Vice President Leni Robredo on gov’t’s COVID-19 response, anomalies in pandemic contracts, 2022 national budget, 2022 elections ANC Headstart’s Hot Copy
Host: Karen Davila
KAREN DAVILA: Joining us on Hot Copy, we have Vice President Leni Robredo who has expressed reservations about the possible implementation of granular lockdowns. Magandang umaga po sa inyo. Welcome to Hot Copy, madam Vice President.
VP LENI: Magandang umaga, Karen. Thank you for having me on a Monday morning.
KAREN DAVILA: Kahapon po sa radio show niyo, you said you had concerns when it came to granular lockdowns. What kind of implementation would you like to see to make sure that it will be efficient and effective?
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, we have had so many kinds of lockdowns already. And iyong pinakahuling lockdown natin, pinapakita ng numero na hindi ito nagwo-work. Kahit pa mag ECQ tayo, mag-MECQ, parati ko naman itong inuulit na hindi siya iyong end, eh. Siya lang iyong means para makabuwelo tayo sa dapat nating gawin at ano ba iyong mga dapat nating gawin? Kapag mag-lockdown kailangan iyong testing nandiyan. Kailangan iyong contact tracing na maayos nandiyan. Kailangan iyong paghabol ng mga pangangailangan ng ospital—and that includes our healthcare workers—nandiyan. Kasi kahit na mag-lockdown nang mag-lockdown, kung wala ito, wala rin mangyayari, eh. Halimbawa itong granular lockdown, magiging effective lang ito kapag accompanied siya ng honest to goodness na testing at contact tracing. Kasi kapag hindi din, wala. Parang seesaw lang tayo. Magro-rollercoaster ride ulit tayo. Since March of 2020, 18 months na ang nakakaraan, ganoon pa rin ang nangyayari. And maliban doon sa sinasabi kong kailangan may honest to goodness na testing, honest to goodness na contact tracing, ito paulit-ulit ko rin sinasabi—ako kasi from my vantage point nakikita ko iyong sigasig na ginagawa ng mga ahensya. Iyong mga LGUs tingin ko ito talaga ang strongest link natin ngayon, pero parang walang nagkukumpas. Walang nagkukumpas kaya ang daming disconnect sa taas. Nakikita natin ito sa budget, nakikita natin sa—ang daming sinabi nung una na gagawin hanggang ngayon hindi pa din nagagawa. We just look at—let’s take a look at the DOH data everyday. Parang iyong sense hindi pa din maayos na maayos iyong database natin. Kaya iyong sa akin, means lang ito lahat pero iyong tatanungin, ano ang gagawin natin during the lockdown?
KAREN DAVILA: All right. Madam VP, you admitted that you were tempted to ask the administration for a blanket authority for its COVID response. At ang nasabi niyo nga po “Alam mo, nate-tempt ako na magsabi na puwede ba bigyan nyo ako ng pagkakataon na tumulong at mag-manage, basta bigyan lang ako ng blanket authority? Siguro naman mag-i-improve naman ito.” Okay. if you had blanket authority and you were given the opportunity to make decisions on how to implement the COVID response, what would you do, VP? Can you take us through it? What would you do differently?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, we have seen iyong mga COA reports. Ang una kong gagawin titingnan ko how much money do we have now? Ano ba iyong available na pera? Itatabi natin iyon sa ano ba iyong pinaka kailangan? Halimbawa, ang isa sa pinaka kailangan ngayon, iyong pag-asikaso sa mga healthcare workers natin. So titingnan ko na, ito bang perang natitira natin puwede natin itong gastusin para sa healthcare workers? Kasi kung hindi, kailangan may gawin tayo. Halimbawa, babalik ba tayo sa Kongreso para magkaroon ng realignment? Ano pa ba ang mga kailangan?
Ngayon, Karen, we’re doing our own Bayanihan E-Konsulta, and kami mismo front row seat ng talagang wala nang available na ospital. Iyong mga pasyente namin palipat-lipat sa mga ospital na pa-minsan na-a-admit sila ilang days after, ang iba namamatay na, ang iba sa pang-siyam na ospital at saka na-a-admit. So anong kulang? Kung ang kulang healthcare workers, mag-hire pa tayo. Basta asikasuhin natin iyong suweldo nila, asikasuhin iyong benefits nila. Kulang ba ng mga high-flow oxygen? Kasi iyong ang pinaka kailangan ngayon. Kulang ba ng ventilators? Ito dapat iyong pinakauna, eh. Ano iyong available na pera? Ano iyong pinaka kailangan? Gastusin ngayon doon. Kasi we saw in the COA report na may pera, eh. May pera na hindi nagagastos. So ayusin iyon, and at saka natin tingnan after natin itong magastos ano pa ang kailangan.
KAREN DAVILA: Opo. In the Senate hearings, it was revealed that more than P45 [billion] or more than P47 billion was transferred by the DOH to the DBM pero may natira pa pong something like P12 [billion] to 13 billion. Do you feel that the President is not acting quickly enough to use the savings or the unspent funds for something that’s quite important?
