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    Interview with Vice President Leni Robredo ANC’s After The Fact

    Interview with Vice President Leni Robredo ANC’s After The Fact

    Host: Christian Esguerra

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: In this exclusive interview, Philippine Vice President…[technical lag]

    On the program. First let’s—[technical lag]

    VP LENI: [live feed resumes] I was asking my staff whether I was being invited to be physically present or same as last year. Last year kasi I was just instructed to join the SONA by Zoom. So I was sent a text message from I think it was from the protocol officer from the House of Representatives. And he was saying that I was not expected to be there physically. So siguro on Monday, Zoom ulit. But I will be attending.

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. First, what would you like to hear in the final state of the nation address of President Duterte? What should be said in that final SONA?

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, I expect the President to be very honest about the current state of the nation. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. And you know, we all want to hear all the good things that we hope for. Pero I think for people to be appeased, kasi marami ngayon anxious, maraming nagtatanong, “kailan ba ito matatapos? Ano ba iyong naghihintay sa ain sa dulo nito?” and I think it would help if the President would be very honest about where we are as far as COVID response is concerned. Kasi iyong problema talaga, Christian, the anxiety comes from not knowing where we are or what we hope to expect in the coming months. Iyon nga, kailan matatapos iyong pandemya. So para sa akin Christian, I would want the President to really be very candid about hindi lang iyong where we are, pero what the government plans to do about it. Ano ba iyong targets? Kasi—

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But normally Presidents can be quite defensive in their State of the Nation Address, right? And President Duterte had not been an exception in his past State of the Nation Addresses. In this case, given his pronouncements in the past year, basically defending his administration, defending his cabinet secretaries with the way they have been responding to the pandemic, do you remain optimistic that the President would be honest in his assessment on the state of the nation on Monday?

    VP LENI: I don’t know, Christian, if optimistic would be the correct term. But I hope that it will be that way. Kasi ang kinaibahan naman ng State of the Nation Address ngayon compared to the ones from the past adminstrations is we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And there’s a lot of uncertainty, there’s a lot of anxiety. And I think people would appreciate if we hear from the President where we are now and what the very definite plans the administration would take in order to lift us up from the current situation that we are in. Kasi iyon ang problema nga, Christian, I think what contributes to that uncertainty is hindi talaga alam, eh. Hindi alam kung ano na ba talaga. Halimbawa, when we talk of targets. When we talk of targets, sabihin na lang natin iyong sa vaccination. Iyong unang target, herd immunity by the end of 2021. And then we kept on adjusting our targets. Ngayon, I forgot what the term is, already. parang

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Population protection.

    VP LENI: Population protection lalo na sa Metro Manila. So alam mo, it doesn’t contribute to appeasing the anxieties of people if they do not really know. So iyong sa akin, una, one of the weaker links that we have had in the past year and a half was iyong delivery of the message and the message itself. It has been very apparent that a lot of government agencies have been working in silos. Parang it’s not that they are not working. We know there has been a lot of effort poured into the government response initiatives. Pero iyong government agency na ganito iba iyong sasabihin. Iyong isa ibang sasabihin. Parang it contributes—it contributes to the state of helplessness. So I think the President could be the calming voice amidst all the anxieties that we have been feeling in the past year or so.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. But where do you think that the problem really lies? You mentioned that there’s a tendency for many agencies to work in silos. I think many of our viewers now who just heard you say you hope the President could provide a calming voice, that might be far-fetched with the way he has been dealing with his messaging during the pandemic. But first off, where do you think the problem actually lies? Is it with the government strategy? Is it with the approach or is it with the person at the very top?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, I remember saying this, I think three months into the pandemic na parang walang konduktor. I felt that there was no one person—it could be any person. Hindi naman kailangan Presidente iyon pero parang I felt then and I still feel it now na parang walang isang tao na nagko-konduktor. Ang gusto kong sabihin, we have seen this. Halimbawa, there have been reports of government accomplishments. We were able to open more than 200 laboratories already, more than a thousand isolation facilities. Pero the fact remains that hindi pa talaga bumababa iyong mga kaso. If you recall last year iyong ating pinaka-target na ma-control na natin iyong transmission by December of 2020 and we were not able to do that. In fact, isa pa tayo sa, I think right now we are second or third country in Southeast Asia na highest daily COVID-19 case count. So alam mo iyon, iyong sa akin, there have been several institutions already who have made assessments. Halimbawa iyong Ateneo School of Government, nagkaroon na sila ng assessment and they were saying that this administration failed to provide a more responsive approach to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Mayroong isang political science professor na sabi na you know, the government—ito iyong sinasabi ko kanina—the government missed its initial target of going back to normalcy by December 2020 and flattening the curve. And this political science professor, I think Professor Carmen Abao was the one who said it. Ang sinasabi niya, napakalaki ng communication problems ng administration.  She was, I think, pointing out to what I was telling you earlier na depende kung sino nagsasabi, iba-iba iyong sinasabi. So I think it doesn't help that government conveys these messages that in a way adds to the anxiety already of the public. So para sa akin, Christian, siguro kung si President magsasabi noon, na ito iyong state natin pero ito iyong gagawin natin, I think it would help tremendously. 

