Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines Rotary Club of Makati – Rvote Session 3
Good afternoon everyone. Sorry about that. Thank you for inviting me to join you as you come together today for the meeting.
Maraming salamat for all that you do to respond to the challenges of our time and for trusting the Office of the Vice President as your partner in many endeavor. Whether it’s in putting up dormitories for students, Community Learning Hubs, and disaster relief missions—all our efforts have only been successful because of this spirit of solidarity. This is what allowed us to harness the reach and resources of partners from both the private sector and the local government, and the power of so many citizens who are extraordinary in their selflessness.
During times of crisis, people will look to their leaders, especially from government, to provide direction, hope, and a measure of certainty so that we can all begin to reclaim our lives and our futures. And leaders can only fulfill this expectation with empathy: Reaching out, listening, and imagining ourselves in the shoes of the people we wish to serve. If we open our hearts to them and dig deep, we will arrive at the central revelation of our interconnectedness: Ganito pala ang hinihiling sa atin upang mabuhay sa mundo. To hold ourselves accountable for the sufferings and aspirations of those around us, spending our days thinking of how to make their burdens easier to bear, how to make their dreams a little easier to reach.
This was foremost in our minds when, during the height of lockdowns last year, we shifted our focus to our COVID-19 initiatives. Our goal was to fill the gaps that needed to be filled in terms of government response.
When doctors, nurses and other medical front liners were dying because of lack of personal protective equipment, we worked with various groups and organizations to provide the needed PPE sets. When public transportation ground to a halt, we immediately rolled out free shuttle services and opened free dorms and temporary living spaces. When DepEd announced a shift to blended learning, we launched Bayanihan e-Skwela, which provided gadgets to students in need; produced instructional videos to help our teachers and parents adjust to the new teaching methods; and established Community Learning Hubs where learners have a conducive space to study—complete with volunteer tutors, learning tools and supplies, and internet connection for children who do not have gadgets of their own, or might find it hard to adjust to distance learning at home.
When the community lockdowns caused many businesses to close shop, leaving many Filipinos unemployed and out of livelihood, we launched sikap.ph, an online jobs-matching platform for blue collar workers, and Bayanihan Mart at iskaparate.com to help small business owners gain an online presence.
After the elections next year, if we are fortunate to be elected President, we will inherit huge challenges and it will take great effort to rise to the challenges. We will continue to focus—at least in the first 100 days—on addressing the challenges of the pandemic: We have to control community transmission and mitigate the effects and prevent the crisis; put our house in order and restore confidence in the Philippine government. We also need to engage all of society in rebuilding our broken nation and determining the course we take together as a people; and most importantly make the lives of all Filipinos—especially those left behind—better, safer, healthier and more secure. Aayusin muna natin ang bahay natin at ang paraan ng pamamahala. Nasa pagtutulungan ang susi ng pag-abot sa mga kolektibo nating hangarin: Mula sa pagbangon ng ekonomiya, pagdami ng mga trabaho sa iba’t ibang industriya, at pagbubukas ng marami pang opportunities para umasenso at guminhawa ang bawat Pilipino.
Alam kong kasama ko kayong nagtatrabaho—from day 1—para makamit itong mga hangarin na ito, and this has only fueled our resolve to strive even harder in the work that we do. Napakaraming nakasalalay: We are fighting not only for our own children and families, but also our communities, our country, and the generations that will follow. For many Filipinos, this is not a matter of personalities; this is a matter of survival.
The pandemic has only made this even starker. Every day, we see the strain, the suffering, the grief of those coming to our office for help. Pati ‘yung mga binibisita namin sa mga communities. That is why we need to free ourselves first from the grip of the pandemic—and to do that, we need a clear, extensive, strategic, and empowering response.
Last Wednesday, we released our Kalayaan sa COVID Plan, which focuses on three freedoms that are crucial for us to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
First: kalayaan mula sa pangambang magkasakit. This means stopping the root of corruption and its anomalies, and replacing it with leadership that is honest, competent, and compassionate. We will strengthen our healthcare system by ensuring that our medical facilities are responsive to the needs of our people, and that it is manned by frontliners who are properly capacitated and compensated. We believe that vaccination is the only long-term solution to overcoming the pandemic, so we will ensure that every Filipino is inoculated and protected from the virus. We will establish a robust national distribution network where it is government that goes out to our communities to deliver the much-needed vaccines.
Second: Kalayaan mula sa gutom. As I have said before, we have to act immediately to make sure that this health crisis does not turn into a hunger and food crisis. Our proposal: Immediate relief assistance when lockdowns are enforced; and enforcing lockdowns on targeted areas only. We have to protect the jobs and livelihood of Filipinos: Through financial aid for small businesses, unemployment insurance to those who lost their jobs, and other support that government can provide that ensures their families have food to eat. There is also a pressing need to strengthen agriculture: Aside from securing the livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk, we will ensure that food production continues to be unhampered.
Third: Kalayaan sa kakulangan sa edukasyon. Our plan: Open schools in areas with low COVID prevalence; in high-risk areas, our target is to give every student a gadget. Students will be provided with free internet access and quality educational materials so that learning continues even in the time of the pandemic. Educators and parents must also be supported at this time, so we will continue to give our utmost to help them in any way possible.
This is the outline of our COVID-19 Freedom Plan; the more detailed steps towards securing these freedoms are available on lenirobredo.com. We have uploaded that last week. Every step, every plan, will be informed by the values and aspirations we share. All of them will be underpinned by good governance, by leadership that is competent and compassionate—one that ensures that no one is left behind as we chart the best path forward.
It brings me joy to see that we are together in moving toward this shared horizon. The task before us now is to deepen your connections—our connections with one another and engage further in our communities. To be creative, be resourceful in seeking solutions. Find more gaps and fill them. Inspire others to do the same.
With you at our side, I have no doubt that we can achieve the future of our hopes: A society where fairness reigns, and where every individual is empowered; where plans are concretized because there is a sensible and efficient government; with honest and accountable officials; and leaders who put the interests of the Filipino people first. Thank you very much. Mabuhay kayong lahat!