top of page

Strike Two for Leni

The relationship between Leni and Digong is destined to fail right from the very beginning. The signs are obvious. Theirs is like a wedding hastily consummated. The bride, from all indications, wants the relationship to work out. But the groom’s love for his bride is half-baked and, most of the time, doubtful, notwithstanding past sexist and tasteless remarks he made about Leni even when uttered facetiously.

Let’s look at their “love” story.

Early on in his presidency, Digong made it clear that he never wanted Leni to be part of his official family because of his friendship and close ties with the Marcoses. In fact, Digong had once declared before a foreign audience that he preferred Bongbong Marcos, the very candidate Leni beat, to be his vice president. There’s nothing wrong in showing one’s preference in politics, but it smacks of lack of sensibility and respect for the electorate who voted for Leni.

But, like any suitor, Digong had a change of heart that I thought was a reasonable compromise.

He invited Leni July of 2016 to join his cabinet as the housing czar. Leni accepted the challenge, although Digong’s change of heart later appeared to be more of an image-building gesture than anything else.

Leni never really got the support that she needed to be an effective housing czar. The housing budget that year had been slashed by more than P19 billion. Her housing initiatives that included key shelter agency appointment recommendations and her plan to make housing agency more effective were never acted upon by the executive branch.

Six months later, sometime in December of 2016, Leni was unceremoniously pushed out from the president’s family because her principled stand on certain issues brought her into collision with Digong. She was not afraid to criticize Digong’s deadly war on drugs and his decision to allow the burial of the late dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. She even disagreed with Digong in reinstating the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability.

Simply put, the groom could not accept any criticism nor any disagreement with his policies. What he wanted was a woman subservient to his whims. Without criticisms, no relationship will succeed. In any relationship or in any family, criticism, especially constructive criticism, is a valuable tool because it opens our eyes to something that we may have overlooked. Even disagreements often lead to positive outcomes when faced squarely and with an open mind.

Fast forward to 2019.

Digong, apparently irritated by Leni’s criticism that the deadly and controversial war on drugs is not working, offered the position of anti-drug czar to Leni, which the latter accepted to the chagrin of many.

Many people thought that the offer was a trap. Senator Kiko Pangilinan described the offer as a bluff. Given the complexity of the drug problems, Leni would never succeed in the job. The thinking was that the government would make sure that Leni would fail thereby exposing her weaknesses and indirectly absolving Digong of his inability to stop the flow of drugs into the country.

If I were Leni, I would not have accepted the position. But she did. I respected her decision and gave her the benefit of the doubt.

While feigning support, Digong’s surrogates, like Senators Bato de la Rosa and Bong Go, Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano, and Aaron Aquino, Chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs, immediately cast doubt on Leni’s intentions and her capability to do the job. It’s quite clear in my mind that Leni, willfully or not, has just entered a lion’s cage, prompting Senator Ping Lacson to warn Leni to “watch her back.”

The supercilious attitude of the above-mentioned president’s men did not deter Leni. She developed a plan of action that I consider to be well and good. The plan includes doing away with the killings in the anti-drug operation (contrary to Senator Bato’s Operation Tokhang) and meeting with the United States and United Nations officials to discuss pertinent issues related to her work. Leni also expressed her desire to have access to intelligence reports and the list of high-value drug targets.

Leni’s action stirred up a hornet’s nest of angry criticisms from Digong himself.

Nineteen days into her job as an anti-drug czar, Digong fired Leni. This is the second time that Digong has fired Leni. The first time was when Leni was the housing czar and just barely six months into her job.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Leni was fired “because she spoke with foreigners, was asking for the scope of her powers and was among those daring the President to fire her, along with Senator Francis Pangilinan.”

There’s more to Panelo’s justification that meets the eye. What’s really going on between Leni and Digong? I think there are vast policy differences between Leni and Digong. The policy differences between the two have been out in the open way back when Leni was the housing czar. Nothing really has changed in terms of their positions on certain issues. Their differences and values are irreconcilable. There’s no love lost between the two of them.

So, it’s strike two for Leni. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a third strike, hopefully, will never happen because Leni and Digong are simply not meant for each other. Leni is not destined for Digong.

bottom of page