVID Care Kits, Mobile Laboratory and other services to those who need it.

     

    We also launched our Swab Cab mass testing drive to help test and trace more people who are either getting sick, have been exposed to someone who tested positive, or live in identified high transmission areas. We rolled out Vaccine Express in different LGUs to help speed up vaccine deployment—we have already brought this to Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, Naga, and Iriga. This weekend, we will be in San Pedro, Laguna and next weekend, we will be in San Fernando, Pampanga. In some instances, we provided incentives to address vaccine hesitancy. Halimbawa po nito ay noong nag Bakuna Express kami for TODA drivers and delivery riders in Manila, namigay po kami ng P500 gas cards, in partnership with SeaOil Foundation. Noong nagbakuna rin kami sa mga jeepney and tricycle drivers in Quezon City—Sir Philip, sa tulong po ito nina Joseph—we gave out P500 worth of Puregold gift certificates, of course in partnership with Puregold.

     

    Patapos na po tayo. We have since extended our services not just in Metro Manila and Cebu, but in other places where our help was sought – in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; in Bicol; in Iloilo, and even in Tuguegarao.

     

    Grabe po ‘yung bayanihan na nasaksihan namin as more partners, more donors, more volunteers came pouring in. Marami ang handang makiambag, some are just waiting for a center of gravity to orbit around. Lahat pong programa nagiging posible because of the willingness of ordinary Filipinos to contribute.

     

    Pero sa experience po namin on the ground, parang naging klaro sa akin: Hindi lahat talaga puwedeng madaan sa pagkakawanggawa. In a crisis of this magnitude, nakita namin that government should really endeavor to be the center of gravity. Center of gravity not just of government action, but of everyone and everything na gumagalaw in pursuit of the same goals. Kailangang gumalaw ang lahat tungo sa iisang direksyon.

     

    And paniniwala po namin, this is also a function of leadership. Kailangan may isa talagang konduktor na kumukumpas para siguruhin na lahat gumagalaw in harmony. ‘Yung lider, siya dapat ang nagbibigay ng direksiyon kung saan ba tayo patutungo. In very difficult circumstances, such as the one we have now, the leader also serves as the inspirational guide. Nakita po namin ‘yun sa trabaho namin ngayon. We are only able to do the many things na ginagawa namin dahil maraming tao outside our usual circles na inspired makiambag at tumulong. Ang liit lang po ng opisina namin and all our initiatives have been powered by volunteers. Sa experience namin, hindi naging mahirap magyaya ng tao. Kapag meron po kaming volunteer sign-ups, overnight lang, we get thousands of people wanting to help. Nakita namin ito also when we did our donation drives with our partner, Kaya Natin Movement. Noong March 2020, when we made a call, Kaya Natin was able to collect more than P60M in just three weeks. Noong sunod-sunod po ang mga bagyo kung maalala ninyo, ‘yung Rolly, ‘yung Ulysses, November of last year, we made another call, and Kaya Natin received more than P72M in less than a month. Clearly, dito pinapakita talaga na ang tao gustong tumulong. Kailangan lang talaga na may tiwala siya kung saan mapupunta ang kanyang tulong.

     

    Ito din po yung klase ng leadership na natutuhan ko sa asawa ko kapag may krisis. Iba ang lakas na naipapakita ng ordinaryong manggagawa kapag nakikita niya na ‘yung nakakataas sa kanya, nagtatrabaho at nagpapagod rin tulad niya. They do not mind putting in the long hours kung kasama nila tayo sa ground, lumalaban, alongside them. Ang naalala ko po si Jesse noon, kapag bumagyo, nandoon siya sa kalsada, naglilinis ng putik at sumasama mismo sa garbage truck sa paghahakot ng mga basura at paglilinis ng daan. Sa Bayanihan E-Konsulta po namin, ako naka-graveyard shift ako ngayon with our Emergency Team, magdamag hanggang umaga. Ang paniniwala ko po hindi lang ito symbolism, pero dito kasi humuhugot ng lakas ang lahat—na kahit mahirap, sige lang nang sige, laban pa rin nang laban. Kasi kung armchair leader lang, mahirap kapag krisis. Mahirap magdesisyon na ang basehan mo lang ay mga report sa iyo. Kasi minsan, may tendency pa na ‘yung mga nakapaligid sayo na good news lang ang sasabihin. Pero kung tayo mismo ang gumagawa ng trabaho alongside our staff, tayo mismo, we have more than second-hand stories to ground our decisions. Malalaman natin first hand kung ano ang problema at kung ano ang pangunahing pangangailangan. ‘Yung sense of urgency nandiyan, kasi ramdam natin, kasi nandoon tayo sa frontlines.

