Leni on being VP to Duterte: I’ll lead fight vs rights abuses
NAGA CITY — If she’s elected vice president under a Rodrigo Duterte presidency, Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party (LP) will “lead the fight” against the mass murder of criminals as envisioned by the tough-talking Davao City mayor, who’s leading the presidential race.
“I won’t be flexible when it comes to [human rights abuses], even when he’s the one who holds more power,” the Camarines Sur congresswoman said in an interview before casting her vote here.
“Of course, I will lead the fight against [Duterte]. I’m very realistic in acknowledging that the vice president has limited powers, but I will be very vocal. I will do what I can, given the limitations of the office,” Robredo said.
“For me, it’s going to be a huge challenge [to work with Duterte],” she admitted in an interview at the tomb of her late husband, former interior secretary Jesse Robredo, where she paid her respects before voting.
“As a general rule, I think the vice president should be supportive of the President in spite of party differences. It’s your obligation to the people to work together. But there are some things that can’t be compromised. [Human rights] is one of those,” Robredo said.
The 51-year-old freshman lawmaker served for many years as a human rights lawyer defending poor residents of her Naga hometown before she was thrust into politics after her husband died in a plane crash in August 2012.
“I hope to provide balance, to show him there’s a different way. I know he’s saying these things to achieve an end. But… I think anyone, not only Mayor Duterte… wouldn’t they pick the choice that causes the least damage and benefit more people?” she said.
Based on polls taken before May 9, Robredo is one of two frontrunners in what appears to be a tight race with Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator.
Before voting at the Tabuco Central School just minutes away from her residence, Robredo, along with her three daughters Aika, Tricia and Jillian, visited the Basilica Minore, then her husband Jesse’s tomb at Eternal Gardens, and finally, the residence of Caceres Archibishop Rolando Tria Tirona.
Tirona told her he voted for her as early as 6:30 a.m.
There was a glitch with the vote counting machine in Robredo’s precinct in the Tabuco school, delaying the casting of ballots by more than an hour.
Robredo, clad in a pink shirt and blue jeans instead of the LP’s signature yellow, was swarmed by supporters as soon as she arrived at the Tabuco school. She smiled and posed for pictures with them.
In the interview, Robredo spoke of her vision for the vice presidency should she win.
“I don’t expect to be able to push for what I want immediately. But I want to raise the provincial presence of the Office of the Vice President. Instead of holding office at Coconut Palace, why not downsize and maintain satellite offices in the provinces so I’m closer to the people I serve?” she said.
Robredo said her first actions would also depend on whatever responsibilities and tasks would be given to her by the new President.
On the other hand, if she lost the race, she said it wouldn’t be so bad.
“All my life I’ve been an NGO worker… Even as a congresswoman, I often forget I work in government because of the long time I spent working outside,” Robredo said.
“I think it won’t be difficult to return to my old life. That’s the life I’m used to and the life I still crave. If I had to choose, I’d probably choose to live in Bicol. But because my children are now in Manila, I might have to compromise,” she said.
The only woman and House member in the vice presidential race, Robredo has focused her platform on alleviating poverty and providing assistance to those living in the fringes of society, empowering women and children, and promoting transparency and honesty in governance.
She placed either first or a close second to Marcos in the latest voter preference polls. CDG/rga
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