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    Vice President Leni Robredo on the 2022 Elections Rappler Talk Host: Mara Cepeda

    Vice President Leni Robredo on the 2022 Elections Rappler Talk

    Host: Mara Cepeda 

    MARA CEPEDA: Hello and welcome to Rappler Talk. This is Mara Cepeda. We are here today with the duly elected Vice President of the Philippines. She is the chairperson of the Liberal Party and the leader of the Philippine opposition—Vice President Leni Robredo. Hello, VP! Welcome back to Rappler. It’s great to have you here toda

    VP LENI: Thank you for having me this afternoon.

    MARA CEPEDA: All right, Ma’am. I’ll dive right in to my questions. First, I want us to talk about the highly praised programs of the OVP that you have been implementing despite, you know, a very small budget. Now, I’m very curious: How do you make decisions as Vice President? Please walk us through your decision-making process that, you know, eventually leads us to these very commendable and innovative programs that you have been implementing, especially during the pandemic?

    VP LENI: Alam mo, Mara, the reason why we are able to do the many things that we are doing now is because since 2016, this is what our orientation [has been]. When we launched Angat Buhay in 2016, just after I assumed office, sigurado na kami na we wanted to convert the office from a mere ceremonial one into an advocacy-heavy one. And because we know na hindi favorable iyong sitwasyon sa opisina namin, meaning to say, hindi kami makakakuha ng suporta masyado sa gobyerno, nasanay kami na iyong orientation namin, filling in the gaps. Kung nasaan iyong pagkukulang, doon kami.

    So from 2016 to early part of 2020, we were in the farthest, poorest, smallest communities—na ito iyong mga communities na kulang iyong access sa government programs. Pumupunta kami doon to fill in the gaps. So when the pandemic started, ganoon iyong orientation. Ganoon na iyong orientation. Most of our staff are very young public servants na sanay na to take on multiple roles. Sanay na na kapag may sakuna, nandiyan na kaagad kami. Parating pa lang iyong bagyo, nakahanda na kami. Nakapagplano na. Iyong sa amin, every problem that would be exposed—hindi lang during this crisis pero even in the past—immediate na kaagad iyong response namin. So meaning to say, iyong orientation, iyong focus ng opisina namin since 2016, na iyong kailangan ngayon, kailangan na agad tugonan. “Wala nang masyadong usap. Basta tayo, maghahanda tayo. Wala pang sakuna o mayroon pang sakuna, maghahanda tayo.”

    So when the pandemic started, naalala ko, Mara, iyong pinakauna noon iyong nagkakamatayan na—nagkakasakit, nagkakandamatay iyong ating mga health frontliners dahil sa kakulangan ng mga PPE sets. So kami noon—this was even before the lockdowns—talagang naghanap na kami ng paraan. Nag-ano kami, nag-donation drive. Noong kulang na iyong supply, pumunta na kami sa communities, nagpatahi kami, locally-produced na. Noong first day na nag-lockdown tayo, walang public transport, nakita namin walang sasakyan iyong mga health workers, walang sasakyan iyong mga tao, the following day mayroon kaagad kami na shuttle buses. Noong may shuttle bus na kami, nakakausap namin iyong mga pasahero namin, kailangan ng dormitories. So it was one problem after another. One solution after another. Iyong facility ng pag-decide nagagawa namin kasi… [technical difficulty]

    MARA CEPEDA: Nag-hang yata si VP Leni Robredo. While waiting for her to come back, she has been talking about how the OVP has been working to respond to the pandemic. So, you know, I asked her about the decision-making process that the VP has been doing to come up with these projects for the OVP, and, you know, the VP has said, “Kailangan mabilis agad...” Ayan, now you’re back! Hello, VP!

    VP LENI: [chuckles] Pasensya na. Pasensya na, Mara. Ito iyong kahirapan kapag nasa bahay ako.

    MARA CEPEDA: Oo nga po.

    VP LENI: Iyong sinasabi ko lang kanina, we were able to do the many things that we’re doing because a big part of the mindset was really working with the communities since 2016. We were so used to limitations. Sanay kaming maghanap ng paraan to make things happen. From the very beginning, iyan naman iyong lagi kong paalala sa kanila: “If we are faced with a roadblock, let us find another way through.” Parang iyong sa amin, doing more with less. Kaunti iyong pera namin, papaano namin mase-stretch iyong pera? So, noong dumating iyong pandemic, sanay na iyong buong opisina na ganoon iyong ginagawa.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Now, VP Leni, ang ganda noong sinabi mo, “doing more with less.” Now, I’ve been covering your office these past years. You were never really the type to take sole credit for what the OVP has been doing so far, and madalas nagpo-post ka nga sa Facebook, VP, you know, thanking your staff, thanking your partners. Now, what mindset about public service are you hoping to instill on the people you have been working with in the OVP?

     

    VP LENI: Ako kasi, Mara, hindi ako iyong type ng leader na nag-o-order lang. Hindi ako armchair leader na naghihintay lang ako ng reports tapos mag-a-act ako on the reports. I’m with them on the ground. Alam nila iyon. So sa akin, nakaka-demand ako ng long hours. Hindi ko na nga kailangan i-demand iyon, eh, kasi sila na mismo iyong handang-handa. Parang ang babata— Nakita mo naman, Mara, ‘di ba, you have been covering us, and most of our staff are very, very young public servants. Pero very, very young public servants, pero these are people who are so willing to stake it out with us. So ang pakiramdam ko, Mara, ganoon iyong nangyayari kasi nandoon kami on the ground, eh. Hindi kami— Babad kami. And iyon iyong sinasabi ko lagi sa kanila: na let us make sure that everyone would have a chance to do community work. Kasi when you do community work, you’re, ‘di ba, face-to-face with all the problems that people have, and hindi mo maiiwasan na iyong empathy—lagi ko iyan sa kanilang sinasabi, Mara, and I say this in my speeches very often—na iyong empathy is a spiritual muscle. Na the more you use it, the more na nagiging parte na siya sa ginagawa mo. And I think it’s what happened in the office. Mula 2016, babad iyong lahat sa communities. Hindi na sila kailangang turuan. Hindi sila kailangang turuan. Babad sila sa communities. Kapag may nangyari, alam na kaagad nila iyong gagawin.