    And of course, role din ng gobyerno na tingnan kung nasaan ang ugat ng mga problema, kung nasaan ang systemic and structural gaps, para makapaglatag ng policy to address these gaps. Since last year po we have been regularly consulting experts and have made several recommendations, at patuloy nating ididiin ang mga ito ngayon: Kabilang dito ang mas mabilis… ito po parang sirang plaka na kami dito, pero kabilang dito ‘yung mas mabilis at integrated na sistema para sa testing, tracing, and treatment, pangunahin na ang isang solid na database. Ang direktang paghahatid ng bakuna sa komunidad at tao. Ang pag-review ng perang nakalap, hindi lang mula sa Sin Tax, pero lahat na puwedeng pagkuhanan, upang mailaan ito tungo sa pangangailangang pang-pandemya. Ang pagbabayad ng mga utang ng PhilHealth sa mga ospital, para masigurong hindi sila titigil ng operasyon. Ang wasto at hustong pagpapatupad ng Universal Healthcare. Ang pagpasa ng Bayanihan 3, at ang pagsigurong maitututok ang pondong bunga ng batas na ito sa pagsigurong walang magugutom at walang mawawalan ng tirahan. Ang pagpapautang sa mga maliliit na negosyo. Ngayon nga po, pakiramdam namin, hindi na sapat ang pagpapautang. Para sa amin, ngayon, ano na talaga… parang conditional grant na talaga ang dapat na binibigay para nakaangkla siya sa employment. Malawakang retraining din para makasabay tayo sa nagbabagong mukha ng mga industriya. Ang paglalaan po ng higit pang pondo para maiangat ang kalidad ng edukasyon.

     

    And so siguro in closing, babalik tayo doon sa question. Ano ba ang maiaambag ng bawat isa sa atin sa hamon ng pandemya?

    And sa akin po, for us at the Office of the Vice President, the answer has less to do with kung ano ang ikinikilos, but rather, kung paano kumikilos:

     

    'Yung pagdudugtong ng efforts, paghahanap ng mga tao at grupo na aligned with our values, and harmonizing everyone's steps towards a singular goal. This was how we scaled up, and this is the reason why we were able to do more and help more.

     

    'Yung acting with urgency, with single-mindedness, animated by the imperative to help. Ang lagi naming tanong: Saan ba ang gaps, ano ba ang kailangan, paano ba tayo makakakilos nang mabilis, efficient, at impactful?

     

    We were able to train ourselves to make do with the little that we have, to do more with less; to act, ito po mahalaga, swiftly, to be nimble, to be agile. To have a sense of what people need. To work quietly but with transparency and accountability.

     

    Kaya ito po ang mensahe ko talaga ngayon, to everyone who is here with us: To keep engaging, keep widening and strengthening your networks. Gawin po natin ang mga kailangang gawin at mas ibigay pa natin ang ating mga sarili, dahil krisis nga ngayon. Laliman pa po ang ugnayan sa isa’t isa. Magbabad sa mga komunidad. Maging maparaan, maging malikhain sa paghanap ng solusyon. If we are able to solve one problem, let’s move further. Find more gaps, let’s fill them. Let’s inspire others to do the same. Lahat po tayo, may maiaambag. Walang maliit na hakbang, lahat mahalaga.

     

    So the challenges we face today are indeed enormous, but the opportunities likewise abound— opportunities to engage each other in forging a society that is fairer and kinder; that is more humane, more inclusive; and, ito mahalaga, that recognizes the dignity especially of the most vulnerable among us.

     

    Marami pa tayong kayang gawin, pero ako alam ko, sigurado ako, kung magtutulungan tayo, maaabot natin ang better normal na minimithi natin.

     

    Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Aug 24, 2021