Hard sell for the President
According to a survey conducted two weeks back, if the presidential election was held today, the winner will be a toss-up between Sara Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. Quite noticeably, Vice President Leni Robredo does not figure prominently in the list. Neophyte Manila Mayor Isko Moreno even leads her by a mile. According to the survey, if the race is limited between Robredo and Moreno, the latter will out-duel her and we will have another mayor for President.
Despite what the survey reveals, the Liberal Party continues to groom Robredo to be its official candidate in May 2022. If the trend continues, she will not have a Chinaman’s chance of landing the presidency. If the Liberal Party is serious in pitting her against Marcos, Sara Duterte, or Moreno, the selection committee of the said party must double its time and effort in building up a better image of their official candidate, lest the party will suffer the same fate as it did when none of its candidates won any seat during the 2018 senatorial race.
Robredo, too, must start reinventing herself if she is to gain the confidence of the electorate that she is ripe for the presidency.
True, Robredo is doing her part in nation building. She is vocal about her advocacies and is unflinching when confronting the President and his party. Yet, she remains unpopular among the possible presidential candidates. Why so? I can surmise. I can think of five reasons why.
First, she looks more like a celebrity out of the movies rather than a vice president. Her pictures that appear on the front pages of newspapers and magazines are choreographed as if she is promoting a fashion sense. She is more beautiful than real, more attractive than commanding. People who look up to their politicians for leadership are averse against movie stars and celebrities. They are perceived to be socialists and are not fit to govern.
Second, she is seen to be more loyal to her party than to the country. Liberal Party used to be the dominant party. But when Duterte won, it became the opposition party. The members of the Liberal Party incessantly disagreed with the policies of the administration. They criticize the manner by which the government is being run without bothering to make a proper accounting of what they accomplished or failed to accomplish during their time.
Robredo, who is the head of the Liberal Party, is the mouthpiece of the opposition. With her voicing the dissent of her party on what the administration is doing against drugs, New People’s Army, human rights, Covid-19, the South China Sea and other problems of primary concern, she is at loggerheads with an extremely popular and well-loved president.
It does not take a political analyst to realize that what Robredo is doing, on behalf of her party, is looked down as an unpatriotic act. Sure, she may mean well. At this time, however, when so many Filipinos are willing to lay down their lives to defend the President, an attack against the President is an attack against the country. You get what I mean? Try criticizing Duterte on social media. You will get flak, threats, and angry reactions. There are many trolls who are willing to take a stand for him, no matter how unreasonable the situation may be. If this is what an ordinary mortal expects, what more for the Vice President who openly, wantonly and publicly expresses her displeasure against the President?
Third, she leans on the popular side of issues. She does not take an independent stand. When the International Commission on Human Rights demanded that an investigation be conducted on the (alleged) extra-judicial executions, she supported the idea, unmindful that such move might result in intervention. What is so wrong if a foreign institution intervenes in the internal affairs of an independent state? It compromises the sovereignty of a country. It makes the leadership the laughing\stock in the international community. There is an assumption that the leadership is weak and is not in touch with its subjects. As a consolation, the Vice President was given the chance to head the agency to combat the rampant drug trade and substance abuse happening in the Philippines. She lasted for 17 days. She was sacked because she was proposing plans that do not conform to what the President wants.
Fourth, she is a “shadow person.” Regardless of the truth that she is now the Vice President, Robredo will always live under the shadow of her more illustrious husband, Jessie. She relied upon the momentum of her husband’s life and death to catapult herself into the position she is in now. Still, this is not enough to remove the ghosts of her victory. It will forever be tainted by the perception that she stole the vice presidency from Marcos. Her identity and the identity of her office will always be associated with other individuals who lives and achievements loom larger than hers.
Fifth, she is not seasoned enough to be a president. She appears too soft for the job. She is more apt to be a social worker than a president. What the country needs is a tough guy who gives no quarters and takes none. Filipinos do not need a president who easily comprises and promises middle line solutions to the problems that ail the country. Look at the personalities polled by the survey as possible presidents. They are tough minded and have shown political will. They have proven their track record in leadership. If Robredo can measure up to what these people did, she can make a run for it. But, if not, she might as well consign herself to being the leader of the Liberal Party.