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But knowing the President and given in the way he has been acting in the past five years and given the way he has been dealing with the messaging issue and his public statements, ‘di ba talagang rambling iyong statements, kung saan-saan napupunta. At times, kayo ang naging target, ‘di ba, or the opposition before he actually spoke about the pandemic response. Again, do you still think that he would be in a good position or would he have the credibility to actually do that now?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, I couldn’t say. Pero what i’m saying now is I think if the President talks about very, very honestly about where we are now during the SONA and really discuss, “Ito iyong ating mga gagawin. “ Ako, para sa akin, despite the many, many things he has said in the past, sinasabi niya iyon sa SONA, sinasabi niya iyong gagawin, and I think it will help. I’m not saying that it would solve everything pero kung pag-uusapan kasi, Christian, iyong wishful thinking, what I would wish the President will say during the SONA, iyon iyon. Kasi gaya ng sinasabi ko, ibang-iba iyong sitwasyon ngayon compared to, let’s say SONA of 2019. So iyong SONA of 2019, we weren’t expecting him to, you know, enumerate the accomplishments of the administration, point out what the important bills this administration would want to be passed. Parang iyon kasi, ordinary times, eh. Pero since last year, we are in the middle of the pandemic. And para sa akin, iyong tao, iyon iyong gusto marinig, eh, because it’s top of mind. It’s the anxiety that’s been eating all of us up.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Of course, to be fair to the President and his administration, the approach hasn’t been all that bad, right. But from where you are sitting over the past year, how would you—what is your honest assessment of how this administration is dealing with the pandemic, taking into consideration both the good and the bad?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, sa akin, Christian, gaya ng sinabi ko kanina, there have been a lot very good things that government has done during the pandemic, lalo na when it comes to how the local government units have responded. Para sa akin nga talaga, iyong LGUs are our strongest link. I have had the opportunity to observe many of the things that the LGUs have been doing, and ano talaga, very admirable in the sense na—halimbawa, ngayon, just today, we conducted the second round of our Vaccine Express in Manila.  And we have worked with the City Government of Manila  and we have seen how good they have been doing as far as their vaccination, iyong vaccination programs are concerned. We’re working with Quezon City also and the same. There have been many creative programs that they have launched and talagang nakakabilib din. And I think many of the government agencies have also been doing everything that they can. Ang problema lang talaga sa akin, Christian, ang tingin ko iyong parang coherence at saka interoperability. Ang pinaka-example ko diyan halimbawa, iyong contact tracing. Kasi a lot of our health experts are saying that the weakest link in this COVID response operations is contact tracing. Kapag dinissect kasi natin, Christian, iyong contact tracing, parang it’s not for lack of effort. In fact, many of the LGUs have already initiated their own contact tracing apps, contact tracing processes. Pero again, very apparent iyong lack of interoperability. Halimbawa, if you recall, when Mayor Magalong was appointed, sinabi niya na ang ideal na contact tracing ratio was between 1:30 to 1:37. Pero marami naging problema along the way. Maraming naging problema along the way so binabaan natin iyong targets to 1:15 pero parang this June, nagsabi iyong DOH na parang a year and a half into the pandemic, 1:6 pa lang iyong ating contact tracing ratio. So, para sa akin, nasaan ba iyong problema? Kapag sinasabi mo na nasaan ba iyong problema, kasi kaniya-kaniya naman ng LGU, mayroon namang mga initiatives. Pero if you will recall, iyong StaySafe PH parang as early as April of last year, the IATF already came up with a—I don’t know if it’s a memorandum or an order saying that StaySafe would be the app that would be used for contact tracing. Pero alam mo iyon, parang sobrang bagal iyong rollout. Dahil sa sobrang bagal ng rollout, nag-kaniya-kaniya na. Nagkaniya-kaniya na iyong mga LGUs and parang nagkaroon lang ng definite na ito na talaga ang gagamitin, this year na lang. I think June, June of this year. Doon na sinabi na—by the time ito na iyong sinabing gagamitin, hindi na sumusunod iyong iba kasi mayroon nang sarili. So sa akin, those—sige, Christian.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: The fact that certain local governments have been doing well or have been coping well with the pandemic, do you think these things are happening because of Duterte or despite Duterte?