VP LENI: Actually, Karen, hindi naman ako privy sa nangyayari sa taas. Hindi ko talaga alam kung nasaan iyong problema. Kasi nakikita natin ngayon, mayroong pera, mayroong pangangailangan, pero bakit hindi nagagastos iyong pera sa pangangailangan? Halimbawa, we have been saying na para hindi tayo nag-aalinlangan sa mga lockdown na ginagawa, kailangan magkaroon ng ayuda. Parating sinasabi walang pera and yet we see the COA report na ang dami palang pera na hindi nagagamit. Iyong healthcare workers nga hindi nababayaran, so may disconnect sa taas and wala ako sa posisyon para sabihin “Nasaan iyong disconnect?” kasi hindi nga ako privy sa nangyayari sa taas.
Pero talagang kailangan… kailangan may kumukumpas sa taas, kasi kung mayroong kumukumpas hindi dapat nangyayari ito.
KAREN DAVILA: At sa palagay po ninyo, ang Pangulong Duterte, hanggang ngayon, we are hitting two years sa pandemya, hindi pa rin po siya ang nagkukumpas? Okay. I think Vice President—there we go. Vice President Leni Robredo’s internet is a bit unstable but do we have her back? VP?
VP LENI: Yes, Karen, I’m sorry about that.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Go ahead. Okay lang. So, palagay niyo po, we are hitting two years in the pandemic, hindi pa rin po ba si Pangulong Duterte ang nagkukumpas? Kulang pa rin po ba?
VP LENI: Kasi, Karen, ako noong umpisa, from March last year, noong umpisa religiously nanonood ako ng Monday evening na mga press conferences. Huminto na ako the past several months. So nakikita ko na lang iyong parang transcript of that. Kapag pinapakinggan ko and binabasa ko iyong transcript, may sense ako na hindi niya alam iyong lahat ng detalye. So ang tingin ko lang, Karen, kulang sa pagtutok sa detalye. Kasi ang para sa akin, Karen, it’s not the lack of effort ng mga ahensiya na gumagawa kasi talagang nakikita ko naman. Nakikita ko, we partner with some of them. Halimbawa iyong One Hospital Command, partner namin iyon. Nakikita ko iyong effort. Pero alam mo iyon, iyong pag-interweave ng mga efforts ng iba-iba, iyon iyong kulang. And hindi ko alam kung lodge ba iyon sa IATF or IATF ba policy-making lang? Pero parang sa execution kasi nagkakaproblema, eh. So sa akin, hindi ko alam. Hindi ko alam kung ano iyong nangyayari sa taas, pero ramdam na may kulang.
KAREN DAVILA: Or do you see that the President is more attentive to other issues like politics at this point?
VP LENI: Nakikita natin iyon, Karen. In fact, the last two press conferences were really quite frustrating for us kasi nasa middle tayo ng surge, na kailangan all hands on deck, iyong urgency is really most important now. Tapos ang greater part of the press conference is pinupuna iyong mga senador, pinupuna iyong COA. So iyong lumalabas kasi, Karen, sa bibig, eh, parang we get a sense of ano ba iyong mga priorities na ginagamit ngayon. Sa akin, kung ako lang, Karen, whenever we speak about the 2022 elections, whenever I get asked about it, nagi-guilty talaga ako na we talk about it at a time like this. Pero kapag pinakinggan natin iyong mga press conferences, pinupuna si Senator Gordon, pinupuna si Senator Ping, dapat sana pinag-uusapan natin grabe iyong problema ngayon ano ang gagawin natin?
KAREN DAVILA: In your radio show yesterday, you described it as a lame attempt, Malacañang’s attempt, to divert the alleged corruption issue, bringing it back to the time of the PNoy administration. With everything you are seeing and reading, do you believe there is an attempt to cover up what has happened in the DBM in terms of procuring these allegedly overpriced medical supplies? Is there an attempt to cover up, VP?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, I don’t sit in judgement of them. Ang sa akin lang, iyong impressions ko naka-base sa kung anong nababasa ko, kung ano iyong napapanood ko. Para sa akin, ang the best way to respond to the investigation sa Senado, harapin. Harapin, i-walk through sa process kung bakit naging ganito. Hindi ko iyan nakikita ngayon. Halimbawa naiintindihan natin na walang bidding ngayon dahil sa urgency pero hindi tayo—wala akong idea, Karen, kung sino ba iyong mga players na iba? Bakit binigay sya sa isang company na ang taas ng presyo? ‘Di ba, bakit ang laki ng binigay sa isang company na bago pa lang na-organisa na napaka-kaunti ng capitalization? Ang dami. Ang daming questions running through my mind. Like, ngayon lumalabas ang personalities behind the company mayroong mga hindi kaaya-ayang record. Bakit hindi iyon nakita bago inaward? Iyong sa akin, Karen, napakalaking pera iyong involved. Iyong una nga natin nalaman, a little over P8 billion. And then it was revealed that another P2 billion was spent, four contracts yata iyon in 2021. So hindi ba iyon nakakagulat na isang company iyong nakakuha ng bulk ng noon? Iyong nakita ko iyong latest pronouncements from Senator Frank na iyong pangalawang company na P1.9 ibllion iyong nakuha na kontrata ay hindi nga registered in the Philippines. So ang daming questions. Puwede ba iyon? Puwede ba iyon na hindi nga registered in the Philippines, nakakauha ng P1.9 billion na contract? Wala bang Filipino company na may capacity mag-provide noon? Maraming tanong kasi, Karen, na kailangan sagutin. So kung ako iyong tinatanong, mas pinaka-maigigi na i-walk through ko iyong Senado para ipakita bakit ganito ang desisyon and I’m not seeing that today.
