Leni: Impossible is now happening
THE IMPOSSIBLE is now within reach for Leni Robredo, the ruling Liberal Party (LP) vice presidential candidate, as she climbs to the top of the leaderboard.
“When I started, at least in the first few months, it seemed so impossible to catch up. But now, it’s happening,” the Camarines Sur congresswoman told reporters in Dagupan City when asked to react to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) voter preference survey.
“I’m very happy. … I’m more encouraged that our labor is bearing fruit,” Robredo told reporters after speaking before some 3,500 barangay officials from Central Luzon at Fontana Convention Center in Clark Field, Pampanga.
She jumped 7 points in the April 18-20 survey from the previous poll by SWS-BusinessWorld, with 26 percent of 1,800 respondents nationwide supporting her.
With a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2 percentage points, her 26-percent rating put her in a statistical tie with Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who got 25 percent.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero slipped to third place with 18 percent, followed closely by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano with 16 percent.
Lagging far behind were Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Gregorio Honasan with 5 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
The neophyte congresswoman noted that her standing now was a far cry from when she first started last year when she was only at 1 percent versus Escudero, then the front-runner, who was at 44 percent.
The 51-year-old widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said her campaign was putting to good use all the information from the polling firms, especially on which demographic group to target.
“Surveys are very important to us because they guide us on which places to focus on, which areas we are weak in or are strong in. We use them as a guide. We used them even during the time I was at my lowest,” Robredo said.
A low-profile lawmaker with no ambition for higher office, Robredo was persuaded by President Aquino and LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas to be the latter’s running mate in September last year, banking on her reputation as a quiet but effective leader and the public’s lingering remembrance of her husband’s legacy.
Roxas and Robredo are running on a platform of continuity that builds upon President Aquino’s signature “daang matuwid” or straight path governance.
Robredo, who was thrust into politics after her husband died in a plane crash in August 2012, said she was extremely happy with her surge in the surveys.
Factors that may have helped propel her momentum include a strong performance during the ABS-CBN-organized debate on April 17, as well as key endorsements, including by President Aquino’s celebrity sister, Kris Aquino.
An earlier Pulse Asia survey put Robredo in second place with 23 percent voter support, trailing Marcos by six points.
Though overjoyed by her climb to the top, Robredo said she couldn’t relax yet with the “hairline gap” separating her and Marcos.
“We’re not comfortable with the lead,” Robredo said.
“It’s a hairline gap, but we hope to maintain it in the last 14 days,” she said.
Tied with Robredo, Marcos expressed hope that it was not a pattern for cheating.
In a short statement, Marcos, who was in the middle of his campaign leg in the Eastern Visayas, said: “We are quite surprised by the new survey because all other surveys show otherwise. I hope this is not a pattern for cheating.”
Nevertheless, he said his campaign was not depending on surveys.
“We will continue to work harder and remain focused on spreading our message and platform to the Filipino people,” he said.
Threat to institutions
Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science assistant professor at De La Salle University, said a possible Marcos vice presidency and a Rodrigo Duterte presidency may have been seen by some as a threat to democratic institutions.
“The two in tandem could chip away at democratic institutions. Leni is the best balance against a possible and highly likely Duterte presidency,” Heydarian said.
Robredo, unlike Marcos, has no skeleton in the closet, and despite her inexperience in politics, Heydarian said, she did well during her first term as congresswoman.
This is on top of her track record in public service as a lawyer working with civil society serving women and children in distress and farmers struggling to own their farms.
“Although she is the administration candidate, she seems to be authentic. She doesn’t talk that much about Mar Roxas and daang matuwid. Instead, she uses the Naga-Robredo model of governance which is resonating to the public,” Heydarian said, noting Robredo’s impressive performance in the vice presidential debates.
Robredo has continued the down-to-earth good governance brand of public service of her late husband. When he was Naga mayor, Jessie championed the type of participatory leadership that became known as “tsinelas leadership” for he was often seen in public wearing slippers.
Robredo also seems to be benefiting from her party’s political machinery, Heydarian said.
But the political scientist was not counting out Marcos given his formidable machinery and adept communications team.
“This is a close contest between Robredo and Marcos… Leni should not be complacent,” Heydarian said.
While Robredo has risen, Roxas, who has born the brunt of criticisms against the Aquino administration, continues to lag behind his rivals in the presidential race, currently in third place in opinion surveys.
Robredo expressed confidence that Roxas would be able to catch up with his opponents in the ratings game with the help of local leaders of the administration coalition.
“The LP is the only party which has a solid organization to really reach the ground,” she said.
Besides LP’s mammoth political machinery, Robredo credits her supporters and campaign volunteers who had “tirelessly” accompanied her in political sorties.
She said her team would focus on areas where her awareness was still low, including the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) region and Metro Manila.
Her team, she added, was also working hard to maintain her advantage in the Bicol region and in the provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao. With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade
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