     

    VP LENI: Nako, Christian, mahirap sabihin, mahirap sabihin kasi it’s many different things. Itong COVID response operations. Sa amin na lang sa opisina, there are a lot of moving parts. Parang halimbawa, with our office, our goal really was to fill in gaps when we find them. So iyong sa amin we have been working with some government offices. Halimbawa, with our Bayanihan E-Konsulta operations, we have a very good working relationship with One Hospital Command Center. With many other COVID response operations, halimbawa, when we did Community Marts during the early stages of the COVID operations. We were doing a lot of work with Quezon City government, Pasig City government, Muntinlupa City government. And you know iyong ganoon na working relations has been helping a lot. So you know, it’s difficult to say that it’s because of one thing or it’s despite the presence of this one thing, nagagawa pa rin namin. Parang I think I would be unfair if I say that. Pero with our office, we have been able to do so much because of our partnerships with the private sector. Sa amin naman, Christian, you know how limited our mandate is, how limited our resources are. Pero sa amin, we we have been able to do a lot of work because of our partnerships with the private sector. And it was easy for us to do that kind of thing during the pandemic because it’s what we have been doing since 2016. So sa amin naman, despite our, you know, despite our not just limitations, pero despite the roadblocks sa akin, we try to do as much as we can despite the limitations. Iyon naman iyong sa amin. I can only speak for our office.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: And to be fair,8 you have been getting a lot of organic commendations especially on social media for the work that you do. But in the meantime, you also have your set of detractors. I would like to go to this other issue which is, of course, can be considered as the the elephant in the room. For example, when you talk about pandemic response of this administration, that is expected definitely to be a campaign issue for next year’s elections. In your case, do you think the way this administration has been dealing with the pandemic over the past year, could actually come back to haunt its candidates in 2022?

     

    VP LENI: I’m not sure about that, Christian. Everything has been so different already since the pandemic started. Alam mo, siguro under normal circumstances, again, top of mind of everyone is the coming elections already. Pero ngayon kasi because of the pandemic, I’m sure it’s not just with me, but with many other lalo na siguro local government officials, parang it’s so difficult to think of what’s happening as, you know, a campaign issue. Halibawa, when we talk about what we think were the limitations of the government’s pandemic response, we talk about them because we feel like it’s something important that we need to talk about with the hope that they would improve. You know, for us, Christian, since last year we even have been sending recommendations to DepEd, to DOH, iyon hindi iyon campaign issue. Hindi eleksyon iniisip namin. Ang iniisip namin tingin namin makakatulong. Tingin namin kailangan na itong baguhin kasi it’s not working. So for us who are immersed in the day-to-day COVID response operations, parang it’s so difficult to think of situations, or the current issues, to be campaign issues. Ako, I really don’t know how the public would act or would judge the administration’s candidates based on the response to the pandemic.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, we’re going to take a quick break. After The Fact will be right back with Vice President Leni Robredo. Stay tuned.

     

    [Commercial break]

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Welcome back to After the Fact. I’m Christian Esguerra. Still with us is Vice President Leni Robredo. Good evening, Ma’am. We’re still joined by Vice President Leni Robredo. Okay, so earlier we were talking about the COVID response of the Duterte administration. Of course, for this part of our conversation, let’s talk about the upcoming elections. I understand that you and many other public officials would prefer not to talk about these things in detail. But there are concerns that we cannot avoid. Number one, actually we’ve been getting a lot of comments on social media, in particular, Twitter, basically asking that one thing: are you going to run for President in 2022? Others phrase it this way: when will you finally declare your bid for Presidency? Tapos, “what would make you run or not run for Presidency in 2022?” Vice President Robredo?