KAREN DAVILA: The irony is—you know, what do you make of it that the President, his campaign promise was he will fight corruption, he’s against corruption. But then in telling the Senate to stop investigating ongoing projects and even criticizing the COA, what do you make of this seeming inconsistency with his statement during the campaign and today?
VP LENI: Ano talaga, Karen, the President has been sending mixed signals as far as iyong claim niya na corruption is one of the flagship programs niya ‘di ba when he was campaigning. It’s not just during the pandemic. Kahit naman before the pandemic, there have been a lot of officials already who have been embroiled a corruption scandals na tatanggalin, tapos malalaman natin nalipat lang pala sa ibang posisyon. And now, para sa akin, itong corruption scandal during the pandemic, ito talaga iyong very frustrating. Kasi we’re in the middle of something na really difficult. Ang dami nating mga kababayang namamatay, ang daming nagkakasakit, ang daming nawawalan ng trabaho, ang daming nagugutom, bakit nangyayari ito?
KAREN DAVILA: Oo. Ironically, two days ago, another anti-corruption body was formed by this administration. Congressman Zarate describes this as a diversionary ploy. Ano ang reaksyon mo na may isa pang bagong ahensya na itinayo na anti-corruption?
VP LENI: Ako, I’m not very sure, Karen, if you’re referring to the PACC ba? Or is there another one?
KAREN DAVILA: The PACC launches, yes, holistic program versus corruption and they claim it will be complementary to the DOJ task force, and of course there’s a whole detail on it. But in effect, it’s another layer. Another force, so to speak. Task force.
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, I think PACC has been there alreayd for quite some time. It’s not a new body. Pero iyong sa akin lang, ang dami na kasi kailangang imbestigahan even in the past, even before the pandemic. Hindi ko alam kung ano iyong mga corruption controversies which were investigated by PACC already, but that’s their mandate from the very start.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo. Palagay niyo dapat imbestigahan, sa totoo lang, ng PACC iyong DOH, si Michael Yang, si Christopher Lao, dapat na ba?
VP LENI: Pero dapat nga, Karen, sila iyong nauna ‘di ba? Dapat sila iyong nauna kasi ito ang mandato nila, eh. Bakit ngayon pa lang sila mag-start? Kasi kung ito ang mandato mo, dapat ikaw iyong nauunang makakuha ng information about it.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Senators believe there was an effor—some senators believe there was an effort to pocket public funds. Senator Drilon describes it as pre-meditated plunder. For our viewers, ibig sabihin noon, pinagplanuhan na nakawin ang pondo ng gobyerno at pera ng taumbayan—iyon sa Tagalog ang pre-meditated plunder. Sang-ayon ba kayo doon, VP, na iyon ang motibo sa paglipat ng pera sa DOH to DBM at ibinigay sa mga kuwestiyonableng supplier na ito?
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, I don’t have access to records. What I know I only based from what I read, and what I see, and what I hear. So sa akin, Karen, kapag kinonek kasi natin iyong dots, ‘di ba, kapag kinonnect natin iyong dots, halimbawa iyong Christopher Lao. Si Christopher Lao was in the office of—hindi ko alam kung ano ang nauna, eh—iyong he was in the office of Senator Bong Go for some time. He was with HLURB and there were corruption issues also involved. And then despite the fact that there were corruption issues against him, hindi pa naman yata proven pa. Pero nilipat siya sa isang opisina na masyadong malapit sa corruption. Iyon pa lang titingnan natin bakit? Pangalawa, itong company na nakakuha ng bulk ng lahat na kontrata—lumalabas ngayon mga P10 billion worth of contract—in the height of the pandemic, bagong organisa na kumpanya, napakababa ng capitalization, walang ibang economic activity other than kontrata sa pamahalaan, again iyong question natin, “Bakit?” So sa akin ;ang, Karen, kung ito lang ang pagbabasehan at kino-connect natin iyong dots, talagang napakalakas nung pakiramdam na pinagplanuhan. Pero again, as I’ve said, I don’t have access to documents. Naka-base lang ako sa napapanood natin during the Senate hearings and sinusubaybayan natin ito.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Do you believe that Senator Bong Go should already answer for this perceived closeness or his connection at this point?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, again, wala—hindi ko alam if aside from the fact that itong Christopher Lao was with him before, hindi ko alam if there was evidence presented already of his association as far as the contracts were concerned. So sa akin, I defer to the Senate kasi sila iyong may access sa evidence, sila iyong may access sa documents.