     

    Pero ako, dinadamayan ko sila, Mara. Dinadamayan ko sila every step of the way, kasi ano rin iyon, eh, paraan para maramdaman ko iyong hirap na pinagdadaanan nila. Mahirap iyong nasa opisina lang ako at nagmamando na hindi ko ramdam kung ano iyong kahirapan. Halimbawa, kinukuwento ko sa iyo before we started na ngayon sa Bayanihan E-Konsulta, ngayong surge, panggabi iyong duty ko. Panggabi iyong duty ko kasi iyong mga staff namin, all hours naka-duty na and para mamahinga naman iyong iba. So ramdam ko. Ramdam ko na… Halimbawa kagabi lang, kagabi lang mayroon kaming pasyente na natanggap lang siya sa ika-9th na hospital. Ano iyon, profuse na iyong bleeding, ang baba na iyong oxygen saturation, ikot nang ikot, wala kaming magawa. Alam mo iyon, iyong frustration? Ang dami na naming tinatawagan lahat, “No, wala na kaming… wala nang room.” Kapag ganoon kasi, alam mo kung papaano—alam mo kung ano iyong kailangan. Alam mo kung kanino ka lalapit. Alam mo kung iyong pera ng opisina’ng kakaunti, saan dapat gagamitin dahil sabak ka sa day-to-day.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, you mentioned about getting frustrated with what you’re seeing on the ground during this COVID-19 crisis. What to you, VP Leni, is the biggest tragedy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s handling—or should I say more accurately, mishandling—of the COVID-19 pandemic and what would you have done differently if you were the president?

     

    VP LENI: Alam mo, Mara, I have been very vocal about this. Last year, gumawa nga ako ng maraming mga recommendations on video. Iyong recommendation ko from the very start, kailangan may konduktor. Talagang walang leadership na nararamdaman, Mara. A lot of the government agencies are doing many different kinds of work. Hindi natin matatawaran iyong ginagawa ng mga ahensya, pero iyong ginagawa kasi ng mga ahensya kailangan may nagkokonduktor, eh. Kailangan may lider sa taas na sinisiguro niya na naha-harmonize iyong lahat na nangyayari. Iyon iyong aking frustration for so long.

     

    Pero itong nangyayari ngayon, iyong na-uncover na mga pandemic anomalies, iyong frustration na iyon nadagdagan many times over. Na iyong, alam mo iyon, you are confronted with the realization na iyong mere possibility that corruption was happening in the middle of the pandemic. Na nagkakamatayan iyong mga tao dahil kulang ng gamit, sinasabi walang pera. Pagod na pagod na iyong mga health workers, walang pambayad. Ang daming nagugutom, kulang sa ayuda. Iyong mga... iyong healthcare system natin— Kanina nanonood ako noong HPAAC (Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19) presscon, nag-iiyakan na iyong mga doktor. Ang sinasabi nila na ano na, overwhelmed na iyong ating healthcare system. “Kahit gusto naming tanggapin iyong mga pasyente, hindi namin matanggap. Hindi namin matanggap kasi kulang—kahit may beds wala na kaming tao, kulang na ng gamit.” Ngayon, kailangan iyong high-flow na oxygen, kulang. Kulang ng ventilator. Tapos malalaman mo na grabe iyong korapsyon—iyong possibility na grabe iyong korapsyon. Sa akin lang, habang lahat tayo naghihirap, pinagkakasya natin kung anong nandiyan, tapos mangyayari iyong ganito?

     

    Halimbawa na lang, we have been receiving donations from many people. And nakaka-touch nga kasi kahit iyong mga walang-wala nagdo-donate pa. Alam mo iyon? Halimbawa, mayroong tinutulungan iyong groups na we are allied with. Halimbawa iyong mga Dumagats na nagtitinda ng mga gulay, pati sila nagdo-donate pa. Na alam natin na kailangang-kailangan nila for themselves, pero nakukuha pa nilang mag-donate para lang makatulong sa iba, tapos malalaman natin may mga government officials na ganito iyong ginagawa. Iyong either iyong possibility nga noong korapsyon tapos iyong mishandling, iyong misspending. Nakita natin ang daming perang hindi nagamit. Iyong nagamit na pera, iyon nga iniimbestiga ngayon na ang laking possibility na may corruption. Very frustrating iyon, Mara. And kami, ginagawa namin whatever we can with the limited resources that we have, with the limited—ang dami nga naming volunteers kasi hindi kaya ng opisina namin, kasi ang liit-liit namin. Pero na-prove namin na kahit kaunti iyong resources, kapag iyong dedication saka iyong passion nandiyan, ang dami mong puwedeng gawin.

     

    Kanina, Mara, pinapanood ko iyong, iyon nga, iyong presscon ng HPAAC. And alam mo, nate-tempt na akong magsabi na, “Puwede bang bigyan n’yo ako ng pagkakataon na tumulong at mag-manage? Basta bigyan lang ako ng blanket authority? Siguro naman mag-i-improve naman ito.” Ang daming kailangang gawin, hindi ginagawa. And nakakasama ng loob kasi last year pa ito hinihingi. Last year pa hinihingi.

     

    Halimbawa, iyong testing na lang, Mara. Kahapon, ilan ba iyong positivity rate natin—26%? And sinasabi nga ng WHO na dapat iyong target natin less than 5%. Para—kapag less than 5%, indication iyon na more or less controlled iyong transmission. Ilang araw na ba tayong more than 20%, pero tingnan natin iyong level of testing natin, nasa 60,000-plus pa rin. Gustong sabihin, ang daming umiikot na hindi nila alam na COVID-positive sila. So ito iyong testing—para tayong sirang plaka, ‘di ba—last year paulit-ulit na nating sinasabi. 

     

    Halimbawa iyong contact tracing, iyong contact tracing last year pa natin inuulit-ulit, hanggang ngayon sobrang palpak ng ating contact tracing na efforts—kung mayroon man. Iyong sinasabi natin, lockdown tayo nang lockdown. Dapat kapag nagla-lockdown, hindi siya iyong end. Iyong lockdown is only a means para during the lockdown, ma-expand mo iyong hospital capacity, ma-strengthen mo iyong healthcare system. Pero one and a half years na tayo, eh. One and a half years na tayo. Parang rollercoaster lang, bumabalik-balik lang tayo. And iyong experience natin, Mara, every surge—every new surge—is worse than the last. Kanina, iyong napakinggan ko, sinasabi nila na it will still get worse.

     

    So, iyong sa akin lang, pinapanood natin— Pinapanood natin iyong mga budget deliberations. Lumalabas pa na parang hindi COVID budget iyong budget for 2022. So anong gustong sabihin nito? Mayroon pa rin tayong— Misappreciated pa rin natin kung gaano kalala iyong sitwasyon natin ngayon?

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, you mentioned about the pandemic contracts. Now, the scandal shows how friendships and parochial ties can lead to corrupt deals because we know that many names are popping up—personalities and Chinese businessmen who have links to the President, you know, they have links to these pandemic contracts. If you were president, VP Leni, on what basis would you make government appointments?