     

    VP LENI: Alam mo, Christian, unang-una nagpapasalamat naman ako sa tiwala at saka suporta of people who are appreciative of the work that we’ve been doing, pero sa akin, I just want to assure everyone that I don’t take this trust lightly. Sa akin naman, I’m giving serious thought on whether or not running would really be the best thing na puwede kong gawin para sa ating bansa. Pero sa akin lang, Christian, I think mayroon lang misunderstanding sa ibang mga supporters na— Some people when they—parang I’ve been receiving a lot of messages on Facebook na, “magdesisyon ka na.” Parang, alam mo iyon, very similar to the messages you flashed earlier. Pero iyong sa akin, Christian, ang daming factors na kino-consider.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Like what?

     

    VP LENI: Number one is viability. Viability. My numbers are, alam mo iyon, are low so tinitignan natin iyong maraming bagay. Para sa akin nga, Christiam, hindi naman ito a matter of personal convenience or not kasi para sa akin kung personal convenience lang, matagal na akong nakapag-desisyon. Pero para kasi sa akin, I think that 2022 elections is a very important election. Tinitingnan ko rin iyong mga nangyayari, tinigtingan ko iyong surveys, tinitingnan ko iyong galaw, and it’s not just me. In fact, I’ve been talking to small groups of not just supporters but groups we’ve been working with for the past five years and kasali sila sa decision-making process. Iyong sa akin, hindi siya—it’s not a matter of gusto ko bang mag-presidente o hindi pero ano ba ang makakabuti para sa bayan? Makakabuti ba na ako iyong tumakbo? O makakabuti ba na iba iyong tumakbo, susuporta na lang ako? Makakabuti ba na magkaisa para sabay-sabay natin na, to find solutions to the problems that we're currently facing now? So it’s not that easy. It’s not that easy kasi marami talagang considerations.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Well, thank you for the honesty and humility pero if I may add to your question, sabi niyo makakabuti ba kung kayo iyong tatakbo o hindi. Siguro isang tanong: makakasama ba kapag kayo iyong tumakbo o mas makakasama ba kapag hindi kayo tumakbo for president?

     

    VP LENI: Alam mo, Christian, ano kasi iyon, eh, madali lang sabihin na tatakbo ako o hindi ako tatakbo. Pero ano iyong implications? Like if you look at the numbers, iyong last na Pulse Asia survey na lumabas I was at six percent. So, marami kasing parang—it’s difficult to talk about it in detail. Pero kapag tiningnan mo halimbawa, with my six percent, tatakbo ba ako? Kung tumakbo ako, papaano niya maaapektuhan iyong result ng eleksyon? Parang ibang usapan kung tumakbo ako siguradong mananalo. Hindi iyon, eh. Parang kapag tumakbo ako, ano iyong epekto nito doon sa, ‘di ba, sa galawan ng entire spectrum of things. So sa akin, tinitingnan ko iyon very, very seriously. Ako, ako para sa akin, I would admit, Christian, hindi ko talaga siya natutukan during the past year or so because we have been so deep into the COVID response initiatives. Pero now, we’re trying to give it time. Hindi rin ako maka-full time pero we’re trying to give it time. Hindi pa ako maka-full time kasi gaya ngayon, sunod-sunod iyong Vaccine Express pero we’ve been meeting with many different groups already and iyong meeting na ito with different groups, it’s not like sinasabi ko kung anong mangyayari pero tinatanong ko sila na papaano kung ganito, papaano kung ganiyan. So, I want to be as consultative and as inclusive as possible when I make the decision. Kasi para sa akin, Christian, hindi naman ito itong paggising ko sa umaga gusto kong mag-presidente tatakbo ako. Hindi iyon, eh. Kasi there’s too much at stake sa 2022 elections.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, okay. Definitely, later I’m going to ask you about what are—what is at stake at 2022. But before that, I remember your numbers were also low, if not, miserable, in 2016 but you pulled it off. But of course, this is entirely a different campaign. This is a presidential race, a presidential election. Honestly, are you convinced with what the survey results are telling you? Because others are doubting the results. Are you convinced and are you disheartened by your current numbers?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, we look at survey results very seriously. Para sa akin, ano naman ito, eh, there’s a lot of science behind it. And in the past elections, the survey numbers have been very close to what the election results have been. So para sa akin, Christian, there have been a lot of, alam mo iyon—actually when we presented the results to the groups that we have been meeting, iyong iba hindi makapaniwala. Pero sa akin kasi, Christian, sa akin, I want to be very, very deliberate about it. 2016 is very different from the situation today. Kasi in 2016 I was running for vice president, I was relatively unknown. Ang gusto kong sabihin, my awareness ratings were down so there was a lot of elbow room for me to improve my numbers. Gusto kong sabihin, I started at 1%. I think by the time—I’m not too sure about the figures now—but I think by the time I filed in October in 2015 I was at 2%. Pero even during that time, we have been seriously looking at the numbers. And noon kasi, Christian, iba iyong sitwasyon. Iba iyong sitwasyon. I was an admin candidate. So the infrastructure was there and because I was not running for president, parang hindi ko pinroblema iyong resources because the party was there. And you know the state of our party now, wala naman akong resources to launch a decent presidential campaign. So para sa akin, before I make that decison, gusto ko handa ako. Handa ako hindi lang—tingin ko sa trabaho matagal na akong handa at matagal nang naghahanda—pero iyong kampanya mismo, Christian, it will be difficult. It will be difficult given the current political landscape.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, but do you honestly have a choice not to run for president given your standing, your position as the top opposition—elective official—who is with the opposition. I mean, to be honest about it, to be blunt about it, do you really have a choice? Kung hindi kayo, sinong tatakbo?

