Leni Robredo: The Quintessential Woman



A barrage of disinformation – of the kind that only pernicious, insecure, and well-oiled politicians can do through their troll farms – is on the rise to tarnish the image of Vice President Leni Robredo amid speculation that she may run for president in 2022.


The attack has reached a point where it has become hilarious as when Leni was accused of giving away “chicharon” (fried pork rinds) to typhoon victims.


It seems that every time she does something good, she is attacked. In one of her interviews, Leni cites how some trolls even set up a false Facebook account named after one of her daughters.


I guess that’s Politics 101 in the Philippines today.


Fake news becomes “truth.” Lies are “truth.” The purveyors of lies are the new “bearers of truth.”


Various techniques of vilifying and demonizing political enemies are not new. History is replete with such propaganda techniques. Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist of the Nazis, exploited Theodore Kaufman’s book, Germany Must Perish, to claim that the Jews were plotting against Germany. Kaufman was Jewish.


Ferdinand Marcos used tireless repetition that the communists were out to invade Malacanang that many began to take his pronouncement as gospel truth, justifying his imposition of martial law in 1972.


Even Donald Trump has mastered the art of repeating lies as he continues to blather about the “rigged election” that cost him the presidency. And his rabid followers continue to believe him.


The technique that farm trolls are using to destroy Leni is the same – repeat the same lies often and people will believe them.


Once the people buy into the lies, it becomes so difficult to convince them otherwise. People will believe what they want to believe.


So, why the incessant attack on Leni? The answer is simple: Because she can be a formidable opponent of Digong’s daughter Sara who, I believe, will run for president despite her father’s seeming discouragement – a fatherly advice that perhaps borders on insincerity.


Admittedly, a growing number of people believes that Leni is the best candidate who has the chance of beating any of the administration’s presidential bets.


Leni may not be the perfect presidential candidate of the opposition. She is human and has flaws like any human being. But she is decent, transparent, feels the pulse of the people, and truly a unifier.


Senator Panfilo Lacson says that Leni is not tough enough to be president. I don’t know what the good senator means by being tough. If he means being physically tough, Leni might not be as tough as Senator Lacson who I am guessing had undergone special ops training in his life as a PMAyer and a former police officer.


But I would rather have a president who possesses mental toughness than mere physical toughness.


Ronald Fry, author of Hammerhead Six, defines mental toughness “as the ability to stick to something regardless of obstacle, to be goal oriented, to be always trying to improve, to be dependable and consistent…it is fueled by either a dedication to self or a dedication to a higher cause. Ideally it is both.”


I see all these traits in Leni.


During the short period that Leni served as the Chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), she developed mental toughness by being dependable and working for small victories.


According to CNN, she provided low-cost housing for at least 46,000 families and the start of construction of at least 17,000 homes for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. There were no fanfare or photo ops; she stuck to her goal and carried it out.


When Digong was apparently irritated by Leni’s criticism that the deadly and controversial war on drugs was not working, he 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, a bluff. But Leni did not run away from the challenge. Given the complexity of the drug problems, the thinking of her detractors was that she would never succeed in the job, thereby exposing her weaknesses and indirectly absolving Digong of his inability to stop the flow of drugs into the country.


Despite the condescending attitude of many of the president’s men, Leni developed a plan of action. The plan included 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 earnest action stirred up a hornet’s nest. She was fired by Digong nineteen days into her job because he was pissed.


The woman who is belittled as not tough enough surprised everyone with her toughness and ability to take decisive action when faced with difficulties.


It’s the same toughness that led Leni to criticize China and Digong: China, for its incursions in the West Philippine Sea; Digong, for not defending the national sovereignty.


The Jesuit mantra of being a woman (or a man) for others is not an empty slogan for Leni. It’s her life’s work. She lives it. She truly cares for the people.


She goes to far-flung places and brings emergency assistance to the most vulnerable and the poor.


She organizes donations and relief operations for the victims of natural calamities.


She distributes personal protective equipment (PPEs), medical equipment, face masks to front liners as well as offer them free shuttle service in Metro Manila.


Dedicated and selfless to a fault, Leni has shown consistently what a true public servant should be without any trace of personal lust for power or a tinge of corruption. She is truly a servant leader.


Indeed, Leni Robredo is the quintessential woman – honest, principled, compassionate, and tough.