     

    VP LENI: On the basis of merit—always. On the basis of merit. Iyong sa akin, na-shock nga ako, Mara, that the President himself admitted na ano iyon, favors. Parang favors dispensed. Hindi naman malayo na mag-a-appoint ka dahil kilala mo ang taong ito. Kilala mo ang taong ito, pero iyong pagkakilala mo sa kaniya, ina-appoint mo siya hindi dahil kaibigan mo, pero ina-appoint mo siya dahil ang tingin mo, siya iyong best person for the job. So parang pakinggan si Presidente na sinasabi niya na, ina-admit niya na, ano, “Ganiyan naman talaga, eh. Iyong mga tumulong sa iyo sa eleksyon or kasama mo dati sa Davao, iyon talaga iyong i-a-appoint mo.”

     

    Sa akin, secondary iyan, eh. Para sa akin, ina-appoint mo siya dahil kilala mo na ito iyong best man for the job. And responsibility mo iyon sa tao. Hindi ito— Iyong kapag nag-presidente ka and may vast appointing powers, hindi ito magbibigay ka ng favors left and right, kasi ang obligasyon mo sa taumbayan. At dahil obligasyon mo sa taumbayan, obligasyon mo na i-a-appoint mo competent, ‘di ba. Competent, qualified. And sa akin, secondary iyong kaibigan mo kasi o tinulungan ka kasi.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Very well said, VP Leni. Now, what to you are the three most pressing problems that the Philippines will be facing post-pandemic and what should the next president do about these?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Mara, ang number one, ano pa rin, getting the pandemic under control. Kasi nakikita natin ngayon na ano pa, eh, with the Delta variant, mayroon na namang bagong variant na papasok—so iyong pinaka-pressing talaga how to get the pandemic under control. Iyon iyong number one. And iyon, talagang aasikasuhin mo iyong science, iyong test, trace, treat, vaccinate. Dapat ito iyong pinaka-primary na inaasikaso mo.

     

    Iyong number two, revitalize the economy. Kasi talagang bagsak na bagsak iyong economy natin. Lahat na forecasts. Kahapon mayroon na namang forecast na nabasa ko from Bloomberg. Iyong forecast from Bloomberg, parang number 54 ba tayo? Second to the last. Second to the last. Halimbawa, iyong GDP growth natin sa second quarter was 11.8%, ‘di ba. Positive na iyon—pero positive iyon kasi iyong base natin sobrang baba. Pero kapag tiningnan natin, totoong may 11.8% na GDP growth natin, pero was that enough? Kapag tiningnan natin, hindi eh. Dapat nagkaroon sana tayo ng at least 20.5% na positive growth para makuha lang natin iyong nawala. Parang kung hindi ako nagkakamali, Mara, ang nawala sa atin more than P800 billion. Ano lang ito, ha, second quarter lang of 2019 to 2020.

     

    So iyong sa akin, kailangan asikasuhin talaga papaano mo ire-revitalize iyong economy. GDP growth, mag-target nang mataas. Address unemployment. Papaano ma-a-address iyong unemployment? 90% of our businesses are MSMEs—tulungan iyong mga MSMEs. May recommendation kami last year, Mara. Iyong recommendation namin bigyan ng interest-free loans. Ngayon umiba na. Iyong recommendation na namin ngayon conditional stimulus na: Bigyan na ng grants as long as may kondisyon na hindi magtatanggal ng empleyado, para hitting two birds with one stone. Invest in digital infrastructure kasi nakikita natin na iyong new normal talaga, ang shift na talaga, to digital economy. And kapag sinabi natin na invest in digital infrastructure: interconnectivity, access to reliable internet, provision of online platforms. Nakikita natin ngayon hindi lang negosyo, lahat na trabaho, pati government work, dependent on technology; pati education, dependent on technology. Nakita natin iyong budget for 2022, not merely enough para magkaroon tayo ng decent enough na digital infrastructure.

     

    Isa pa rito iyong education. Parati kong inuulit-ulit, Mara, na let us declare a crisis in education already kasi nasa last tayo ng lahat ng mga assessment. Ang sinasabi ng UN, Mara, dapat iyong budget ng education should be at least 6% of our GDP. Ngayon, P708 billion—iyong 2021 budget natin is P708 billion. That’s roughly about 4% only of our GDP. Kapag tiningnan mo pa iyong P708 billion, Mara, P557 billion lang doon iyong for DepEd, kasi iyong P708 billion divided pa across four agencies. Tapos kapag tiningnan mo iyong for DepEd, 70% is pang-suweldo ng teachers—na kulang na kulang nga iyong pang-suweldo ng teachers, pero 70% is pang-suweldo ng teachers. Iyong matitira doon, mga P99 billion na MOOE, doon na iyong—kasali na doon iyong budget per student. Tinitingnan ko, Mara, a few days ago how do we compare. Parang tayo, iyong computation nila, ang budget per student natin mga nasa P4,000—a little over P4,000 per student lang. Tinitingnan ko, Mara, iyong budget ng ibang bansa. Halimbawa, China, iyong budget parang 12,000 yuan, equivalent iyon to P100,000. Halimbawa, Singapore, iyong Singapore isa sa pinakamataas, 22,000 SG dollars—P814,000 compared to P4,000 sa atin. So how do you expect na our students will, you know... will compare to the other students, na ang baba ng binibigay na budget for them? Iyong US, parang about P700,000 per student—tayo P4,000. So ito iyong mga kailangan nating tingnan, Mara.

     

    Iyong isa pa na I think very important as we are battling the pandemic, iyong improvement in the social services. Ayuda na lang. Iyong ayuda kulang kasi mayroong P108 billion included in Bayanihan 3. Eh iyong Bayanihan 3, bill pa lang. Para sa akin, Mara, kailangan included ito sa GAA. Kailangan included siya sa GAA para readily available, hindi lang for this particular crisis, pero kapag may mga crisis na darating, dapat hindi— Kaya nafe-frame na health versus the economy kasi wala tayong pang-ayuda, ‘di ba? Dapat hindi, eh. Dapat hindi. Dapat kung kailangan nating mag-lockdown, dapat may ayuda tayo sa mga walang trabaho, may ayuda tayo sa businesses. Pero hindi iyong ipipilit nating buksan kasi wala tayong pang-ayuda. Eh kapag pinilit natin, hindi natin nasusugpo, hindi natin nako-control iyong virus, lalong nagiging magastos. So para sa akin, dapat hindi ito iasa sa Bayanihan 3. Dapat ilagay na ito sa GAA. And mukhang—hinihintay ko pa iyong ibang mga discussions sa Senate and Congress, pero mukhang wala ito sa GAA.