KAREN DAVILA: You were also concerned about the budget. The budget for 2022 is P5 trillion—the highest in the country’s history. And what do you think of the priorities when it comes to the 2022 budget?
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, let us just focus on the agencies who are tasked to implement most of the COVID response programs. Halimbawa, DOH. Iyong DOH let us just look at the agency’s COVID-19 response allocation, which was slashed by DBM by about 73%. ‘Di ba from P73.99 billion, which was the proposal of DOH, it was slashed to P19.68 billion. Ano iyon ha, P50.4 billion iyong na-slash. And sinasabi—I watched that particular House committee hearing—na sinasabi ni Secretary Duque na iyong na-slash na iyon ay for special risk allowances of healthcare workers, meals, accommodation, transport allowances and even life insurance of healthcare workers. And sinasabi niya na sana bahagi pa ng na-slash was also meant to cover hospital support, hiring of more vaccinators. Diyan pa lang, tatanungin na natin, “bakit?” And during the committee hearing, sinasabi ni Secretary Duque, parang DOH was banking or DBM was banking on the passage of Bayanihan 3 to fund healthcare worker benefits in 2022. Pero, Karen, alam naman natin na una iyong Bayanihan 3 is still a bill. Pangalawa, wala ngang itemized appropriation for the benefit of healthcare workers. Meaning to say magkakaroon lang ng pera kapag mayroong tira sa budget. So doon pinapakita iyong priorities, eh. So ang tanong natin, “Bakit?” Iyong isa kasi nating nakikitang dahilan, kasi iyong absorptive capacity niya, ng DOH, hindi naging maganda ang absorptive capacity and kami, alam namin iyon dito sa OVP. Alam namin na kailangan mapakita iyong8 absorptive capacity para iyong hinihingi naming budget, ibigay sa amin.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo.
VP LENI: Again, Karen, pandemic ngayon, eh. Kung hindi kaya ng DOH na sila iyong mag-i-implement ng programs, dapat hanapan ng paraan. Kung hndi nila kaya, maghanap ng ibang ahensiya.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay.
VP LENI: Kung hindi kaya, maghanap ng ahensiya na mag-i-implement, pero hindi pwedeng hindi bigyan ng pera kasi hindi maayos iyong absorptive capacity ng DOH. Iyong RITM Karen, ganoon din, P170 million iyong na-slash.
KAREN DAVILA: So you’re essentially saying that, given we are in the middle of a pandemic, even if the DOH, it is not as efficient as we would like it to be, slashing the budget is not the solution. But I want to ask you, in terms of the budget priorities that some experts have said na mali-mali daw ang priorities. So I’ll ask you about this: the NTF-ELCAC, the budget is up by 57% so that’s from P16 [billion] or P19 [billion], to P28 [billion]. What do you make of that?
VP LENI: Iyon nga, Karen, it’s really sending mixed signals. It’s very confusing. Kasi maiintindihan ko na dagdagan ang budget ng NTF kapag ordinary times. Pero extraordinary iyong panahon natin ngayon. Alam natin na na-compromise na iyong napakaraming bagay dahil sa pandemic. And over the course of the past 18 months, we have been unable to control the transmission of the virus. So para sa akin, Karen, all hands on deck na tayo dito. And then when you look at the budget, you don’t get that sense. You don’t get that sense kasi iyong mga dapat nag-iimplement ng COVID response programs, iyon pa tuloy iyong binawasan. Tapos iyong hindi naman ganoon ka-urgent at this time, at this time… ‘Di ba? Ang daming naghihirap, ang daming nawalan ng trabaho, bakit hindi iyon iyong asikasuhin natin?
KAREN DAVILA: And yesterday, here’s another one when it comes to the budget, Representative Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, claims that there is a P10 billion pesos fund allocated in the budget to an item called the Growth Equity Fund. And this Growth Equity Fund falls under the local government support fund that falls within the jurisdiction of pork barrel, she claims, that the Supreme Court has declared illegal. Ang tawag niya sa Growth Equity Fund is General Election Fund. Doon din daw mauuwi. What is your reaction to this P10 billion pesos na siningit to a new item called this Growth Equity Fund?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, again, I don’t have access to a lot of information. Pero sa akin, ang nakita ko, Karen, when people were discussing the budget, ang taas-taas ng budget na binigay sa halimbawa, DPWH infrastructure project. Pero kapag hinimay mo iyon, kapag hinimay mo iyong infrastructure project for DOH, ang karamihan dito—ito iyong nabasa ko, Karen, I haven’t seen the actual budget deliberations—a large percentage of the DPWH budget is for locally-funded programs. And kapag locally-funded programs, Karen, doon pumapasok iyong mga covered courts, iyong mga multi-purpose hall. And iyong interpretation noong mga nag-a-analyze, na election-related ito.
KAREN DAVILA: Yeah.