     

    VP LENI: Oo naman, Christian. Matagal na nating pinaglalaban na lahat tayo dapat parating may choice, eh. I think ano naman iyon. Para lang sa akin, Christian, importante maging honest. Importante maging honest halimbawa sa supporters namin na umaasa. And iyong honesty na iyon, makakabuti kung kasama sila sa proseso. Kasama sila sa proseso not just the discernment process but the decision-making process itself and that’s  what we’re doing now. We’re trying to talk to as many supporters as possible, to as many likeminded people as possible. Mahirap lang ngayon kasi we can’t do big meetings and iyon nga, we’re in the middle of our COVID response operations, but we’re trying to. We’ve been working really hard consulting as many groups as we can. showing them the data that we have. We want the decision-making process to be really consultative. Kasi mahirap, mahirap din, Christian, na iyong padalos-dalos. Sasabihin mo, “Go, magkakandidato ako tapos nagkawatak-watak lahat.” Para sa akin kasi, Christian, parang we can’t last another—I’ve said this already before—parang we can’t last another six years of this kind of governance. Para sa akin, lalo na na nasa gitna tayo ng pandemic. We lost so much already. Para sa akin, things should change and bahagi siya ng decision-making process na madali lang sabihin…

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, actually that was supposed to be my next question because I often hear that, eh, especially from the opposition groups coming from your supporters. But can this country afford another six years of Duterte? I mean, we’re not talking of President Duterte, again, being president, but his daughter. You already answered that, ‘di ba, in the form of a question. “Can this country afford another six years of the same kind of governance?” which brought me back to my original question to you. I mean, you have a lot at stake, you have a lot of responsibilities with you definitely. So I’d like to ask a very specific question, okay. So we understand the reality check that you have been putting on yourself and your supporters, that’s fine, okay. So siguro iyong mga ibang nanonood sa atin ang tingin doon sa sinabi niyo, well, hindi ito nagpapakipot or playing coy just like other politicians na kunwari reluctant pero iyon talaga, kilig na kilig, gustong tumakbo. Anyway, we leave that decision to the viewers. In the meantime, may mga klarong galaw coming from the administration and I’d like to get your honest opinion about these actions: number one, Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Duterte, open to running for president and likely, most likely, she would be gunning for presidency because the opportunity’s there, and President Duterte, just recently, saying that he was open to running for vice president kasi raw he wanted to enjoy the immunity. I mean, what do you think of this, the possibility of that political dynasty that was established in Davao City being elevated to the very top in Malacañang, possibly in 2022?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, I just wish that, you know, that whatever decision she ultimately makes, she will always bear in mind our country’s welfare. Kaniya-kaniya naman iyan na desisyon na hindi natin puwedeng pakialaman. Kaniya-kaniya iyong aming pinanggagalingan. Sabi ko nga, deciding on my own situation is hard enough. Ayaw ko nang pakialaman iyong proseso naman ng decision-making ng iba. Pero iyong wish ko lang, Christian, na sanang best interest of the country. Kung kailangan naming isakripisyo iyong sarili namin na hindi kami iyong tatakbo, iba iyong tatakbo, basta ang puno’t dulo noon, ano ba iyong makakabuti sa bansa natin? So sa akin, I always ask that question. Kaya decision—parang making a decision is hard kasi, parang alam mo iyon, there are many factors that are put into play when we decide something na ganito kahirap.

