Roxas-Robredo tandem: Together but separate
Together, but also separately.
This was how Camarines Sur Representative and vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo described how she and Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas intend to wage their campaign in the May 2016 general elections.
“We agreed that we’re a tandem, but that I will also have to go out on my own,” Robredo said in a roundtable discussion with Inquirer editors, reporters and columnists on Thursday.
“If we go [and campaign] together all the time, I won’t be able to introduce myself,” she said, adding that it won’t do her much good to go around with Roxas all the time “because the attention of the people [will always be on] him, obviously.”
Roxas’ decision to get young show biz heartthrob Daniel Padilla as endorser without consulting or informing her seems to be part of that campaign strategy.
She did not know that Roxas had asked the young star to firm up his connection with the masa (grassroots) voters, Robredo said. “We never got to discuss Daniel Padilla. I’m not privy to their arrangement,” she added.
When she learned about it, Robredo said she asked Roxas to invite her to the shooting of their TV commercial. “Because my youngest daughter is a big fan of Daniel Padilla,” she added with a laugh.
But Roxas always made sure to introduce her properly to the crowd and had been giving her pointers on how to run a national campaign, the widow of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said.
And as promised, Roxas and the LP have been providing her much-needed logistical support when she visits areas where she is a virtual unknown, Robredo said.
Ironically, added the Camarines Sur representative, it was a known Roxas critic, Sen. Serge Osmeña, who had officially joined her team.
Joining Osmeña, who briefly headed President Aquino’s campaign in the 2010 elections, was Sen. Bam Aquino, who acts as her campaign manager, Robredo said.
Osmeña has made it clear publicly that he supports Robredo but not Roxas.
In a previous interview with the media, Osmeña described Robredo as “very saleable [and] easy to market” to the electorate. The LP, Osmeña added, would have no issue with her because “Leni represents daang matuwid (straight path),” the Aquino’s administration anticorruption agenda and the battle cry of the Roxas’ campaign.
According to Robredo, Osmeña—a close friend of her deceased husband—assured her of his support even before she decided to accept the LP’s offer to be Roxas’ running mate.
Low voters’ awareness
“I actually met [Osmeña] once over dinner [when] he invited me to his house,” she said. “Even before I made the decision [to run], he had volunteered to help me out.”
Initially, Osmeña pointed out that voters’ awareness of her was low, and that she needed to be more visible to the public, Robredo said.
“That was my weakness, he said. Still, he was very confident because he said I have a very high ‘conversion’ rate,” the widow added, referring to the number of voters who will support a candidate after hearing him or her.
Except for Senators Aquino and Osmeña, Robredo’s campaign team does not include other well-known political strategists or public relations experts.
“I have no money to pay for their services,” she quipped. “I can’t even buy more yellow blouses. If you notice, I only have four sets of yellow blouses and T-shirts, one of which was given to me by Mar (Roxas).”
This early, the 51-year-old widow has learned to accept the political realities of running a national campaign.
For one, she said, it wasn’t enough for candidates in national elections to work hard at introducing themselves to the voters.
She recalled how she would start her house-to-house campaign as early as 4 a.m. when she was running to represent in Congress the third district of Camarines Sur against Nelly Villafuerte, the wife of former Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Villafuerte, in the 2013 midterm elections.
“In the local elections, you can win if you’re hard-working. But in the national [elections], being diligent means nothing if you do not have resources,” Robredo said.
“It’s [logistically] impossible [to] go around the country and [meet voters]. So you have to have advertisements, which are very expensive,” she said.
Under the law, Robredo said she was allowed to spend P500 million in her campaign, “but I don’t even have any idea how P500 million looks like,” she added.
Was she willing to sing and dance onstage to woo voters like most traditional politicians?
“I actually enjoy dancing,” Robredo said. “My husband couldn’t dance so in public functions, he’d push me to dance instead—I can do a mean cha-cha. But I can’t sing. I might only lose votes if I sing,” she said, with a laugh.
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