VP LENI: And para sa akin, Karen, pandemic nga ngayon, eh. ‘Di ba, pandemic nga ngayon, kung ito iyong binibigyan natin ng halaga, hindi tayo makakaalis sa ganitong sitwasyon. So sa akin, sana maramdaman natin iyong sense of urgency. Na sana maramdaman natin na kung mayroon tayong kakarampot na pera—and that’s what we have been doing here sa OVP. Kakarampot iyong pera namin, pero iyong kakarampot na pera namin, pinagkakasya namin sa COVID response.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo.
VP LENI: Kasi iyong COVID nga iyong pinaka problema natin ngayon. Ano iyong saysay noong sabihin natin—mahalaga naman, ako naging Congressman ako, Karen, and sa mga barangay talaga napakahalaga ng mga covered court, napakahalaga ng mga multipurpose halls, pero hindi ito ordinary times. So sa akin lang, Karen, bakit wala akong nakikitang sense na ganoon? Na dapat nga pinapakiusapan iyong mga departments na, “alin ba sa budget ninyo ang puwede muna nating i-convert ngayon?”
KAREN DAVILA: Are you concerned, VP, frankly, that there are items in the budget that could be taken advantage of and used, frankly, for the elections?
VP LENI: Iyon iyong nade-deduce natin. Iyon talaga iyong made-deduce natin, Karen, from the current budget that is being discussed in both the House and the Senate. Iyon iyong sa akin na gusto ko sana makita na, halimbawa, sa budget ng department, papaano mo ba gagawin na budget ito ng department mo pero gagawin mong COVID budget? Halimbawa sa amin, Karen, example ko na lang ang OVP.
KAREN DAVILA: Yeah.
VP LENI: Iyong MOOE namin na napakaliit—hindi nga P1 [billion] iyong budget namin, Karen—pero iyong MOOE namin na napakaliit, ginagamit namin iyon sa COVID response. Halimbawa, nag-put up kami ng mga emergency—
KAREN DAVILA: You mean to say, the MOOE of the office of the VP isn’t even close to a million pesos?
VP LENI: The entire budget of the OVP, Karen, is not even P1 billion.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. All right, billion.
VP LENI: And that includes salaries already of all the employees.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo, go on.
VP LENI: Pero para sa akin, Karen, kung nagagawa nga namin iyong kakarampot namin na budget na na-stretch namin and nako-convert namin siya na maging COVID budget, imposibleng na iyong iba hindi iyan kayang gawin. Iyong sa akin lang, kaya parati kong inuulit, Karen, iyong “all hands on deck,” kasi para sa akin, kapag all hands on deck tayo, lahat may awareness na kailangan siya mag-contribute. Kailangan siya mag-contribute dito sa COVID response. Ako, very confident ako, Karen, na mas mabuti iyong ating response kapag iyong ating lang isip na, “COVID ngayon, ang una nating kailangang gawin mahinto ito,” kaya eh.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay, before we go on to a quick break, I just want to ask you, here’s the—a viewer said, the new—it’s called the National Anti-Corruption—I’m being technical—National Anti-Corruption Coordinating Council. That’s 49 agencies. Do you believe na makakatulong iyon—iyon iyong bago—para maibsan, matigil, huminto ang korapsyon?
VP LENI: Ako naman, Karen, any initiative, any initiative that’s out there na para mahinto iyong corruption is always welcome.
KAREN DAVILA: Yeah, but don’t you see this also as another layer or a tactic or it’s diversionary, distraction, just to let people see that the government is making an effort and yet some say it’s really not?
VP LENI: Ako, it’s difficult, Karen, to make any judgments now. Ang tanong ko lang, bakit kinakailangan itong gawin na mayroon na itong PACC? So, iyong PACC ba hindi ba siya gumagana? Kasi buong opisina ito, eh. May mga taong sinusuwelduhan. So ang tanong ko lang, why would there be a need to create another layer kung mayroon namang existing? Kung walang existing, tingin ko okay lang. Sabihin natin wala kasing tumututok, so gagawa. Pero may PACC tayo, eh. So ano iyong wala sa PACC na kailangang gawin pa ito? Pero again, sa akin nga, Karen, it doesn’t have to be—it doesn’t need to lead to creating another layer, iyong sa akin lang iyong honest to goodness na pagpapakita na you are really serious about fighting corruption.
KAREN DAVILA: On that note, we are going to take a quick break first. Headstart will be right back. We’ll be talking about the 2022 elections, among other things. Stay with us.
