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The Leni Challenge 


IT TOOK more time for Vice President Leni Robredo than her presidential rivals to end the debate on whether she would run the race in 2022, a fact seriously cautioned by a political professor that it was a clear sign of indecisiveness. No leader, self-proclaim or popular, can’t have that chink in his or her armor.

Delay, however, was later redefined  by Leni as a process of discerning what’s on her plate at the moment:  the idea of being elected as president. She knew that  being president isn’t a 100-meter sprint but a grinding marathon.  Going from Point A to Point B, is an uphill climb , not only from her viewpoint, but from what the surveys see. Fortunately, Sisyphus pushing a rock to the mountain top  is  just a myth.

“She’s popular, but”, said a curt text from a Canadian Pinay who believes both  in Leni and miracle. Perception is reality in politics, anywhere.

Even before last Thursday,the more astute and prescient political pundits knew that Leni would  make the decision. Bongbong Marcos, whom she convincingly defeated in the 2016 vice presidential bid, had already declared his intention to become the country’s next president. It was only a matter a time before Leni  challenged his new arrogance.

She has always been opposed to any authoritarian mode of leadership.  In her declaration speech, she blamed  the hardship and hopelessness of most Filipinos to this kind of leadership.And it wasn’t just during martial law when Bongbong’s father ruled and his mother reigned,.Here is a proud  son confessing  with a straight face recently on a TV talk show his father wouldn’t harm the Filipinos. Marcos, The Elder, however, was a hated and feared dictator.  The leadership of the last six years resembled, in many ways, that historical adventurism that wrecked the nation’s rising stature way back then  as the second best in Asia behind Japan.

A dictator’ son is waxing nostalgia as he takes the path to Malacanang while blithely  attempting at subtle  historical revisionism. The mayor daughter of the current strongman  by the Pasig is being wooed and cajoled to jump into the presidential fray. With more than month to go before the final substitution, 20 percent of the population is waiting with bated breath for her to change her mind. The other 15 percent belongs to  the son. In fact, given the poll results, a dream team of the son and daughter may still be makeable.  Even by himself, Bongbong will be a dangerous bet in the presidential race, warned  senatorial bet Neri Colmenares ,who should know whereof he speaks.

“Enlightened despots are mythical creatures,” wrote Elliot Brams. “ Real despots are more interested in stealing money and installing their sons”.

Leni  has always wondered why many of her countrymen seem vulnerable to,if not charmed by,  this type of leadership that  has brought more harm than good to the people.  The pandemic has  brought this sad and painful reality in larger text.  She can’t close her eyes before both  reality and memory. But  she’s down there in the surveys.  It is said that  some use the survey like a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support., others to illuminate the road. Surveys have also been known to tell what’s coming.

Jose Rizal observations may come as timely  encouragement. In his essay ‘The Philippines A Century Hence,’. Rizal noted that Filipinos are slow to get off their political inertia.  But when they do, he wrote, a revolution is set aflame.   Did Rizal foresee the 1986  EDSA People Power, culminating in the ascension of a the first woman president, a widow, in Cory Aquino?  Did he wrote the template for a repetition of a similar event today that can elect another woman and widow to the presidency?And is time on Leni’s side?

Leni  made clear her causes celebres: corruption, incompetence and lack of compassion, empathy, if you will. As she spoke, Sen. Richard  Gordon was continually slamming President Duterte for harassing, threatening and insulting him while lawyering for Pharmally, an obscure small company, for alleged anomalous transactions in medical supplies that had robbed the government  of millions, if not billions.

Make no mistake about it, It’s her mission to rid Philippine politics at the top of despots and their ilks or suspected enablers. She’s up against a former dictator son, a boxing champ who used to be a strong ally of Duterte until he was eased out of the PDP-Laban, a senator who doesn’t want to be identified with either side, and a city mayor who used to be part of Duterte’s Cabinet but like Paul has had a Road to Damascus experience.  Her opponents are cut out for her.

She chose Sen. Kiko Pangilinan as her running mate may be, at least, for two good reasons. Kiko’s wife, the megastar Sharon Cuneta ,can boost  her political acceptability via  celebrity endorsement. Mayor Sara had been outed in the past, by no less than Duterte  himself , as a great fan,too.  Sharon may spoil  a possible dream team.

Leni has shifted to a softer color of pink and blue for practical reason. It should be part of unobtrusively distancing herself from the  Aquino inspired ,‘yellow’ that has since been discarded as a national political symbol for democracy.  She ,too believes in addition as a political ideology for the common good .  She wants everybody to extract more energy from within to muster a stronger support for her and an unyielding stand against mere political ambition and power.  That’s  her biggest challenge.

The road ahead will test her determination and skill like never before. But what motivates her, love for the nation, a sense of commitment and sacrifice, and a dogged stance against despots of all spots, hopefully could rouse a pandemic-tired people from a polarized stupor. That could  deliver.


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