     

    Ang isa rin iyong delivery system—delivery system ng ayuda. Iyong Listahanan ba, iyong bagong Listahanan, okay na ba iyon? Iyong national ID system ba, okay na ba iyon? Kasi iyon sana iyong mas maayos na database na puwedeng may facility. Nagawa naman ng ibang LGUs, eh. ‘Di ba iyong Makati? They were able to efficiently distribute the latest ayuda in a matter of days only kasi maayos iyong sistema. So sa akin lang, inaasikaso ba natin iyon?

     

    So I think, Mara, ang dami. Pero iyong focus talaga ng 2022, ito pa: pandemic control, revitalizing the economy, iyong education, social services. Pero kapag sinabi kong get the pandemic under control, siyempre iyong healthcare system actually i-strengthen.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, let’s go quickly to President Duterte. There is a possibility that he will be investigated by the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed under his very violent war on drugs—and you’ve always been a critic of this bloody campaign. If the ICC probe pushes through, what should the next government do? Should the next government cooperate with the ICC?

     

    VP LENI: Ang legality kasi, Mara, if the crimes were committed noong member pa tayo ng ICC, nasa ano pa, eh, nasa saklaw pa tayo ng investigation, because the crimes were committed while we were still a member of the ICC. So ang the least na mae-expect natin sa susunod na administration is to let the investigations—na mangyari siya. Iyong due course ng investigation, dapat should be unhampered. Kasi ano iyon, eh, international obligation natin iyon, ‘di ba. International obligation natin iyon.

     

    Pangalawa, iyong expectation natin, i-a-assess ano ba iyong mga dahilan kung bakit nag-withdraw tayo ng ating membership sa ICC. Makaka— Is it to the best interest of the country na nag-withdraw tayo? Kailangang i-assess iyon, kasi if after assessment lumabas na hindi iyon to the best interest of the country, kailangan gawan natin ng paraan. So sa akin, kailangan iyong susunod—iyong susunod na administrasyon, ito iyong least na hihingiin sa kaniya.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Now, VP Leni, we crowdsourced questions from social media last night, and I did receive a lot of replies, and the social media users are quite interested on where you stand on the following issues. So quick fast talk lang muna tayo, VP Leni. I’ll ask you kung anong tingin mo sa mga issues, and perhaps you can explain why you agree, why you don’t agree. What should be done, VP Leni, to—first, what should be done to restore respect for human rights and, you know, the Filipino values that we hold dear, na some are saying na nawala under President Duterte?

     

    VP LENI: Elect the best people. Kasi nakita natin, Mara, ang daming—it took years for us to build, ‘di ba. Ang daming mga institutions na it took years for us to build. We have been through EDSA. We have been through so many upheavals in the country already, and it takes just one person to destroy everything. So sa akin talaga, hindi lang iyong sa national ha, pati sa local—pati sa local, let us elect the best people. And kapag sinabi nating best people, iyong mga tao na who represent the values and the principles that we hold dear. Ito iyong mga tao na pangangalagaan iyong mga karapatan natin. Hindi iyong tao na nagbibigay ng favors. Kasi nakita natin over the years, Mara, kapag masyadong patronage, kapag masyadong patronage iyong basis ng pagboboto natin, ano, eh, we are given the kind of officials na hindi natin dine-deserve.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, do you support the passage of a bill banning political dynasties?

     

    VP LENI: Yes. In fact, I was co-author of the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill in the 16th Congress. I have always been very open about it. I’ve been very open about iyong anti-political dynasty, kasi para sa akin, Mara, iyong opportunity for ordinary Filipinos to serve, iyon iyong sa akin, eh. Iyong para sa akin, dapat lahat na Pilipino nabibigyan ng pagkakataon manilbihan. And it’s in our 1987 Constitution. Hindi lang siya, ano ito—wala lang enabling law, eh. Walang enabling law kaya many years after wala pa rin iyong anti-political dynasty principle under the 1987 Constitution.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, do you support same-sex marriage in the Philippines?

     

    VP LENI: I support same-sex unions. I have always been very open about freedom of choice. Iyong pagbigay ng kalayaan para sa lahat na i-pursue kung ano iyong gusto nila, basta hindi ito nakakasama sa kapwa niya.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Should we decriminalize abortion in the country?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, I have always been against abortion, Mara. I have always been against abortion. Pero iyong sa akin, para hindi tayo humantong sa extreme situations, kailangan natin na i-strengthen iyong local health—hindi lang facilities, eh, pero iyong local health services. Kailangan nating i-strengthen iyon. Kailangan ma-integrate iyon sa curriculum natin habang bata pa iyong mga bata. We have been doing a lot of work on this also, Mara. Halimbawa, we have been doing a lot of work on teenage pregnancies, kaya lang iyon nga, eh, napakaliit naming opisina. We can only do so much. We have been partnering with some development organizations, pero ang pakiramdam ko kasi, kakaunti lang iyong aming nasasaklawan. So iyong sa akin talaga, making sure na iyong health services available to everyone.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Now, VP Leni, we are a predominantly Catholic country in the Philippines, but would you support allowing divorce in the country?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Mara, when I was still in Congress, I discussed already my position on this. Alam mo, in all the years that I was not yet a politician, I was lawyering for abused women. And iyong nakita ko talagang pagkukulang, Mara, mayroon tayo, eh—mayroon tayong local version of divorce, at ito iyong declaration of nullity of marriage under our Family Code. Pero iyong nakita ko lang, kailangan itong i-amend. Kailangan i-amend kasi... dahil iyong requirements niya are too prohibitive, ang karamihan sa nakaka-access ng remedy na ito, iyong may kaya. Pero dahil sa requirements niya, iyong [hindi] may kaya hindi niya ito na-a-access. Halimbawa, kinakailangan mag-submit ka ng mga documents. Halimbawa, psychological test na napakamahal. Ano talaga, hindi siya accessible sa maraming—hindi siya accessible sa mahihirap. Hindi siya accessible sa maraming tao.

     

    Halimbawa, ang lahat na kliyente ko mahirap. Ang kliyente ko all the years na mag-asawa sila binubugbog, hindi sinusuportahan, maraming abuses na ginagawa—and pagpapakita iyon, pagpapakita ng psychological incapacity ng asawa. And iyong Family Code natin, iyong Article 36, iyong Article 36 natin psychological incapacity iyon, ground siya. Ground siya for declaration of nullity of marriage. Pero kapag nasa korte na, unang-una napakamahal ng abogado. Mayroon namang mga libre, pero sino ba iyong—lahat ba nakaka-access ng libreng legal services? Iyon iyong una. Pangalawa, iyong requirements niya sobrang mahal.

