When Senator Grace Poe announced that she is running for president last September 16, she ended whatever hopes the ruling Liberal Party (LP) had of her becoming former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas’ running-mate for the 2016 elections.
No less than President Benigno Aquino III himself repeatedly tried to persuade Poe to accept this offer. But alas, the first-term senator steadfastly declined, apparently buoyed by her newly-earned presidential front-runner status based on recent public opinion polls.
Even before their first-choice officially rebuffed them, some members of the Liberal Party already turned their attention to other potential running-mates for Roxas including Naga City Rep. Leni Gerona-Robredo, Batangas City Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. Some even mentioned President Aquino or his sister, television host and actress Kris Aquino!
With Poe already cast as an enemy, the Liberals have zeroed in on Mrs. Robredo as a possible vice presidential candidate. While she seemed not receptive to the idea initially, the congresswoman seems to be slowly walking to ‘yes’ now. Mrs. Robredo, of course, is the wife of the late Jesse Robredo, Roxas’ immediate predecessor as Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary.
Aquino and Robredo = It’s complicated
Prior to being appointed DILG secretary, Robredo served as mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 and again from 2001 to 2010. His performance as mayor earned for him citations from foreign publications as well as the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in the year 2000.
With those impeccable leadership credentials, Aquino would have been expected to give Robredo his full support as Interior Secretary. Instead, what happened is quite the opposite. First of all, Robredo only served on an “acting capacity” because according to PNoy himself, the two of them have differences in leadership styles. It took Aquino a year before he submitted Robredo’s name to the Commission on Appointments for confirmation (he died without getting confirmed).
Apart from being merely an acting secretary for a year, Aquino didn’t really give Robredo full authority over his department. As The Filipino Scribe has reported three years ago, when the President appointed his shooting buddy Rico E. Puno as DILG undersecretary for peace and order, he gave him control over the Philippine National Police. In the same capacity, he also has supervision over Puno also controls the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Puno’s was eventually forced to resign after he was dragged in a controversial firearms deal that the PNP nearly had with an Israeli company that has been blacklisted in India. At the time of his death, Robredo was fully aware that Puno is under investigation for this. You can read a summary of my report here. It is not clear what happened to this investigation after Roxas took over.
Using Leni Robredo
As in the case of many other Filipina politicians, Mrs. Robredo’s engagement in electoral politics came in full swing after her husband’s death. According to an oft-repeated tale, supporters trooped to her home on the day of the filing of candidacies to urge her to run if only to prevent the wife of outgoing Rep. Luis Villafuerte from perpetuating their political dynasty.
Mrs. Robredo should realize that the Liberal Party and the Aquino administration is really just milking her husband’s death for their own political interests. It is easy to understand why LP desperately want her to say yes to Roxas.
Apart from having no political baggage (she’s only been in office for two years), the congresswoman is also bound to gain support from the public out of sympathy for her deceased husband. After all, it played out very well for President Aquino and his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino. Heck, that narrative also appears to be the main selling point of Poe.
However, there are downsides to a possible Roxas-Robredo tandem as well. For example, having a one-term congresswoman as a vice presidential candidate will negate any efforts of LP to characterize Poe as unqualified for the presidency because she is inexperienced. In other words, if LP will claim that Poe is so unprepared to be commander-in-chief, then why are they willing to put someone who is less-experienced one heartbeat away from the presidency?
This is similar to the 2008 presidential elections in the United States where Republican nominee Senator John McCain kept on attacking his Democratic rival Barack Obama over his inexperience, only to choose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who is less than two years into her term, as his running-mate.
(Disclosure: The writer previously taught at the Golden Link College, which was founded by Vicente Hao Chin, a cousin of Jesse Robredo.)