     

    Iyong second question mo, Christian, on the President running for the vice presidency, I was asked about it by media earlier today doon sa CCP Complex. Umuulan pa naman na malakas. Tinatanong ako about how I felt about the President’s statements that is running for the vice presidency. Ang sabi ko lang sa kanila, and I really mean it, na kung tatakbo siya at mananalo siya, sana huwag niyang maranasan ang naranasan ko bilang Vice President. Because para sa akin, again, ang daming missed opportunities na kung binigyan na ng pagkakataon na makatrabaho kami nang maayos, na buwelo, mas marami pa sana kaming nagawa. So sa akin, kaniya-kaniya naman iyong—[technical lag]—na proseso, eh.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, may related question doon sa sinabi niyo, so sinabi niyo, sana kung manalo man siyang vice president, hindi niya maranasan iyong nararanasan niyo ngayon. Hypothetical naman iyong discussion so there’s a related question on Twitter for you regarding that. So assuming that you win the presidency in 2022 and the president wins the vice presidency, would you treat him the way he has been treating you now? Or would you give him a Cabinet position, make him more relevant than compared to how he has made you—he has tried to make you irrelevant—under his administration? 

     

    VP LENI: Parang poetic justice kapag—kung nangyari, Christian. [laughs] Pero sa akin, very, very seriously, ako, I will not treat him the way he treated me kasi I don’t think it is to the best interest of the people na iyong presidente at saka iyong bise presidente nag-aaway. And having said that, tatanungin ko siya kung—kasi narinig ko din, Christian, sa speech niya na kung manalo siya, matutulog na lang siya at maghihintay siya mamatay—hindi ko alam kung mamatay ang presidente o whatever—so siyempre tatanungin mo, it’s not as simple as giving him a Cabinet post pero tatanungin mo anong trabaho iyong palagay niya he will be good at. Kung he will be committed to the work that will be given to him. Pero if he will, kapag nagsabi siyang he will be committed to the work that will be given to him, I think it’s for the best na iyong vice president is given a Cabinet post.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Pero hindi ba garapal iyong another Duterte gunning for the presidency?

     

    VP LENI: Kaniya-kaniyang—as I have said earlier, Christian, they have done that in Davao already. Ako, ako alam mo naman where I stand even when I was in Congress. In fact, I was co-author of the Anti-Dynasty Law. Ang paniniwala ko naman kasi, walang iisang pamilyang may monopoly sa good intentions, eh. Walang iisang pamilya na may monopoly ng kahusayan. So iyong sa akin, there are a lot of very good people who can actually contribute very well to nation-building na wala sigurong apelyidong kilala, na walang pedigree na… Iyon iyong dahilan kung bakit tingin ko dapat binibigyan ng pagkakataon iyong mas maraming tao. Pero iyon, sa akin iyon, Christian.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Again, this is in the realm of possibilities, again, hypothetically, maraming nagtatanong kasi—if you read the Twitter comments related to this ongoing interview, lahat sila nagtatanong kailan ba kayo magde-decide, tatakbo ba kayo o hindi. Iyong iba naman ang tanong nila, kapag at kung manalo kayo—I think these are your supporters asking but might as well ask their questions in this interview… the question is if you win the presidency, what would you do regarding the China policy that the Duterte administration has been implementing? Siguro, gawin nating specific, ano: what would you do with the issue of the arbitral victory that was set aside by the President in 2016. And number two, the friendly approach with China in exchange for projects which are still wanting in terms of completion, if not at the start of the implementation. Your response to that, Ma’am?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, Christian, I have responded to that several times already pero iyong iba, not in the context of if I were the president. Iyong sa akin, I have been very vocal about my feelings on how we are not using to our advantage the ruling by the arbitral tribunal. Sa akin kasi, Christian, it was a very big win. It was a very big win and it was a very big opportunity for the Philippines to solicit multilateral partnerships with the other Southeast Asian countries na iyong interest sa West Philippine Sea, similar to ours. So para sa akin, I have been very vocal about it na dapat matagal na natin itong ginawa after we won July of 2016. We should have used that to our advantage already by the way we, alam mo iyon, we treat the further incursions. Ito iyong pakiramdam ko about the West Philippine Sea.

