By Raymund Antonio
The year 2017 was not an easy ride for Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo, literally.
Since she resigned from the Duterte administration barely six months into her term, Robredo found herself in the midst of intense political warfare in various fields – from her election protest to being a national and opposition leader.
Relentless attacks on her mandate and personal life came from different fronts, with the so-called “Diehard” Duterte supporters and pro-Marcos groups subjecting her to vicious rumors and negative commentaries on social media.
Robredo, chair of the Liberal Party, has been a victim of gossip and fake news online that included items like having a boyfriend, being pregnant, and having an abortion in the United States.
Later, the gossip turned political – it linked Robredo to an alleged plot against Duterte based on leaked emails or popularly known as “Lenileaks” which surfaced in social media.
If there was “Lenileaks,” there was also “Naga Leaks.” She took up the cudgels for her late husband and former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who was linked to illegal gambling and drugs during his term as Naga City mayor in an online article called “Naga Leaks.”
Robredo, one of the outspoken critics of Duterte’s war against drugs resigned as housing secretary, after she was told not to attend Cabinet meetings.
In so many affairs, Robredo was not invited by Malacañang, among them the first Vin d’Honneur for foreign diplomats and meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
She was also sidelined by the Duterte administration from the country’s hosting of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit held last November.
“This is a difficult time to be the Vice President,” Robredo told a women’s forum she attended this year at Miriam College, Quezon City.
Robredo’s criticism of the war on drugs in a videotaped message to the United Nations (UN) triggered the filing of two impeachment complaints against her for betrayal of public trust and violation of the Constitution.
“Some of those who have told us that when there’s crime, they normally go to the police. Now, they don’t know where to turn. Our people feel both hopeless and helpless – a state of mind that we must all take seriously,” she had said.
In the video message, the Vice President denounced the supposed “palit-ulo” scheme, wherein the police would take relatives of drug suspects they could not locate.
With this, two Marcos loyalists – lawyer Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez – moved to have Robredo impeached by filing a complaint in the Lower House. A group of lawyers supporting Duterte then formed the so-called “Impeach VP Leni Team” to work on her impeachment.
For an impeachment complaint against the Vice President to be transmitted to the Senate, it needs the affirmation of at least one-third of House members. If at least two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, the Vice President will be removed from office.
But these complaints in the House of Representatives did not prosper due to the lack of endorsement from its members.
Since the launch of Angat Buhay, her flagship anti-poverty project, the role of the Office of the Vice President shifted from mere ceremonial to one with an advocacy.
The Vice President said she was glad with her office’s accomplishments so far. She acknowledged the limitations of her program with its meager budget.
“We started in 2016 without any budget for Angat Buhay that’s why its implementation is entirely dependent on private partnerships,” said Robredo.
“We are happy with what we accomplished because even if we depend on private partnerships, we were able to help 83,000 families. As of now, we have reached 170-plus communities,” she said.
According to the latest OVP report obtained by the Manila Bulletin, the number of poor families who benefited from Robredo’s anti-poverty program, has reached almost 900,000 as of last December 4.
They include the 774,448 individuals who were given R176.4-million worth of assistance, from food packs, livelihood, classrooms, school supplies, solar kits and generators, among others.
The same report said that Angat Buhay also provided R44.91 million in disaster rehabilitation aid to 81,374 families affected by various natural calamities.
Angat Buhay works by linking up private companies with local government units in need of assistance.
For 2018, the Senate increased the OVP’s proposed budget by R20 million to help fund the anti-poverty program.
“We are thankful because this is a big thing to our office—from nothing, we will have now a budget for the program. This would help a lot,” said Robredo.
Meanwhile, the election protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Robredo is finally moving forward after they both paid their cash deposits required by the Supreme Court (SC).
The SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, asked Marcos to settle P66 million for his case while Robredo was ordered to pay R15.4 million for her counter protest.
It was only Marcos who was able to pay the amount in full after the PET deferred the payment of balance of Robredo’s cash deposit. She initially paid R8 million.
The PET said it would direct Robredo to pay the second installment “only after substantial recovery in his (Marcos) designated three pilot provinces.”
Marcos filed the protest against Robredo in June, 2016, contesting 39,221 clustered precincts, which are composed of 132,446 established precincts.
In his complaint, Marcos wants the PET to allow a ballot recount in 36,465 clustered precincts.
The PET, however, ruled that the initial recount of ballots will have to be conducted in Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental first to determine the merit of Marcos’ electoral protest.
These are the pilot provinces that the former senator cited for the initial ballot recount.