[end of first gap; commercial break]
KAREN DAVILA: All right, we are back with Hot Copy. We still have with us Vice President Leni Robredo. VP Leni, in the beginning, you just wanted to support a candidate for a united opposition. That was the goal in the beginning when you were being interviewed. But now, there are over 200 groups all over the Philippines that are urging you to run for president. First, is there an impact or is this convincing you more to run, you know, these groups urging you and the numbers are increasing?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, I’m very, very grateful for the trust and support. As I have been always saying, I don’t take this trust lightly and I continue to give serious thought to this. Pero, wala namang nagbago sa umpisa. In fact, before the surge, Karen, I’ve been meeting with many different groups here in the office. Nag-i-invite ako ng mga small groups to, you know, to discuss and involve them in the decision-making process. Iyong sa akin, nandiyan pa rin ako sa giving importance and exerting efforts to widen our reach, broaden our base. Kasi para sa akin, Karen, there’s really so much… so much is at stake sa 2022 elections. And I still firmly believe that we need to talk beyond our usual circles. Iyong paniniwala ko pa rin, Karen, is to go into 2022 with a united front.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo, but that’s a bit tough, ano? The united front. But who knows, miracles can happen, right? But you said in one interview that you always ask yourself, “what would Jesse do?” So I’m asking you now, what would Jesse do? Kasi at this point ha, be honest—it doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll do, but if Jesse Robredo were alive today and then the clamor of 200 groups were there and it’s this same situation, what would you do? Would he take the leap? Would he take the plunge?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, I—si Jesse kasi was a better politician in the sense that he’s been in politics since 1988. So, alam mo iyon, mas alam niya iyong intricacies of treading the, alam mo iyon, iyong mga bagay na ganito. Para sa akin, Karen, I’m giving my best effort for this kasi gaya ng sabi ko, iyong unity for 2022 is the start of moving forward. Kapag sinabi kong start of moving forward past this pandemic, past the elections kasi iba iyong sitwasyon natin, Karen, ngayon, eh, than before.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. But then what’s interesting is this: you have the President now confirming he is running for vice president and there is a possibility that Senator Bongbong Marcos, whom you defeated in 2016—Senator Imee has confirmed that he’s set up—he is really moving around with the possibility of running for president. Doesn’t this, in a way, push you to frankly just fight for the Filipino people in this way because in the debate with former Senator Bongbong Marcos for the VP race, the issues of ill-gotten wealth have come up and that was one of the most iconic moments with your debate with the former Senator? So iyong pagtakbo na lang muna ni Pangulong Duterte: hindi ka ba nauudyok doon at napapaisip na, “dapat tumakbo ako.”
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, alam mo, hindi ko naman tinitingnan iyong sarili ko na savior, eh. Sa akin, I have always kept myself close to the ground. Kaya sa akin, alam ko na kahit—hindi kaya ng very best of intentions. Sa akin, parati akong nakikinig, parati akong nakikinig sa pakiramdam ng maraming tao. And para sa akin, Karen, if ako iyon, if ako iyong makakahinto kay Bongbong Marcos, ako iyon. Pero kung hindi naman ako, willing ako to support somebody else. Ang daming considerations, Karen. It’s not just the numbers pero ang daming considerations na ito nga, kaya very important iyong 2022 elections kasi iyong danger na iyong ma-propagate into power iyong mga nakaupo, iyong danger na babalik iyong another Marcos, nandiyan. Hindi siya—I don’t take it lightly. So sa akin, hindi lang siya basta—sabi ko nga iyong pagkakandidato is the easy part, eh. Pero iyong titingnan natin, saan ba mas mapapabuti tayo lahat? And mahirap, Karen, na sasabihin lang ng iba, “just to make a statement run.” Kasi if the circumstances were not this extraordinary, that would have been easier to decide on. Pero because 2022 is a very important elections, hindi tayo puwedeng magkamali sa pag-decide. Hindi puwedeng emosyon lang.
KAREN DAVILA: Yeah, I’m just going to throw a thought process with you here and I hear you. Okay, so if you believe it is not you—you said, “I’m not the savior. But if I’m the one who can stop,” let’s say, a Bongbong Marcos, from becoming president, then you would run. If it’s not you, then you have the other players. So right now, the only player is Manila Mayor Isko Moreno or you have Senator Manny Pacquiao whom I interviewed and said he refuses to run for VP. Once again, who knows, right? Anything’s fluid until the filing. Ang tanong ko at this point, between those two, and I’m sure you’ve seen some surveys, what would want those two to decide on? How do they play in your idea of a united opposition?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, alam mo, nandoon pa lang ako—before the surge, I was already in the process of doing exploratory talks with a lot of people. And iyong sa akin, Karen, iyong pinaka-idea lang sana ng exploratory talks is for the people I was talking to to be comfortable with sitting in one table all together and discuss. Kasi mahirap, Karen, mahirap kung sasabihin lang na, “Sino sa atin iyong pinaka-mataas iyong numbers, iyon na iyon.” Mahirap, eh. Kailangan upuan. Iyong pinaka-dasal ko nga—kaya lang nagka-surge na kasi, Karen—iyong pinaka-dasal ko nga maging willing lang sana iyong lahat na umupo kami lahat to discuss how the process will go. Kasi sa akin, iyon iyong very important first step, eh. And sa akin, iyong mga nakausap ko naman, Karen, lahat naman nagsasabi na, “willing ako.” Although siyempre, may mga iba na, “willing ako pero gusto ko lang talaga presidente. Kung hindi presidente, hindi.” Pero ganoon naman iyong negotiations, Karen, ‘di ba. Ganoon naman iyong negotiations. Ako, very hopeful ako na at the end of the day, mas marami iyong pipili to have the interest of the country first and foremost. Meaning to say, mag-agree sa isang process na which we think will be best for the country. And—
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. I don’t mean to interrupt you but have you met already? I know you’re ending your quarantine today but with Senator Manny Pacquiao, are you scheduled to meet with him? Are you going to speak with him? I know that you had dinner already or a closed-door meeting. He spoke about it on Headstart.
