*Â Vocal on extrajudicial killings
*Â Oppose Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Â (MANILA) –Â Vice President Leni Robredo declares all her life was a preparation to become God’s servant leader for the Filipino people. “Against all odds, I have been kept afloat by my faith anchored on a Being , far greater than us.”
Thus admitted the reluctant vice president-elected over a more seasoned and resource-richÂ Bongbong Marcos, the only son of a fallen dictator Ferdinand.
Robredo was the Special Guest Speaker in yesterday’s 36th Anniversary “National Grand Breakfast and Thanksgiving” of theÂ Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) at an overflow crowd at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia.
Also in attendance were the faith-based groups under the PMTL (Pilipino Movement for Transformational Leadership) under lead convenor Atty. Alex Lacson , a group intent on establishing a “Christian Vote” of 10 million Â voters to help elect God-centered public officials.
Robredo was the lone VP candidate of PTML who had a dual candidate for president senator Grace Poe and LP’s Mar Roxas since there was an overhang on the legitimacy of Poe’s candidacy. Four of the 8 endorsed senatorial candidates of the PMTLÂ also made it: senator-elects Joel Villanueva, Leila de Lima, Kiko Pangilinan and Dick Gordon.
A LONG JOURNEY OF FAITH
VP Robredo quoted:” There is nothing more difficult in life than losing a member of one’s family.
(She lost her husband then DILG secretary Jess Robredo on August 18, 2012 in a private plane crash off Masbate). But his death taught me not to plan too far ahead in the future.Â It is faith that has kept me afloat all these years.
I know I am here for a reason. When I know that God wants me to do something, it makes the task less hard. And I know He will give me the grace and help to do His task.
Jess was the politician in the family. When his death forced me to run as representative of the third district of Camarines Sur against an entrenched political family member- it was like Â diving head on to a waterless swimming pool.
But with God’s help, the impossible becomes possible. In this position, though I feel inadequate, I know God will provide. Every day is to me a day of thanksgiving and especiallyÂ a prayer for fortitude of spirit. Because there are temptations along the way- and I am only human. I pray that this position of fame and privilege will not change one bit of my person and character.”
A hand’s on mother, Leni never run for both positions as congressman and vice president without the full consent of her “three empowered daughters.”
Leni narrated that as fate or faith- choose one’s opinion- would have it -she was not the first choice for vice president of the LP but senator Grace Poe. Leni prayed hard for Grace to accept. When senator Poe turned down the offer, all attention focused on Leni, an alternative woman candidate.
Robredo started at 2% preference rate for VP and zero resources as “my earnings were not even enough to keep me and my daughters” body and soul together.
But God works in mysterious ways – and the rest is history.
“I was not about to become a ceremonial vice president or one merely just to take over when something happens to the president. I was trying to build partnerships to help the poor through my office. “All of sudden, the housing portfolio was given to her- an advocacy also close to the “tsinelas governance” of her late husband.
EARLY HISTORY- MEETING JESSIE
After finishing Economics at the University of the Philippines, Leni asked permission from her fiscal father that she be allowed to work for government for a year before she plunges into Law.
The work was in a Bicol Basin development Office in Naga where her first boss was Jessie Robredo. In two months Jessie was courting her and they married when Leni was only 22.
Jessie became a world-class mayor of Naga while she became a lawyer by studying at night and teaching in daytime. As a lawyer Robredo was a pro-poor lawyer- alternative lawyering she calls it. That meant being immersed with her clients in the grassroots level- holding meetings along train tracks, riding the habal habal to reach faraway destinations and sleeping pregnant atop a fishing net on a banca.
Robredo also became a member of the PAO (Public Attorneys Office) , a government office that provided Â free legal services to the indigents. One time, when jueteng rampaged in Naga City- several suspects were accosted and Leni’s office had to provide them legal services.
The couple was, for a time, the butt of jokes in Naga “where the mayor sends the suspects to jail and the mayor’s wife frees them.” Pretty soon, Leni had to leave the PAO office.
Aside from free legal assistance, Robredo had dirtied her hands in pushing for children and women’s rights in Bicol. She was her own woman -with a vision and purpose-and Leni thanked her husband Jessie for this opportunity to grow as a person- away from his shadow.
One aside she mentioned is that while she is also prayerful- so much more was Jessie who, she said ” went to confession every week.” As a couple -they were barely physically separated except when as DILG boss Jess had to be in Manila while Leni took care of the youngest in Â Naga.
At Jessie’s death, they were questioning why God would allow such a thing to happen. She had to quit lawyering and applied for the judiciary so she could support her growing daughters studying in Manila.
But from Jessie’s time to today, the family has always been low profile and live within their means. People often see Leni waiting for public buses to go home to Bicol and the MRT train for schooling. The daughters are similarly grounded.Â The Robredo mystique remains.
CURRENT EVENTS – FIRM STAND
For a while, VP Robredo was an “outsider” in the power loop being the highest elected officer of the rival party to the administration- the LP. President Digong Duterte,however, Â had a change of heart and tossed the powerful Housing cabinet position to her.
Notwithstanding that accommodation, VP Leni is consistent with her principles.
In the wake of hundreds of killings attendant to the president’s anti-drug campaign. VP Robredo had scored “this alarming rate of judicial killings with very little reaction from most people and institutions. I hope that my stand versus this unwarranted killings inspire others to speak up for human rights and lives of people.”
And consistent with her campaign position, Leni had vehemently opposed the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the cemetery of Heroes. Robredo said she graduated in 1986 when theÂ EDSA revolution happened while in UP and “my political awakening happened when senator Ninoy Aquino was murdered.”
Former president Noynoy Aquino, only son of Ninoy and Cory, helped convince Robredo , then a representative, to run for vice president against a formidable array of rivals-five senators in fact- Marcos, Escudero, Cayetano, Trillanes and Honasan.
Robredo’s start shone ,however, in the campaign where her sincerity and charisma glowed in Â the darkening days of Philippines politics and she displayed vast knowledge of issues and hammered out points well in Â the Â vice presidential debates.
“Leni has been possessed by Jessie’s spirit” – was a facetious conclusion of some.
That-and a whole lot of faith- made Leni Robredo our vice president- a position often described as “just a breath away from the presidency.”
Robredo is a woman of faith-or fate-as one chooses.