Aquino likens Leni to Cory
PRESIDENT Aquino on Monday likened the Liberal Party’s choice for Vice President, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, to his late mother, democracy icon Corazon Aquino.
“I cannot help but compare her to my mother,” Mr. Aquino said at Club Filipino’s main hall named after his mother that was filled with a sea of yellow—the Aquino family’s political color. There, in July, he had endorsed Mar Roxas as the Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer in next year’s elections.
“They were both suddenly widowed. They were both previously seen as mere housewives, but were eventually called to lead. And like my mother, Leni had no ambitions to run. But her countrymen asked her to sacrifice to solidify our leadership in Camarines Sur. She was obliged to run, and, indeed, she served with principle,” he said.
Acknowledging that he had asked Robredo and her children to make a big sacrifice, the President sought to assure the family he would be behind them all the way.
The President also reiterated his vow to campaign hard for Roxas and Robredo, calling them the tandem who would continue the anticorruption and good governance program under the “daang matuwid” (straight path) slogan that he began when he took office five years ago.
“Now, we already have a Mar and, might I add, a Leni too who we can be sure will continue the straight and righteous path—and I am confident that they will accelerate our progress all the more. Given how strong my belief in these two, and in our coalition, I might even be more passionate about this campaign, than my own campaign in 2010,” Mr. Aquino said.
“A gentle reminder to our opponents who seem to be so used to the dirty tactics of traditional politics: Maybe as early as now, you intend to make it difficult for Leni to campaign, and you plan to drag her children into this. When Jesse passed, these kids gained so many foster fathers; I will take it personally if you bring them into this,” he said.
Robredo ended weeks of speculation on who would be Roxas’ running mate after Mr. Aquino spent months to woo Sen. Grace Poe to slide down from her own quest for the presidency.
“I am not Jesse. But when he died, it was clear to us, his family, that he was hoping that that we too will have to sacrifice to the best of our abilities, similar to his sacrifices, to contribute to our nation,” Robredo said, explaining why she had accepted the LP’s offer to run as Roxas’ running mate.
The Camarines Sur representative said she and her three daughters believed that this was what her husband, the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, would have done when called to serve the country.
The widow of the interior secretary who died in a plane crash on Aug. 18, 2012, spoke calmly but firmly and never shed a tear even though her daughters could not control their emotions while she spoke of her husband and the challenges ahead.
“In all our apprehensions, me and my children asked ourselves what Jesse would do if faced with this kind of challenge. We immediately knew the answer. No matter how difficult, he will not turn his back on any one asking for his help. He will not sleep until he has done whatever he can for the nation. When he was faced with the question of nation or self, his answer was clear to us,” Robredo said in her acceptance speech at Club Filipino.
Robredo said that the past weeks had been the most difficult for her and her daughters Aika, Trisha and Jillian since her husband died.
“I have been mocked by others for playing hard to get,” Robredo said as she explained why it took her this long, less than two weeks before the deadline for filing of candidacy in 2016, to accept the offer to be the running mate of Roxas.
When her name was floated among the possible running mate of Roxas in August, Robredo asked: “Why me? Out of the numerous choices that could be picked, why chose me?”
She pointed out that she has always stayed “contented and fully supportive” behind her husband in their 25 years of marriage.
She likened her decision to the same process that President Aquino went through when he was asked to run for President in 2010 after the death of his mother.
She saw a lot of parallels between her decision to run for Congress and her decision to run for Vice President. Robredo said she ran for Congress solely on trust and self-confidence brought about by what she saw as a need and opportunity to end the long-reigning Villafuerte dynasty.
Robredo admitted that many of her loved ones, including those who supported her husband, tried to dissuade her from running for a national position because of her lack of preparation and their fear that her husband’s name and legacy would only be sullied by entering the “dirty world of politics.”
“Like the question President Aquino asked himself when faced with his own cross roads: ‘Will I be able to sleep at night when I know I could have done something good for the country but instead I turned my back and didn’t do anything?’” she said.
Robredo addressed her critics squarely on her lack of experience to run for public office. She said the last two years proved that her lack of preparation was more than compensated for by her honest service.
“In my years as representative, I fought for the rights of those in slippers—those under, outside and at the fringes of our society. We pushed for laws that gave an opportunity for ordinary Filipinos to have a voice and participate in nation-building. We also pushed for a system to ensure that our leaders will not be led astray or be blinded by power,” Robredo said.
“I promise not to forget my responsibility as a mother to be a model of love for others and service to country. I also promise not to forget that I am Jesse’s wife and the obligation to bring to life his example of an honest public servant is on my shoulders,” she added.
“After deep thought, broad consultation, and deep prayers, I accept with my whole heart, faith and trust the challenge to run as the Vice President of Mar Roxas. I offer myself completely to our people especially to those wearing slippers outside, below and at the fringes of society.”
In his remarks, Roxas said his decision to team up with Robredo was part of the program of continuity of the Aquino administration’s governance agenda of “daang matuwid.”
Roxas, a close friend of Robredo’s late husband, visibly tried to hold back his emotions as he assured her of the LP’s and the President’s full support to her vice presidential campaign.
“We’re now witness to another sacrifice. The sacrifice of an ordinary individual; a single mother who was summoned and chosen by the straight path,” Roxas said.
“This is a sacrifice of three young women who lost their father in the name of public service. Now, they are again being called to offer their family for a higher objective,” he added.
“This is a sacrifice of a family to put the country first before themselves.”
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