The Leni Robredo I’ve Come to Know



The recent Philippine election, fraught with anomalies that range from massive vote buying to malfunctioning voting machines that may have disenfranchised a good number of voters, is over.


As an ardent Leni Robredo supporter, I was in disbelief as I watched on TV the early returns that gave Bongbong Marcos a wide lead over Leni Robredo. I felt like a pail of cold water had been doused over my body.


I really thought it would be a close contest despite reports of politicians buying votes and despite the pre-election surveys that predicted Bongbong to win by a huge margin,


I also thought that Filipinos are wise enough not to sell their votes and their souls for a measly five hundred or a thousand pesos. But I was mistaken. Sometimes, people never really learn.


As Alvin Toffler, the futurist, once wrote. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”


For hours, I held on to the thought that Leni could come from behind because of the massive crowds who attended her sorties. The passion and enthusiasm of so many volunteers she inspired, mostly young people and a horde of economists, artists, religious, professionals, students, farmers, celebrities, workers, the LGBTQ community and many others were beyond belief. How could she lose?


I also thought that between Leni and Bongbong, Leni had the edge for being honest and competent and had more experiences serving the people. Bongbong had no credentials whatsoever to brag about except his lineage, that of being a Marcos with not even a glorious past. But that did not seem to matter anymore to voters.


The result of the election tells me that in today’s Philippines a liar, a tax evader, a thief can become a president. Combine this with an electorate that readily believes in fake news and you have a nation with a very bleak future.


A report recently bannered by the American financial services giant J.P. Morgan drops the Philippines to the bottom of the Asean investment preference list after the May 9 polls showed that Bongbong could be the next president of the Philippines.


Financial Post has this headline as Bongbong leads in presidential polls: “Post-Marcos stocks slump erases as much as $9.3 billion from Philippine market.” This can devastate the economic growth in the country, affecting most especially the poor and the marginalized.


It’s all sour grapes, some of you may say. It’s really not. It’s simply stating the fact that elections have consequences.


When you vote for someone with a shady past, with no clear vision and economic agenda, and with the propensity to bend the truth, the consequences can be deadly.


There’s no one to blame but those who voted for him blindly.


I happen to think that many of our people have yet to learn how to think critically especially at this time when fake news is all over the social media. This is the only way for us to know the difference between what is fake and what is true. Fake news provides deceptive information that one can use to make a decision, and this may help explain the outcome of the election.


True, defeat is hard to swallow. Nobody wants to lose. But while all failures have consequences, they also offer many opportunities.


Win or lose, I hope the Leni that I know will continue to remain decent, transparent, and reflective. I will always view her as a unifier because she feels the pulse of the people. She has the moral values that make her a true servant-leader.


If she loses, she will lose with a clean heart. After all, she fought a good fight. She finished the race inspiring and instilling hope to a country that has lost its standing in the world stage because of its inept and corrupt leaders.


Raul Roco, the late Bikolano senator, has been described as someone who could have been the best president the country could ever have. But it was not meant to be.


In the just concluded election, the Filipinos just passed up the chance to elect a woman, also a Bikolana, who could have been the best president the country could ever have. That sucks. That hurts.


Falsely criticized, sometimes made fun of, for being “lutang” and “lugaw” by his political adversaries, she remained mentally tough and endured the insults and other ad hominem attacks with great fortitude.


The barrage of disinformation – the kind that only pernicious and moneyed politicians can do through their troll farms – thrown at Leni did not seem to affect her. She remained undaunted that her political enemies, as an act of desperation, decided to spread a fake sex video of one of her daughters.


In a previous column, I described Leni as the quintessential woman – honest, principled, compassionate, and tough.


But no person can better describe her than her daughter, Tricia. In the midst of what Leni is going through right now, Tricia wrote, “There’s a grief that sows unproductive anger, but there’s a kind that reminds you of how fiercely you cared and that propels you to love and try harder. I see it in Mama.”


That’s the Leni Robredo I’ve come to know.