Moving forward in 2022, the COVID crisis is now incidental. The main problem is the joblessness of 30 million, who are half of Filipino voters, and inspiring consumption which is 84% of the economy. People just want to go out—but are not spending.

When BNA asked Leni about it joblessness, she said she does not want to overpromise. Which means she does not know the answer. Isn’t time to overpromise?

Rodrigo Duterte promised to jet-ski to the West Philippine Sea and solve corruption in just six months. He never did. Mayor Isko is to cut power and petroleum prices by 25% by cutting power and petroleum taxes by 50%. Boxer Manny Pacquiao wants to provide housing to everybody. BBM? We still have to hear from him.

On Oct. 14, the Rotary Club of Manila had for its guest Vice President Leni Robredo.  Her appearance became viral on YouTube and Facebook with record views.

I asked two main questions.  Edited excerpts from her replies:

Can you cite some fundamentals and demographics why you will win the presidency?

I never really intended to run. I felt like I did not have enough resources. You know the last five and a half years have been very difficult for me. Our party has been decimated. We have not had the opportunity to really deal with many different areas which can strengthen my political reach.

I was very practical. I had wanted to go back to my province to run for a local post so I was not really planning on running for the presidency. If you look at my numbers, they were not very encouraging and we expected that.

I have been at the receiving end of a lot of disinformation, a lot of fake news. It was like having undergone hazing in the last five and half years.

I was active in trying to do unification talks because I felt it would have been the best opportunity, the best solution for anti-administration forces to have a fighting chance in these elections.

I’ve been to a lot of unification talks. I had non-negotiables.   When the unification talks collapsed…at the last minute, I decided to run.

Having a very difficult fight is not something that’s new to me. When I ran for Congress in 2013 I was running against a well-entrenched political dynasty in my province, I had no chance to win at all.

Out of 8 LGUs, only one mayor supported me.  My win in 2013 gave me the strength to say yes to the vice presidency run. For vice president, I started at 1%. I was No. 6 of six candidates.

When I was at 1%, the front runner then was at 40%. I used the same kind of campaign that I did in 2013, and that was really going out of my way to reach as many people as possible.

When the official campaign period started, I was already third place. After the first debate, I was at second place, and then in last two weeks of the campaign I was already in the first place.

I do understand that the 2022 elections are different. It’s different because it’s for the presidency. It’s different because I don’t have a political party anymore which can provide a vast machinery.  It’s really a big gamble.

 I would have to be very honest with you that during the announcement last Thursday we did not expect the kind of reception that we have been getting now.

Meaning to say, we knew that my supporters would be happy with the decision but what we were not prepared for was the deluge of volunteers that we are now getting. So even if my numbers are still low now everything is upbeat the momentum is there.

There is absolutely no guarantee that we will make it during the elections but if we fight smart, if we will be able to put up a really honest campaign, I am very hopeful about it.

How different a president would you be.  Our women presidents had really a bad time. They were faced with coups, economic crisis, destabilization, and a military that lacked discipline. How will you contain them?

This is a very extraordinary time in our history.  We’re in the middle of the pandemic so my presidency will be very different from the previous presidencies in the sense that I will be assuming the office in the middle of a terrible crisis that we are in.

So the focus of everything will be really controlling the disease. It will be a whole-of -government approach. One of the things that we will look into is how the budget can be realigned to make it more pandemic-focused.

No. 2, I will be giving a lot of effort into fixing the bureaucracy and strengthening the Institutions.  This is a very different time in the history of our country.  In a sense, it’s like 1986.   There are a lot of institutions to be fixed. In the last five and a half years, we have seen the weakening of institutions.  So a lot of focus will be on that. 

On governance, on fixing our kind of politics.  I see a fixing, the—strengthening of our electoral laws (and) making sure that all the systems that will make corruption very difficult.

A lot of focus will be poured into making sure that whatever little budget—whatever little money we have will be judiciously and prudently used for what we need now.

In relation to the other two women presidents (Cory Aquino and Gloria Arroyo), I feel that decisiveness does not have anything to do with gender.

An efficient government is a government that gets the job done.  And that is exactly what we have shown at the OVP. 

We have seen decisiveness from many women leaders all over the world as they take the lead in the front lines against this pandemic.

We see very effective women leaders in New Zealand. We see President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. All of them are being recognized for the effectiveness of their leadership.

In the time of COVID, they are rising to the occasion, finding ways around obstacles, and quickly adapting to the crisis. They are finding ways to implement policies and communicate vital information about the virus.

Their collaborative, empathetic leadership has (carried) them through the entire pandemic.

Not domineering

It is easy to equate being a strong and decisive leader with brashness and aggression, with a loud domineering style of leadership.  But for me, that kind of leadership more often than not disempowers and frightens others into silence.

This should not be the case. Being a strong and decisive leader means nurturing and empowering others to become the best version of themselves.

 It means channeling strength without bluster, in a manner that is fair yet dignified and compassionate empathetic and thrives quietly yet decisively amid adversity.

We were able to showcase that (during) the five and a half years that I was vice president.

— Tony Lopez