VP LENI: Yes. Actually, Karen, I’ve spoken to almost all. Almost all the contenders already and what we have agreed on before was we will talk again. Again, Karen, this is my first day back in office. And iyon ulit iyong ipu-pursue ko. Ipu-pursue ko ulit to hopefully bring everyone to the table and discuss. One month na lang, Karen, so we have to make a decision already.
KAREN DAVILA: Yeah, but does that include Senator Panfilo Lacson at this point after that misunderstanding you had on the meeting?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, alam mo, I’m still hoping—ako, Karen, as far as Senator Panfilo Lacson is concerned, I’m still hopeful na magkakausap ulit and maging open ulit sa diskusyon. Kasi alam mo, kahit may differences kami in opinion, pareho naman iyong gusto namin in the end, eh: what is best for the country. So sa akin, iyong setting aside our personal preferences para lang ma-discuss ano ba iyong makakabuti sa bansa natin, gaya ng sabi ko it will be a very important first step.
KAREN DAVILA: Pero you feel that at this point, Senator Lacson will still back out? He said, “Karen, lubog na lubog na iyong paa ko doon sa tubig. Hindi na ako puwedeng mag-back out.” So kapag nag-usap-usap na kayo, he would have to be the presidential candidate?
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, I cannot speak for him. Pero sa akin kasi, hindi ako nawawalan ng pag-asa. Sa akin iyong promise ko sa sarili ko, Karen, iyong lahat na makakaya ko gagawin ko. Siyempre hindi ko kontrolado iyong ibang tao pero [technical lag] that I can do to find a solution that will be best for the country, I’ll do it.
KAREN DAVILA: All right. Here’s a question on many people’s minds: given that Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is ranking very high, right, in the presidential surveys, if he doesn’t choose to run for president for some reason, would you then—would this embolden you to consider running, frankly speaking? Because then, the race gets cleaner in terms of the united opposition without too many candidates out there. Is that a factor for you?
VP LENI: Ako, it’s a factor but it’s just one of the many factors, Karen. Gaya nga ng sabi ko, I’m open to all possibilities. Pero sa akin lang, ano ba iyong makakabuti sa ating lahat? Nandoon lang ako, Karen, whether I run, whether I don’t. Pero iyong—alam mo everyday kasi, Karen, halimbawa with the COA reports, with the investigation in the Senate, parang nagbabago everyday, eh. Iyong circumstances are changing by the day. And I think, makakaapekto siya sa decision-making process.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Just quickly, when you say it’s not just the surveys, there are many considerations, what is your biggest consideration, really?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, sino ba sa amin iyong makaka… iyong may ability to have the broadest coalition as possible. Isa iyon sa mga kailangang tingnan. Kasi gaya ng parati kong inuulit, Karen, iyong unity for the 2022 elections talaga is crucial to our moving forward, eh. Hindi talaga ito, Karen, kaya na iyong mga likeminded na tao lang iyong nag-uusap.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo, but I’m curious lang ha, on a more personal note, I remember the story of the late Corazon Aquino. She was the unlikely candidate. She was a housewife but took that leap of faith. And before she decided to run, of course there was a—[inaudible], but she prayed, right? So I’m curious if this is a factor for you. Are you asking for signs? I’m curious, ano. I’m trying to get into your thought process at this point, right? Some people want to hear a word from God. Some people go to the Church before making a decision.
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, actually I’m not very comfortable discussing it in public pero people who know me, kilalang-kilala ako, Karen, na I’ve always been a very prayerful person. Na maraming mga desisyon na—sabi nga nila, Karen, kaya raw hindi ako nase-stress, eh. Hindi ako nase-stress kasi iyong paniniwala na what is bound to happen will always happen. Pero iyong sa akin, Karen, I’ve been praying for wisdom, discernment, for guidance, ano iyon, it’s part of who I am already, not just for now but with all the other major decisions, even minor ones that I have been making all throughout my life, lalo na iyong nag-leap of faith ako sa Congress, when I decided to run for vice presidency. Ano iyon, eh—iyong sa akin, Karen, it’s many different things.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay, here’s a question from one of the viewers: “can you ask VP Leni Robredo if she says she wants to build the broadest coalition, ask her what is her relationship with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?” Kasi alam natin na ang bansa natin nahati na sa dilaw o itong kulay—pula o… And the Filipino is not just divided into two colors, right, and to two factions. So I think this question from the viewer, because we do know that the former President was in the late President Noynoy Aquino’s speeches when he was president, harped on GMA for, I think, two or three years in his SONAs. So this viewer wants to ask, “what is your relationship now with GMA?”
