By: Gideon Lasco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ma’am, I completely understand why, amid the looming decision you’re facing whether or not to run for president, you are likewise contemplating the prospect of just running for local office.
You have experienced our nation’s politics at the highest level, and the steep cost of practicing principled leadership in these authoritarian times.
You have endured legal cases, including the protracted attempt to invalidate your victory. Although your election—with over 14.4 million votes—was finally affirmed by the Supreme Court acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, it was a taxing, painful, and costly experience.
You have faced insults from social media trolls down to the President, who twice invited you to serve in his government only to spurn you; who openly stated preference for your defeated opponent; who several times objectified your womanhood; and who mocked you as incapable of leading the country. Despite your gracious but increasingly defiant responses, surely the toll of having to face such animosity and misogyny can be too much even for anyone.
To make things worse, you may have felt that you have not received the support commensurate with the efforts you have made over the past five years. Some LGU officials distanced themselves from you simply because they didn’t want to offend the President. Many politicians refused to associate with you despite acknowledging your good ideas and intentions. Likely, you may feel disheartened that despite all your efforts, the surveys suggest they do not seem to resonate with many Filipinos.
Finally, your own loved ones have been affected by everything you’ve endured, not least the hate your own daughters have received, online if not also offline. I have a mother, too, and I know that if she were in your place, the thought of her children being exposed to such hate will be enough to dissuade her from further exposing herself in the public sphere.
In light of the above, it is indeed completely understandable that you are considering running for local office instead. As the pandemic has shown, mayors, governors, and other local officials can do so much on their own, and your own experiences in Naga and Camarines Sur are surely informing your decision on how to continue your career in public service.
But I can also sense that the desire to continue serving the whole nation is strong in you, and that the memory of your late husband, Jesse Robredo, has continued to propel you in this direction.
Your exposure to national politics may have disheartened you, but surely, your exposure to our people, especially those in the margins, has inspired you. You have visited communities affected by typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods—and you know how much good a more efficient and less corrupt government can do for our people.
You have faced insults and legal challenges, but you have also received official recognition, like the Commission on Audit giving your office its highest audit ratings for three consecutive years. Even Malacañang recently gave grudging acknowledgment of your pandemic efforts. The administration has shunned and snubbed you, but that did not stop you from taking action and giving recommendations, from your Angat Buhay programs to your COVID-19-related initiatives, from your report indicting the government’s drug war to your video messages fiscalizing the government’s lockdown plans.
Indeed, the experience that you have gained, the courage you have shown, the integrity you have manifested, and the team you have built have made you qualified to lead our nation.
If you do run for the presidency, as I hope you would, I cannot promise you my allegiance, for I believe that our loyalty should be to principles, not to personalities. But I will support you for as long as you hold fast to the leadership that you have displayed; for as long as you show greater openness to other issues like environmental and social justice, labor issues, and land reform; and for as long as the decisions you will make during your candidacy will reflect an attempt to build bridges and unite our country without compromising your values.
You won against all odds at a time when very few knew you, at a time when you barely registered in the polls. I believe you can do it again, this time when so much more is at stake for our nation, not least of which are justice and hope.