     

    Iyong pangalawa, kapag tiningnan kasi natin, Christian, halimbawa itong being friendly with China, ako, I am all for it. Nakita natin halimbawa how Vietnam has been positioning itself. Pagdating sa kaniyang relationship with China, mayroon silang hindi pagkakaintindihan as far as the West Philippine Sea is concerned pero iyong kanilang economic relations continue. Iyong kanilang diplomatic relations continue. Pero iyong sa akin kapag tiningnan natin ano ba iyong naging benefit ng pivot natin to China, iyong sa akin, tingnan natin, did it result to increased FDI from China? How did we benefit economically from the pivot? Ano ba iyong—alam mo iyon, parang it should be data-driven. Kasi madali lang sabihin, “ayaw ko sa US, gusto ko sa China,” o “ayaw ko sa China, gusto ko sa US.” Pero mas mabuti pag-aralan ano ba iyong mga benefits na na-derive natin? Halimbawa, I was looking at the—I was reading at, parang an assessment na one of the reasons why naging dismal iyong FDI natin, iyong FDI natin over the last few years is ano talaga, iyong treatment, iyong relationship na na-cultivate ng administration na ito with the West, iyong US, iyong Europe, many other countries. Ang tanong, did it benefit us in the same way na iyong pivot ba natin sa—halimbawa, we were hoping that we would get the same amount of at least similar to what Indonesia has been getting as far as ODA is concerned—we didn’t. So iyong sa akin, it should be a data-driven decision. Pag-aralan natin what was our experience in the last five years. And it should matter—sige, sige, Christian…

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Another hypothetical question. Maraming nagre-request ng tanong na ito. If you win daw, if you win the presidency, what would be your priorities within the first 100 days? Siguro, idagdag ko na rin, what are you going to do with the bloody drug war of the President?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, if you recall, Christian, I have already submitted… I’ve already submitted—I think in 2019 when I was taken out of ICAD—I already submitted all my recommendations as far as the drug war—the conduct of the drug war is concerned. It’s in the ICAD report. It’s really very specific. I can spend another hour just talking about it. Pero I know what to do because I’ve seen enough in my 18 days in ICAD. So that’s one. Pero iyong susunod kasi, Christian, na presidente, pandemic pa, eh. Ang gusto kong sabihin, iyong remnants or iyong effects ng pandemic is still—will still be in our midst. So dapat iyong mga una talagang gagawin, kung papaano mag-respond doon. Papaano mag-respond not just as far as iyong virus or the transmission is concerned pero many other things like iyong health capacity, iyong education na nag-suffer ng napakalaki because of the pandemic, iyong economy natin na, is performing very dismally now—how are we going to turn around things. Iyong pang-apat, anong gagawin natin sa loss of jobs and livelihood. Ang panlima, ano iyong gagawin natin kasi alam mo na lahat ng economic indicators natin ngayon bagsak. Lahat na economic indicators natin ngayon bagsak. In fact, there have been a lot of think-tanks that are predicting that the Philippines will be the last na magre-recover out of this. So I would presume after June 30 of 2022, that will still be the most important problems that we have to face. So all the things that we will do—

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, sorry for cutting you off, earlier you said that one of the biggest issues that you’re confronting right now is viability and of course number two is resources. But in terms of competence, given the issues that you laid down, especially the pandemic response, do you have the  competency to deal with those issues if you decide to run and actually win the presidency?