     

    [35:00 - end c/o Dorothy] 

     

    VP LENI: Pangalawa, iyong requirements sobrang mahal. Iyong requirements, sobrang mahal. So alam mo iyon, hindi siya accessible. And we have been pushing for this. Naalala ko, Mara, noong nasa Congress ako, hindi lang iyan iyong pinupush namin. Pero pati iyong mga inequality sa batas. Halimbawa iyong crimes ng adultery at saka concubinage. Hindi talaga siya—ano siya, eh, hindi pantay. Hindi pantay iyong treatment ng babae sa lalaki. So pinu-push namin na ma-abolish na iyon. Magpasa na lang ng marital infidelity law. Kung ano ang requirements sa babae, iyong din iyong requirements sa lalaki. Pero alam mo, hindi kasi nabibigyan ng priority. Hindi natutukan. Maraming ibang inaasikaso. Pero kailangan natin laging isipin na ang daming mga kababaihan ang nagsu-suffer in silence na hindi siya nabibigyan ng acces sa legal remedies dahil prohibitive ito. Number two, hindi siya nabibigyang access ng tulong ng pamahalaan. Iyong acces na tulong ay very limited. So iyong akin talaga, greater awareness. Greater awareness sa plight ng  mga kababaihan. And ano rin ito, eh, kapag pinrotect mo iyong mga babae, pati mga anak niya damay.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Now, VP Leni, journalists and other media groups have been pushing to decriminalize libel. Do you agree with that proposal?

     

    VP LENI: Yes, I agree with decriminalizing libel para hindi siya ginagamit na sandata. Hindi siya ginagamit na sandata to silence journalists. Nakita natin especially over the course of the five years, iyong 2016 hanggang ngayon na kapag—iyong attempts to silence journalists, ano siya, eh, ang naaapektuhan hindi lang iyong journalists pero damay tayo lahat. Damay tayo lahat kasi hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataon iyong tao para ma-assess niya. Para matulungan siyang magdesisyon ng tama. Kapag ang basis—halimbawa, kapag sinilence mo iyong journalists ngayon na grabe na iyong social media, ang basis ng napakarami, ang daming fake news. Hindi mo mabe-blame iyong tao kung bakit iyong choices niya ganito kasi iyon iyong available, eh. Iyon iyong naging available sa kaniya na pinaniwalaan niya. Iyong sa social media dahil bago pa lang, hindi pa natin naaayos iyong accountabilities noong mga nagpo-post hindi gaya noong traditional. Iyong traditional, iyong journalists are held to account, eh. So because they are held to strict journalistic—journalism regulations, maingat siya sa sinusulat niya. Pero ngayon na alam mo iyon, there have been a lot of attempts to silence journalists. Iyong kapag criminal kasi siya, Mara, iyong fear mas mataas, eh, ‘di ba

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Yes.

     

    VP LENI: You’re a journalist. Iyong fear na makukulong ka, lalo na iyong may mga pamilya. Mag-iisip ka. So dapat talaga i-decriminalize siya.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: I agree with you 100%, VP Leni. That’s good to know that you want to decriminalize libel and want to help defend press freedom in the Philippines. Now, VP Leni, tapos na iyong ating fast talk. Let’s go back to your journey as VP. You did not aspire to be Vice President, let alone be a leader of the opposition movement against a very popular President at that. And yet you were called upon and you responded. I’m wondering, VP Leni, do you ever have regrets about becoming Vice President?

     

    VP LENI: No. Sa akin, Mara, totoo na there have been a lot of bad days. There have been a lot of bad days. and alam mo iyon, iyong bad days, hindi siya madali. Pero when you assess, you know, as Vice President I was given a platform where I was able to help a lot of communities, a lot of people. Iyong platform na iyon, napawi na noon iyong bad days. So sa akin, walang regrets. It has been a great honor and privilege to have been given these—to have been given six years as Vice President. So sa akin, Mara, hindi ko alam kung narinig mo na iyon sa akin in person pero lagi akong nagsasabi na everything happens for a reason. Lahat nakatakda.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, speaking of destiny, we’ve seen a recent trajectory in the calls of your political allies and your supporters for you to run in 2022. So I  have to ask. Marami nang nagtatanong nito, VP Leni. Do you already have a decision? Are you running for President in 2022?

     

    VP LENI: Wala pang decision, Mara. Pero because it’s September already, siyempre we’re getting nearer to decision time. Ako, siyempre very thankful ako for the trust and the support. And I have said this many times over already that I don’t take this trust lightly. I continue to give serious thought to this. Pero as I do, I also give importance to exerting efforts to widen our reach. Lagi ko rin ito sinasabi, Mara, that so much is at stake. And because of it, ang paniniwala ko talaga, we need to talk beyond our usual circles. To go into 2022 with a united front. Sa akin, nagbe-best effort ako, Mara. Nama-mar lang siya by our pandemic response operations. Siyempre priority iyon. Priority iyon. In fact, I always feel guilty talking about 2022 while we’re in the middle of the pandemic. But I guess it can’t be helped because it’s just around the corner, ‘di ba, iyong filing. Pero having said that, para sa akin iyong best way pa rin to confront 2022 is a united front, eh. Iyong—alam mo iyong—iyong united front is the start of moving forward, past this pandemic, past the elections. Hindi lang itong election itong tinitingan natin, eh, to a time where we can once again look at a better future. So ang focus ko, while ang focus ko is primarily pandemic response, ako gusto ko lang i-assure iyong mga supporters that I will make the decision known at the right time pero sinisigurado ko, Mara, na kung ano man ang magiging pasya ko, it will honestly be what I think would be best for the country. Iyon naman iyong pinakamahalaga para sa akin, eh, na to put a stop to the kind of governance that we currently have, lalo na ngayong pandemic.

     

    Ako, I honestly believe that the Filipino people definitely deserve better. So ang main consideration ko, how can I best contribute to ensure na hindi na magpapatuloy iyong ganitong pamamalakad by 2022. Kasi, Mara, iyong filing being a candidate is the easy part eh. Pero iyong winning is the more difficult part. And ito kasi, hindi naman sa ayaw mong matalo, ‘di ba? Kasi sa akin, Mara, lahat ng eleksyon walang kasiguruhan. Pero habang may panahon pa tayo na mag-form ng broadest coalition na puwede nating ma-form, better. Better kasi hindi nga madali, eh. Hindi madali iyong 2022. So sa akin lang, ano ba iyong best interest ng bansa. Ako ba iyong kandidato or sisiguraduhin ko ba na magkaisa lahat? And magkaisa sa isang kandidato para mas better iyong chances natin sa 2022. Kasi ang iba, Mara, parati nilang sinasabi na takot lang ako sa low numbers. Pero sa akin it’s so much more than that. Kasi tumakbo nga ako in 2016 with very low ratings, ‘di ba. Sanay naman akong dehado. And handa naman tayo to work thrice as hard. Pero handa din akong hindi tumakbo and support somebody else if tha i’s the best way for us to put a stop to what is happening now and hope to achieve better governance. So iyong curious thought talaga nandoon. Hindi iyon hesitation, pero honest to goodness consideration of what will be best for the country. So sa akin iyon lang iyong assurance ko na pinag-iisipan ko po mabuti, pinag-aaralan ko iyon lahat, ano ba iyong mas makabuti sa bansa? Ako ba iyong kandidato, o siguruhin ko na magkaisa tayo? Para after 2022 hindi na ganito. Hindi na ganito iyong governance sa atin. Hindi na ganito iyong klase ng leadership na lalo na dahil pandemic tayo.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, before you’ve been mentioning you had three options for 2022: either it’s to run for President, possibly run for Camarines Sur governor, or take a break from politics. VP, at this point in your discernment, is running for Camarines Sur governor is still on the table for you? Still something you’re considering?

