As Vancouver waits for the elections to be over and done with, the Filipino community, through the Philippine Bicolano Association of BC (PBABC), welcomed Vice President of the Philippines Leni Robredo, who came to Vancouver from San Diego, California, before heading back home. She brought in breath of fresh air amidst the stale political air, not only from the current chaos of the local Canadian elections, but of the talk of charter change, federalism and power usurping from back home. I am sure she is glad to get away from that circus back in Manila for a few days, much as we also don’t want to hear anything about it either.
Robredo spoke with grace and with great dignity, something expected from a dignitary but escapes many politicians today. With her security team, as well as her protocol officers, she dined, laughed, hugged, got acquainted with former classmates from Naga City, and just enjoyed her evening mingling with the Vancouverites. Her calming voice showed no sign of arrogance, and she was gracious to have selfies and photos even in between bites of her dinner.
When she stood in front at the podium, the crowd hushed and one could hear a pin drop. She began her speech by telling her story of having bittersweet memories of Canada. With a brother in Calgary, she often skipped Vancouver, but her visit to Alberta was marked with sadness, as her brother told her of her father’s untimely death right at the time she landed at the airport. Because she did not have a chance to see Vancouver then, she took her two hours of rest when she arrived to go around Stanley Park and Granville Island. She also had a chance to interview some OFWs for her program Angat Buhay, a project of the Office of the Vice President that had no budget. Being Vice President, Robredo said that her only role in life is to wait for the President to either resign or die before she can get any work done, so, she challenged her team to either wait for that, wait for the six years to end, then run for President and get things done, or get things done right now because she owes it to the people who voted for her to do some good. That was the birth of Angat Buhay.
Angat Buhay is a project that has no OVP money in it, and it will never see any, especially if Duterte is still president. He wouldn’t even give Robredo her constitutional right to become Vice President once he dies or resigns, because he wants Bongbong Marcos to fill in the spot, and become another Marcos president, a promise Duterte made to the Marcos patriarch. Robredo was persistent with her team, and her appeal to private institutions, NGOs and private companies paid off – Angat Buhay has provided P145 million worth of services to poor communities in the Philippines since 2016. That’s more than Duterte can muster, as he cannot even express himself well to people unless it’s a monologue straight from a Pinoy version of a Charles Bronson shooting and gunslinging movie.
Despite her success with Angat Buhay and its sponsors, she continues to make rounds for the project and ask for help and support. Her visit to Canada and the US was about that – a way for Pinoys abroad to help those in the Philippines through a program that can give back to the people their dignity and pride for their work and livelihood. Much of the Filipino spirit has been broken the last two years that Duterte has been sitting as president, and he himself admitted that his Oplan Tokhang program was not effective. This statement he says, after destroying many innocent lives.
But of course, he’s not done making Robredo’s life miserable yet. Duterte is hell bent on getting his Charter Change, and for Federalism to come in, so that his favoured son Bongbong, can take over after him. He even had his boytoy Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson make a jingle for Federalism, much to the chagrin of Senator Koko Pimentel, who, while at first lauded Uson to take on the project of promoting it to the masses, was quickly dismayed by the sexually inappropriate song with matching dance moves that she came up with, prompting him to tell her to go back to school and study. Uson decided to resign, much to the relief of many.
Robredo would make a very good President. She is very much similar to Corazon Aquino, with her compassion and benevolence, but with more experience politically than the former president. She is also religious and God-fearing, being members of Couples for Christ before husband Jesse’s demise in 2012. What sets her apart from other presidentiables is her gumption and her ability to be business-like without being arrogant. Her vision for helping the Filipino people is noble, and her strength lies in her willingness to take the punches, even from bullies like Duterte, and still get the work done. While she’s no razor-tongue like Miriam Defensor Santiago, another would-have-been-great president, her composure is what makes the rest of the politicos in Philippine politics look like a pack of dogs with no direction unless there is a leash around their necks.