Volunteers’ support snowballs for VP Leni

By Juan Escandor Jr.

(Second of the Three-Part Series)

The snowballing of support under the hashtag #LabanLeni2022 from celebrities and non-celebrities through social media, the enthusiastic crowd of random supporters who came and waited for her chanting “Laban Leni Laban” upon her arrival at the Sofitel and the recently concluded nationwide “Caravan of Hope” speaks volumes on what is to come in the presidential contest until the election day.


But, if surveys before elections determine the winning candidates, Leni won’t make it as reflected. For example, in a 2015 Social Weather Station poll, at least 30% of respondents said they would vote for vice president Francis “Chiz” Escudero (who was then a last-term senator and now Governor of Sorsogon), while 24% said they would vote for Bongbong.


Then senator and now Cong. Alan Peter Cayetano came in at third place with 21%, while Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo with 12%. Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s numbers placed fifth with 5% in that survey.


Lately, in the Pulse Asia’s survey of possible presidential bets, conducted from June 7-16, this year, Leni was not even among the top five favorites with Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte on the lead. The four other possible presidential bets are Manila Mayor Isko Moreno behind Sara, Bongbong ranked the third favorite, and Senators Grace Poe and Manny Pacquiao, fourth and fifth rank, respectively.


The Vice President ranked sixth, with 6% of those surveyed thumbed up, while Sara, the daughter of President Duterte, the top favorite, was the choice of 28% of the 1,200 adult persons the Pulse Asia interviewed. Isko got half of what Sara earned at 14%; Bongbong, 13%; Grace, 10%; and Manny, 8%.


Leni started with a 3% approval for the position of Vice President in 2015 and won the elections the following year. Now that she is running for President, her approval rating from the survey of Pulse Asia before the CoC filing was 6%. But being the underdog as she had been in the previous two elections, her chances of winning the presidency is not impossible to achieve given her good public service performance and the calm and compassionate strength of her character.


In 2012, she was thrust into partisan politics, two months after Jesse died in August in the plane crash off the coast of Masbate. Back then, now Cong. Gabriel Bordado, Jesse’s long-time loyal ally, and former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, Jesse’s classmate, were clashing over a seat in Congress in the Third District of Camarines Sur. To mitigate the rift among the political forces loyal to her late husband Jesse, Leni accepted the call to run as a candidate in the congressional race in the Third District of Camarines Sur to prevent further division. At the same time, both Bordado and Cadiz dropped their bids for Congress.


A first-time candidate, she has to contend with the resources and political machinery of the Villafuertes, who had been the most dominant political family in Camarines Sur since 1986. Armed only with good intentions and the political capital from Jesse, 80 percent of the votes in the third district of Camarines Sur ended up with Leni’s name. The congressional bid of Nelly Villafuerte, wife to the late former governor and congressman Luis Robredo Villafuerte, Jesse’s uncle and political patron turned nemesis, thwarted.


In three years as a congresswoman, Leni managed to pass six laws, including Republic Act 10708 – The Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA); Republic Act 10661 – National Children’s Month Act; Republic Act 10646 – Charter of the Quezon City Development Authority; Republic Act 10665 – Open High School System Act; Republic Act 10638 – extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways for another 50 years; and Republic Act 10707 – rationalizing and strengthening the probation system.


In the 2016 presidential elections, the Liberal Party again pushed her to run as Vice President, with Mar Roxas as President. Four of five contenders against her are rooted in Bicol -- Chiz Escudero, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Antonio Trillanes, and Alan Peter Cayetano (whose wife hails from Tiwi, Albay).


However, in the final stretch of the vice-presidential race, Leni and Bongbong were neck-to-neck in the running count, which concluded with the former winning over the latter with only over 200,000 votes lead.


For winning the second-highest national elective position, she was tormented by the electoral protest Bongbong filed, which lasted for five years, from 2016-2021, until the Supreme Court sitting as PET, with finality, thrashed it last February.


(Last of the Three-Part Series: Leni endures, withstands Duterte’s attacks, ploys)