     

    VP LENI: Alam mo, Mara, lahat naman possible. Hindi lang Camarines Sur governor pero a local position. But lahat naman possible. Pero iyong sa akin inuuna ko muna iyong pagde-desisyon sa presidency, whether to run or not to run. Iyon na muna. Iyon na muna iyong consideration kasi iko-consider ko lang naman iyong two and three kung nag-decide na ako sa one, ‘di ba. Pero sa akin nga, I’m okay with any of those three, eh. Kung palagay ko ba pinakamabuti para sa ating lahat iyong one, doon ako. Pero iyong sa akin, hindi sarili ko iyong iniisip ko, Mara. Pero talagang too much is at stake, eh. Na totoo na baka kailangan mayroon lunukin na hindi kaaya-aya sa atin ngayon. Pero baka in the future moving forward, iyon iyong makakabuti for all of us. Iyon iyong pinag-aaralan namin ngayon, Mara. We have been looking not just at the numbers, pero iyong many different scenarios. Talking to a lot of people. Ano lang talaga, iyon ang nakakahirap lang talaga for us ngayon, Mara, iyong pandemic. Kasi ang focus lang namin nito, lalo pa ngayom na hindi ko natuloy iyong aking—kasi I was doing a lot of meetings already  with many different peoplebefore the surge. Pero when the surge happened, we had to stop kasi ito muna iyong inaasikaso. Pero dahil nga iyong filing is just around the corner, siguro after my quarantine, I end my quarantine on Monday, we will try to schedule meetings again. Pero iyon, ang problema talaga sa amin, Mara, we’re too focused on the surge now. Sana nga matapos na ito para mas mabigyan na ng mas maraming oras iyong paghahanda. 

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, let’s go to your discernment process. Since you said you’re still deciding what role, if any, did the death of the late former president Noynoy Aquino play in your decision to run for president, especially when he passed away, there was a lot of call for the return of decent governance. And you know, there are people saying, “Sino pa ba ang magbabalik noon than Vice President Leni?” Did you ever feel na may tawag na ganoon after the death of the late former president?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Mara, nakita ko iyong change after the death of PNoy. May realizations, sa maraming tao na ito pala iyong gusto nating klase ng leader. Mayroong appreciation of—kasi ‘di ba after noong 2016 ang daming propaganda. Ang daming propaganda na pinapakita na masama iyong nakaraang administrasyon, maraming mga bagay—I mean, wala namang perfect na administrasyon. Pero noong namatay si PNoy, may greater appreciation of the things he did—and marami iyon. Marami iyon na iyong mga attempt niya to institutionalize na maraming mga bagay. And nakita nga natin, na-mention ko earlier, Mara, na mayroon tayong mga ginawa—mayroong mga ginawa iyong dating nakaupo na it took years—it took year to build. Parang gumuho lang siya ngayong after 2016. So nakikita ko iyon on Facebook, nakikita ko iyon on Twitter, nakikita ko iyong posts ng mga tao na maraming nagising na, “gusto pala namin. Gusto pala namin iyong malinis, disente, seryoso—seryoso na klaseng leadership.” So iyon iyong nakita ko after his death.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: And, VP Leni, if you do decide to run for president, is that something that, you know, you would promise to the people to bring back in the country? The kind of efficient, clean governance?

     

    VP LENI: Ako naman, Mara, kahit noong nasa Congress ako, kahit noong VP ako, iyon na talaga iyong sinisiguro ko. In fact, if you will notice, the first thing that I did when I became VP was to aspire for an ISO Certification—pagpapakita na seryoso na i-professionalize talaga. I-professionalize iyong opisina namin. We have always aspired to achieve an unqualified opinion from COA. Iyong malinis na pamamahala. So iyong sa akin, I don’t need to be President para ipakita iyon kasi kahit napakaliit lang na—napakaliit lang iyong role, dapat nandoon parati iyong aspiration dahil that’s the least you can do para sa taong pinaninilbihan natin.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, do you seek guidance from your late husband Jesse Robredo on your decision to possibly seek the presidency? Because you know, you have been saying, ‘di ba, it’s like Jesse never left the family so—

     

    VP LENI: Lagi naman, Mara. Ako, Mara, in small things and in big things, lagi akong humihingi sa kaniya ng gabay—hindi lang ito sa desisyon ng pag-presidente. Pati sa mga maliliit na bagay, pati sa pag-asikaso ng mga bata, sa desisyon sa amin, sa pinanggalingan namin na lugar—lahat. Lahat hinihingi ko iyong guidance kasi wala naman ako dito, Mara, kung hindi siya nawala, eh. Kung hindi  namatay iyong asawa ko, hindi naman ako papasok sa pulitika at alam niya iyon. Alam niyang nag-step in lang ako dahil mayroong gap, mayroong ano iyon, mayroong nabakante noong nawala siya. And sa akin parating ito iyong more personal side ng aking commitment. Na iyong commitment ko na hindi—gagawin ko kung ano sa tingin ko iyong kung nandito siya iyon iyong gagawin niya. So laging ganoon ako, Mara, na, “if he were here, what would have he decided on?” Lagi siyang consideration before I make any decision. 

     

    MARA CEPEDA: VP Leni, how about your daughters, Aika, Tricia and Jillian. We know that, you know, their views and opinion in 2016 were very important kung tatakbo ka for VP or not? Sa ngayon ba, VP Leni, do they support the possibility of you, their mother, possibly running for President in 2022? Paano ka nila tinutulungan, or paano iyong mga discussions niyo regarding your possible run?