     

    VP LENI: Ako, alam mo, Christian, hindi lang competence ng tumatakbong presidente pero competence din ng buong team na dadalhin niya into office. Iyong para sa akin, as I’ve said, wala naman tayong monopoly ng husay, eh. Wala tayong monopoly ng husay, wala tayong monopoly ng good intentions. Pero mahalaga, anong klaseng mga civil servants o public servants are makakasama natin sa team natin kasi iyong governance naman, hindi lang isang tao iyon, eh. Iyong governance, it’s the entire team. And it’s also your ability to inspire people. It’s you ability to inspire people to take part—an active part—in governance. Ako, Christian, I’ve been a very strong advocate of people participation. I’ve been a very strong advocate of—hindi ako iyong trickle down. Ako, parati akong from the ground up. When I was in Congress, most of—

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Bottom-up.

     

    VP LENI: Yes. Most of the bills that I have filed are always geared towards that type of governance. And I think it’s what the country needs. My husband—my late husband—was also a very big advocate of that. So sa akin, sa akin iyon, eh.

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: I’m sorry we don’t have much time anymore but I’d like to squeeze in two important questions: number one, if you become president, will you cooperate with the ICC and its investigation on the crimes against humanity—information, so far, or perhaps later on, a case—that was filed against President Duterte? And number two, tuhugin ko na po para dire-diretso: there was a comment from one of our viewers, ang sabi niya—“if you’re saying we cannot afford another regime such as the current one, would you not feel a sense of dereliction given your special place in the scheme of things if you did not run?”

     

    VP LENI: I will answer the first question first, Christian. Ako, I do not want to discuss it in the context of the case against the President. Parang ako, I want to be very, parang I want the decision on the ICC to be more comprehensive in the sense na bakit ba tayo nag-member ng ICC in the first place? Ano iyong dahilan natin bakit tayo nag-member ng ICC in the first place? Ano iyong dahilan natin kung bakit tayo umalis sa ICC? Kasi I think it will be very important for us, parang to commit ourselves na kung kinakailangan natin maging miyembro talaga ng ICC, kailangan maging committed tayo sa lahat na proseso niya. Iyon iyong para sa akin. Para kasi sa akin masyadong, baka masyadong political tapos lumabas pa na vendetta na sasabihin ko na, I will be, you know, I will be very supportive of the ICC kasi gusto kong ipahuli o ipakulong si Presidente. I don’t think that’s the right way of deciding on the fate of our membership in the ICC. So pag-aralan bakit ba tayo—in the first place, would that be advantageous to the country moving forward? Iyon iyong one.

     

    Iyong number two, Christian, ako, aware ako sa mga sinasabi na—may mga nagsasabi pa nga sa akin, Christian, na, “Makakatulog ka pa ba sa gabi kapag humindi ka na hindi ka kakandidato?” And sa akin, Christian, I want to explain na part of the decision-making process is really looking at the numbers. Halimbawa, ito mas hypothetical pero it’s based on the current numbers that we have. Six percent ako ngayon, kapag tumakbo ba ako na six percent, sabihin na natin na kasi halimbawa, we just want to make a statement run, ‘di ba, 6%. Iyong 6% ko ba nakatulong ba iyon sa cause natin o baka nakatulong pa ako na another six years of this kind of governance? That’s part of the decision-making process. So halimbawa kung tumakbo pa rin ako despite my numbers, sino iyong magbe-benefit noon? Parang walang problema kung despite the 6% ako ngayon, sigurado akong mananalo. Pero halimbawa hindi ako mananalo at hindi na dumagdag iyong aking numbers, sino iyong magbe-benefit ng pagtakbo ko? So iyong sa akin, Christian, it’s not easy. It’s not easy kasi marami tayong mga unknowns pa, ‘di ba. So we’re working on what we have now and it’s—the reason why decision-making process is difficult is marami pa talagang mga blanko. Marami pang blanko. But ako, being very honest about it, na we’re looking at those. Madali lang sabihin na, “tumakbo ka no matter what.” Pero sinong magbe-benefit?

     

    CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, thank you very much, Vice President Leni Robredo, for answering our questions and for joining us this evening. Thank you.

     

    VP LENI: Thank you, Christian. Thank you.

     

     

     

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    Posted in Transcripts on Jul 20, 2021