VP LENI: Sa amin naman, Karen, I was with her in the 16th Congress and when she was speaker already, it was a very cordial relationship. We see each other in some events. I was VP already. She was speaker of the House. In fact, when I went to the House of Representatives to defend our budget, hinatid niya pa ako, Karen, palabas. So sa akin, it’s a very professional kind of relationship. We’re not close—we’re not close. We never had any opportunity to really work together kasi noong nasa Congress naman, kahit member siya of Congress, ano siya noon, eh, hindi nag-a-attend ng sessions because…
KAREN DAVILA: This question is in case you become [president], what this viewer means is will you go on that vindictive streak against the Arroyo administration or past administrations? Is that the Leni Robredo way?
VP LENI: Ako kasi, Karen, para sa akin, iyong kailangan managot, mananagot. If only to—iyong justice naman, Karen, it should be pursued at all times. Meaning to say, kapag may nagkasala sa bayan, hindi puwedeng pabayaan for the sake of unity dahil kung papabayaan kasi for the sake of unity, what message does it bring, ‘di ba, to people? So iyong sa akin, Karen, pagdating naman sa pulitika, ako, Karen, people who know me well, alam na—halimbawa, ang example ko diyan, Karen, when I ran for Congress, wala akong halos kakampi. Wala akong kakampi. Mayroon naman pero when I was in office already, hindi ko na tiningnan iyong pulitika.
KAREN DAVILA: Oo. Ma’am, I just have three minutes to go but I have three more questions so ang request ko, Ma’am, if you can answer them directly.
The President said, “walang mananalo na oposisyon.” He said that in the meeting. What’s you reaction to that?
VP LENI: Hindi naman siya, Karen, iyong magdedesisyon, eh. Tao iyong magdedesisyon.
KAREN DAVILA: Are you open to running for the Senate?
VP LENI: No, I’m not.
KAREN DAVILA: So if you don’t run for president, you’ll retire? Aren’t you too young for that and to get out of the national, you know, the national platform? You still can do so much. You won’t run for the Senate. It’s either presidency or bust. Is that it?
VP LENI: Ako, Karen, I can run for a local position. I can retire. I can just help the next administration if I don’t run for president.
KAREN DAVILA: But why not the Senate? I’m just curious.
VP LENI: Tingin ko, Karen, hindi iyon iyong aking strength.
KAREN DAVILA: All right, okay. My last question is this: you’re Vice President and you’ve seen how important a good working relationship is between the President and a VP. Honestly speaking, is it now time to revisit the Constitution and have the President and VP elected, frankly, in tandem rather than separately?
VP LENI: We can open discussions for the amendment of that particular Constitutional provision, Karen. Pero there were reasons why that was so. So sa akin—
KAREN DAVILA: Those reasons may have lapsed. I mean, the 1986 Constitution wanted it for a check and balance system because the institutions were not strong enough. Moving forward to 2021, I mean the Constitution is a living thing. So today, Ma’am, your personal experience ito ha, would it benefit the country more frankly if the President and VP had a good working relationship, magkakampi, magka-tandem?
VP LENI: Definitely, Karen. Pero actually, Karen, in the past, kahit naman hindi magkakampi iyong Presidente at saka Vice President, magkaibang political party, mayroon namang good working relationship. I think ngayon lang naman na term naman na talagang hindi okay.
KAREN DAVILA: So you feel it’s time to revisit, you’re open to that?
VP LENI: Ako, I will be open to opening that for discussion.
KAREN DAVILA: May tanong pa rito, “would Vice President Leni Robredo’s support an Isko-Manny Pacquiao tandem if she decides not to run?”
VP LENI: Ako, yes. Yes, if that will be the result of discussions. If that will be the result of the discussions of the broadest coalition that we can form. Sabi ko naman, Karen, bukas ako sa kahit ano na would put a stop to this kind of governance already.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay, all right. On that note, when will you make an announcement? Do you have a deadline you’ve imposed for yourself? I mean, at some point you—because the thing also, just to end, you do have supporters too, right? I mean, there are people who believe you. So it’s not just also about the broadest coalition but there’s a clamor also by many groups that you should run and you wouldn’t want to disappoint them too.
VP LENI: Totoo, Karen. And in fact, hindi ko sila ini-etsapuwera. Before the surge happened, I’ve been talking to them. I’ve been talking to many different groups. Although in the past three weeks, nadagdagan na iyon. So ngayon, Karen, I would try to resume talking to them again kasi I would want to involve them in the decision-making process.
KAREN DAVILA: Okay. On that note, thank you very much for this time, madam Vice President. Appreciate you joining Headstart this morning. Thank you.
VP LENI: Thank you very much for having me again.
KAREN DAVILA: All right. That’s Vice President Leni Robredo. You can catch the full interview, this is on the ANC 24/7 Facebook and YouTube channel and also on the ABS-CBN News livestreaming YouTube channel too. And the replay of this interview is at 10:30 this morning. That’s Headstart today, everyone. I’m Karen Davila. Thank you for watching. Stay safe, stay informed, stay with ANC.
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