     

    VP LENI: Sa akin, Mara, hindi naman lingid sa kaalaman ng iba kung gaano kakontra iyong mga anak ko, kung gaano kakontra iyong mga anak ko ng pagpasok ko sa pulitika. And hindi lang ito sa pag-presidente. Pati iyong pag-run ko for Congress, pati iyong pag-run ko for VP, grabe talaga. Pero iyong sa akin, iyong mga anak ko kasi nakita nila iyong need, eh. Nakita nila iyong need before so kahit kontra sila, when I decided, all-in sila. Ang gusto kong sabihin, iyong descion-making process ko noong nag-VP ako, ano iyon, noong nag-decide ako iyong mga anak ko, huminto talaga sa ginagawa nila. Kahit iyong mga estudyante ko—halimbawa, si Aika pa lang iyong working. Si Tricia at saka si Jillian were students pero sila iyong—si Tricia huminto for a while sa kaniyang med school. Si Jillian ay galing sa—high school yata siya at that time, eh—galing sa school, naka-high school uniform pa, didiretso sa mga campaign sorties para i-represent ko kasi I have to be in many places all at the same time.

     

    So sa akin, lumaki naman sila, Mara, na alam nila kung ano iyong mga responsibilities at iyong pag-kontra nila lagi, naiintindihan ko kasi para sa kanila, kung puwede lang na hindi ako, huwag na ako. Kasi iyon naman iyong—tayo naman, ganiyan tayo, ‘di ba, kahit ikaw, Mara, halimbawa sa magulang mo, you would always wish for the best para sa magulang mo. And kahit naman ako. Kahit ako, magulang din. Kung masasabak iyong anak ko, kung puwedeng hindi sila, huwag sila. Halimbawa, si Aika, ang daming beses na na may nakiusap sa akin na kung puwede siyang kumandidato. Unang-una, ayaw niya naman. Pangalawa, ayaw ko rin kasi para sa akin kung kaya kong i-protect iyong anak ko, doon ako. Iyong—alam mo iyon, kung mayroon lang namang iba, huwag na siya. And I think it;s the same. Ganoon naman sila. Kung puwede lang namang iba, huwag na ako. 

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP Leni, kailan po kayo magde-decide on your decision. You said, ‘di ba, at the very latest, hihintayin mo until the very last day of filing. But is there a chance that you would announce in two weeks or within September?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, hopefully very soon. Hopefully within September. Actually, iyong timetable talaga namin, Mara, September. Pero ano kasi, eh, iyon nga, hindi natin inaasahan na magkaka-surge ng August. At iyong surge hanggang September pa. So parang na-push iyong ibang mga meetings, na-push iyong ibang mga discussions. In fact, before nag-surge, Mara, we have been talking to many different groups already, sa quarters ko. We have been inviting them over para pakinggan, mag-discuss, sabihin sa kanila kung ano iyong decision-making process. Kasi we wanted to—parang we want to share with them kung ano iyong mga factors kung ano mag-a-affect ng decision. Parang, it’s not like, hindi naman ako, Mara, pulitiko na sasabihin ko na, “ang desisyon ko, ganito. Sumunod kayo.” Hindi naman ako ganoon. Lagi naman kahit sa lokal, kahit sa asawa ko, hindi ako nag-i-impose. Nilalatag iyong lahat. Nilalatag iyong lahat and pagdedesisiyunan nang sabay-sabay.

     

    So ngayon ganoon din. Pinapakita namin—in fact, siguro mga two months na naming ginagawa, June, July. June, July marami na kaming meetings na ginawa sa office na iniimbitahan namin iyong many groups who are supporting—pinapakita namin nasaan ba tayo ngayon sa decision-making process, ano iyong mga factors that are—at nakakagaan iyon ng loob namin kasi lalo na kapag naiintindihan nila, Mara. Lalo na kapag naiintindihan nila kung bakit hindi pa tayo kailangang mag-desisyon kasi ang dami pang kailangang isaalang-alang. So sana matapos na itong surge before mag-October 8, para we can continue with those discussions again. 

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP, we are all hoping for the surge to be over. VP Leni, you mentioned you’re having meetings with different groups. I’m just really curious if you were already able to resolve things with former Senator Antonio Trillanes. Because we know he was not exactly in agreement with some of the meetings you’ve had with in particular Senator Lacson and Senator Gordon. So nagkausap na ba kayo ni former Senator Sonny at nakapag-explain na po kayo bakit kayo nakipag-meeting with these personalities that he said you’re not supposed to be meeting with?

     

    VP LENI: Hindi pa kami nakapag-usap, pero I think iyong turn of events, ma-a-assure naman siya na hindi tayo sell-out. Iyong turn of everts, lalo na iyong kay Senator Lacson. Nanggaling na iyon mismo kay Senator Lacson na I did not agree to the proposal. Siguro assurance iyon kay Senator Sonny na exploratory talaga ito, eh. It’s not like makikipag-meeting ako at magiging sellout ako. Kasi ang purpose talaga ng meeting is to explore. At ang ine-explore ko lang is the possibility na makapag-usap-usap tayo lahat. Nandoon pa lang tayo, eh. Nandoon pa lang tayo, so there is nothing to be afraid of. Ang pinakamasama sa lahat iyong mag-desisiyon tayo naa hindi pinapakinggan iyong iba. Kasi we have learned our lessons na hindi puwedeng tayo-tayo lang iyong nag-uusap. Ang kailangan pakinggan natin iyong iba, kahit pa iba iyong paniniwala nila and look for a common ground. Kasi iyon naman, eh. Iyon naman iyong history natin, Mara, magpapakita na it is only in being open—being open to other people we might think differently o who might feel differently na we are able to achieve a lot of things. Nakita natin noon, 1986. Nakita natin ito in many other points in our history na hindi natin puwedeng i-insist iyong paniniwala natin all the time.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Yes. I agree. Now, VP Leni, winding down to my last few questions for today. I know you’re very busy, how is the Liberal Party gearing up for the 2022 elections? Sorry about that—new normal with my dogs. But how is the Liberal Party gearing up for the 2022 elections? I know that marami na kayong Chapters ngayon, sinasabi ni Senator Kiko. 

     

    VP LENI: Ako actually, Mara, I’m not involved in the day-to-day. Ako, while I’m chairman of the party, I’m not involved in the day-to-day. But I know that—halimbawa si Senator Kiko, si former Congressman Teddy Baguilat, he’s in charge of the chapters. Tuloy-tuloy naman. Tuloy-tuloy, and in fact, ang kabutihan nito, because of the political changes na nangyari noong 2016, napakaayos noong naging desisyon na we open the party to non-politicians. We have many new chapters already, and most of the new members are non-politicians. And sa akin, itong dimension na ito, hindi siya sa novel—hindi lang sa novel siya pero nakakatulong kasi siya for us to have a glimpse kung ano iyong saloobin ng mga taong hindi pulitiko. And nakakatulong talaga siya sa decision-making. Siguro hindi siya iyong usual route na tine-take ng mga political parties. Pero sa akin, I would like to believe that we made do of the difficulties that we were faced with.. And we are—iyong mga original na natira—we are benefiting a lot from the new members because we are given a new perspective na hindi available dati. 

