Administering VP oath ‘like a dream,’ says barangay captain
For 51-year-old barangay captain Ronaldo Coner, being tasked to administer the oath of office of the country’s second highest elected official is like a dream.
Coner, the leader of the poor and remote Barangay Punta Tarawal in Camarines Sur, said he was excited but not necessarily nervous to swear in Vice President-elect Leni Robredo into office.
“Parang panaginip lang ‘to. Mula pagkabata hanggang ngayon hindi ko sukat akalain na makakgawa ako ng (ganitong) bagay sa buhay ko,” Coner told reporters at a press conference in Quezon City on Wednesday.
“Excited pero ‘yung kaba wala na eh. Relax lang. Kasi nakakahiya naman kung sa dami ng tao magkamali tayo, mahirap na,” he said when asked how he was feeling.
A confident but unassuming Coner said he had been practicing Robredo’s oath, which will be in Tagalog, “often but not every day.”
“Minsan pero di ako inaaraw-araw. Napaka simple lang naman kasi ng mga talumpati … Nabasa ko na pero may kulang pa. Medyo pinaplantsa pa,” he said.
In a modest inauguration, Robredo will be sworn in by Coner and another barangay captain Regina Celeste on Thursday at the Quezon City Reception House in New Manila. The bible will be held by Robredo’s youngest daughter Jillian.
Robredo previously said she wanted Coner to administer her oath as it would symbolize her advocacy of giving face and voice to people on the fringes of the society (laylayan ng lipunan).
With the attention that his barangay has been receiving, Coner is hopeful that help will also start pouring in for the natives of Punta Tarawal, one of the poorest communities in the Bicol region. But amid the spotlight, the village chair said he was not anticipating a major change in his personal life.
“Siguro ngayon dahil kilala na yung barangay ko maraming tutulong sa amin,” he said. “Ine-expect ko sa Panginoon na kusang dumating na lang sa akin. Wala akong pangarap na mataas.”
Punta Tarawal, a marshland covered with mangroves, has a total population of only 408. Coner said about 80 families rely on fishing for a living, even as they do not have water supply among other basic services.
With a community vulnerable to typhoons and storm surges, Coner said what he wanted for his constituents, aside from a road leading to the island, were more technical jobs without having to rely on the waters.
“Ang gusto nilang dalin sa amin yung mga trabaho na hindi pangkaraniwan. Hindi makukuha ng iba—matututo ang mga tao ng iba’t ibang mga bagay. Panghabambuhay yun. Hindi ka na lng umaasa sa dagat,” he said.
Coner said he was optimistic that Robredo would fulfill her campaign promise of uplifting poor Filipinos from poverty.
“Ang wish ko kay VP Leni, ‘yung mga sinumulan niya sa kampanya, ‘yun na lang siguro ang tutukan niya … At sana tignan yung pinakamiliit na sitwasyon sa buong Pilipinas na mabago talaga … ‘Yung mahirap tulungan talaga,” he said.
“Tinitignan ko muna yung anggulo ng pagsimula kasi hindi naman tayo manghusga. Tignan muna natin sa ilang buwan kung ano talaga ang sitwasyon ng Pilipinas,” Coner added, when asked about his expectations on the incoming administration.
All 187 votes cast for the position of Vice President in Punta Tarawal went to Robredo, the outgoing representative of the province’s third district. Her five rivals got zero.
Coner first ran and won as village councilor in 1988 when he was 23 years old. He became barangay secretary after a term in the council.
He won village chief of Punta Tarawal in the 1998 and 2001 elections, lost in his attempt for a third and final term, but won again in 2013.
Coner said his wife and five children were not with him here in Manila, but noted that they were “proud and happy” for him.
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