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, VP, how are you preparing your non-politician members for the elections? Kasi siyempre ang kalaban niyo from the other political parties, especially PDP Laban, for example, or Hugpong ng Pagbabago, mga pulitiko talaga iyong  mgakasama nila, mga sanay na sa kampanya, sanay sa mga alliances. How are you preparing the new faces of Liberal Party for a very gruelling elections ahead?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, as I’ve said Mara, hindi ako involved sa day-to-day. Pero ang pagkaintindi ko, hindi lang preparation for the elections, pero since 2016, when we started opening up the party to non-politicians, we have involved them in many of our, iyong community work. In fact, itong mga bagong members ng Liberal Party have been very helpful to the OVP kasi kakaunti nga kami. When we go to places, and halimbawa nagkaroon ng sakuna or mayroong kailangan doon, parang sila iyong nagiging conduit. Sila iyong nagiging conduit in a very non-political way. Sila iyong nakakatulong sa amin to do ground work. Alam mo iyon, to link us with the locals. So sa akin, since 2016, ganoon iyong naging orientation. Ganoon iyong naging orientation. Of course it’s difficult. It’s difficult kasi alam naman natin na kapag eleksyon na ang pinag-uusapan, lalo sa lokal, mayroong mga sinusunod. Gusto kong sabihin, alam natin na pag eleksyon parang sa local, mayroon lider na sinusunod. And kung wala kang kakampi na local leader sa lugar na iyon, mahirap.

     

    Pero iyong nakita ko kasi, Mara, hindi matatawaran iyong passion, eh. Hindi matatawaran iyong passion, iyong commitment, iyong dedication noong mga sumali. And ako, pinapahalagahan ko iyon. Kasi sumali sila at a time na vilified masyado iyong Liberal Party. Villified masyado iyong Liberal Party. Alam mo iyon, na alam natin kung ano iyong propaganda na nilabas and yet there are people like them who, despite the vilification, were still willing to be associated with the party. Pero as I’ve said, maraming limitations kaya nga kailangan ng alliances. Kasi kung—I think kung Liberal Party lang, mahihirapan. Mahihirapan so kailangan talagang mag-explore ng alliances with other groups, with other political parties. Totoo na maraming differences pero lagi ko naman itong sinasabi, Mara, eh na in the midst of the differences, ang hahanapin mo, what will unite you. So iyon iyong tinitingnan natin ngayon.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Now VP Leni, you have been called by your critics as “too nice,” you’ve been called as “too soft-spoken, too feminine, too weak” even. But is Leni Robredo weak? How would you define strength?

     

    VP LENI: Sa akin kasi, Mara, alam mo, I don’t like to defend myself. Para sa akin, my work speaks for itself.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Why?

     

    VP LENI: I can always say “I’m strong” alam mo iyon, sasabihin ko napakatapang ko, pero iyong trabaho ko naman hindi pinapakita iyon, wala pa rin. So it’s not how I package myself, pero i-assess ako with the work that I do. And hindi lang ako iyon. With the work that I do, it is me and many other people who I work with. So iyong sa akin, iyong strength is not bluster. Iyong strength is not aggression. Iyong sa akin, iyong strength how you survive difficult times. Iyong sa akin naman, Mara, alam mo naman iyong pinagdaanan ko. From the start of my term, I was faced with an electoral protest, which dragged on for many years. Ano ako, the President—I’m not welcome in many of the government functions. Pero sa akin, despite the difficulties, I would like to believe na iyong opisina namin has become very relevant especially during the pandemic. Na despite the limitations, not just the difficulties, pero iyong inherent limitations of the office, limitations sa mandate, limitations sa resources marami pa rin kaming nagagawa. So sa akin okay na iyon.

     

    Happy ako na we were—iyong sabi ko nga from the start, we were able to do more with less. We were able to harness not just the people working sa Office of the Vice President, pero we became the center of gravity of many different groups working together. And I think in a pandemic of this magnitude, napakahalaga noon. Nagagawa lang naming, Mara, iyong nagagawa namin because of many volunteers, many partners, many donors. And ang kapital namin doon, tiwala. Wala naman sa aming magbibigay kung walang tiwala sa amin. Wala naman sa aming magvo-volunteer kung palpak kami. ‘Di ba kaya pag-nag-call kami for volunteers, overnight, nakumpleto na namin iyong kulang. Bakit ganoon? Ganoon iyon kasi nagtitiwala sila na we deliver. And they want to be part of a group that is efficient. So sa akin, kuntento ako doon. Kuntento ako, masaya ako. I am very secured in the knowledge that we did all we could with the limited mandate and resources given to us.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: VP Leni, for my final question for today: When you step down from June 2022, how would you like the Filipino people to remember you as their Vice President?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, that I was the Vice President who was able to surmount many difficulties. And we were able to convert our office from a mere ceremonial one into an advocacy-heavy one. And ako ang wish ko talaga, Mara, ituloy iyon ng mga susunod. Pangatlo, and ito, Mara, lagi ko itong inuulit-ulit sa staff namin, na ang legacy talaga na gusto kong—iyong pinaka-legacy na gusto kong iiwan—na nakapag—iyong una iyong Angat Buhay, ‘di ba. Iyong Angat Buhay nagawa naming, iyong COVID Response nandiyan, iyong ICAD hindi ko pala na-mention dati, na even if we were given only 18 days, we were able to come up with a data-driven assessment and list of recommendations. Pero ito iyong lagi kong inuulit-ulit sa staff, na I will be leaving behind a highly professional and dedicated workforce. Na sabi ko nga na ang opisina, ang OVP gagana na sila iyong nandiyan. Na kahit sila lilipat sa ibang opisina, pag-aagawan sila. Kapag nalaman lang na galing sila sa OVP, pag-aagawan sila kasi natatak na sa opisina namin na kapag galing sa amin, mahusay ito. Iyon iyong pinaka-dream ko at parati ko itong sinasabi during our General Assembly. At saka iyong ano, na iyong principles of transparency and accountability, we give premium to.

     

    So sa akin iyon iyong legacy na gusto kong maiwan. Na despite the rollercoaster ride, despite the long-drawn electoral protest, despite the massive trolling and disinformation, the attacks, we were able to do so much.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Very, very well-said, VP Leni, and thank you for such a very insightful conversation with us today. Good luck on your discernment for 2022. Marami kaming nag-aabang, VP.

     

    VP LENI: Thank you, Mara. Thank you for having me again.

     

    MARA CEPEDA: Of course, of course. Once again, that was Vice President Leni Robredo. This was Rappler Talk. I am Mara Cepeda. Join us again next time.

     

     

     

    - 30 -

    Posted in Transcripts on Sep 03, 2021