Vice President Leni Robredo on 2022 Presidential Bid, Government’s COVID-19 Response and Foreign Policy, Martial Law and Emergency Powers
Rotary Club of Manila 16th General Membership Meeting
Panelists: Obet Pagdanganan, Raffy Alunan, Tony Lopez
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Thank you very much, Lito. Good morning and thank you very much, congratulations, Vice President, for the very, very good speech. Thank you for the opportunity to articulate the questions from more than 900 participants as of now, ongoing. For the first question, Ma’am: The Philippines is presently the world’s largest importer of rice, even surpassing China in 2019, and started to import large quantities of pork, vegetables and fish. Meanwhile, the aging Filipino farmers, fisherfolk, with an average age of 58 years, constitute 70% of the poorest of the poor. If elected President, how would your administration rectify this situation and attain food security for our country, Ma’am?
VP LENI: Thank you, for that. Thank you for that, Gov. Obet. Agriculture will definitely be one of the top priorities of the administration if we make it. It is one of the reasons why Senator Kiko Pangilinan was chosen to be my running mate because agriculture and food security has always been his paramount advocacy. Our goal now is to make sure that this health crisis does not turn into a food crisis. So we need to invest heavily in the agriculture sector, particularly in technology and farm-to-market infrastructure. Agriculture has not been prioritized in the past 25 years because primarily it—f you include factors such as food processing, other agricultural services, transporting, finance, packaging, we will see that 35% to 40% of our economy is rooted really on agriculture. Prioritization of import and, you know, prioritization of import and import liberalization, if we take a look at Vietnam, China, and Thailand, they have completed the World Trade Organization design of import liberalization and they were successful because they passed laws for this. The WTO design includes market access, domestic support, sanitary systems to prevent entry of diseases, etc.
In the Philippines, economists are committed ideologically. Consumers will benefit because producers will be forced to be competitive. But why is rice from other countries much, much cheaper? That is because of subsidies and government support for other countries. In the Philippines, radical market access is being applied, not domestic support subsidies. According to the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, there should be consultations with stakeholders but when we talk to them, they would always say that it has never happened. Senator Kiko passed the Sagip Saka Act, and there should be laws for domestic support, and there should be buffer funds, etc. Our laws contain a lot of provisions to help domestic production, but there is a lot of problem with operationalizing what is in the law. So we must employ an effective governance in agriculture, and we can do this by extending adequate and sustained budget support. I will also have to empower and capacitate our fisherfolk. We can do this by building, you know, all the necessary infrastructure—farm to market roads, installing shared service facilities. They also must be given access to technologies so that they can modernize, scale up, and speed up their operations. We need balance, not just by focusing on rice, but by also including corn, coconut, etc. Hindi rin kailangang kunin sa rice ang pera. Increase the budget para hindi… hindi mag-agawan. We must also ensure proper and effective use of funds. Upgrade partnerships with local government units, share more responsibilities and resources, especially in the light of the Mandanas Ruling, which will be operationalized next year. Strengthen and institutionalize stakeholder representation, and participation in planning, implementing, and monitoring programs. Calibrate imports--calibrate imports on deficit. This has been the complaint of many of our farmers, even livestock producers, that they have been suffering because of the import liberalization policies of our government.
Just to share with you—in closing—just to share with you what we have been doing at the OVP, we have been doing a lot of intervention as far as farming communities are concerned, our main focus is training our farmers to be entrepreneurs. What we do is not just capacitating them, but influencing them in the kind of crops that they will grow, which is more… which is more attuned to the demands of the market. We’re doing a lot of programs on this. We are using the Jolibee model, where farmers are linked to institutional buyers. They do away with middlemen. They have more say in the prices. They earn more, but at the same time, the more important part is there is a steady market already and prices are more protected. So this has been very—this has been very, successful as far as our farming communities are concerned. And this is really a model which can be scaled up. We have just had a briefing—a meeting—with farmer groups the other day in the office, and this is something that really interests them. So there are a lot of things that need to be done, and one of them really is the most basic, is to make sure that there is enough budget for agriculture.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Okay. May we call on Director-elect Raffy. Please ask the next question.
RAFFY ALUNAN: Good afternoon, Madame Vice President. It’s good to see you again.
VP LENI: Nice to see you, Sir.
RAFFY ALUNAN: We truly live in interesting times, as you said. Our inter-generational problems such as poverty, corruption, and malgovernance are compounded further by existential issues such as human-induced climate change, Corona Virus pandemics, global recession, and armed conflict amongst the big powers. After five years in your post, preparing for the possibility of taking over at any time should an emergency arise or when elected to the highest post, have you been able to develop a mental blueprint in addressing the root causes of these inter-generational problems and existential risks to national survival? If so, may we know the brushstrokes of such a blueprint? Perhaps you can just choose one item, like corruption, which is so embedded in our national life?
VP LENI: You know… You know, Sec., when I assumed office in 2016, we already were very much aware of how limited the mandate and resources of the Office of the Vice President will be. But we prepared—we prepared the office to make it a model of governance. I was telling everyone a while ago—I mentioned in my speech a while ago, that one of the things that really took care of was really professionalizing the office, professionalizing the bureaucracy because I feel it is one of the biggest contributions that the office can give to the Filipino people. Services—you know, the… the conduct of our operations, the way we serve our people, will be much better and much efficient if the bureaucracy—if the entire bureaucracy is professionalized and managed well.
But as far as corruption is concerned, there are three things that are most important. One of them is accountability. And when I say accountability, it is not enough for public servants to be clean. It is not enough to say that this particular… this particular public servant is not corrupt. But it is very important to make sure that there are systems in place to force public servants to be corrupt. And when we say accountability, there are a lot of different ways on how to ensure that public officials are accountable. The next is transparency. When I was a member of Congress, many of the bills which I filed were really—were really to ensure that there is a very transparent way of being accountable. And you know, again, there are many measures that can be institutionalized to do that. The freedom of information, for one. The—I filed a full disclosure bill, where public offices should be required to post everything on how they are using public funds. The reason why we worked very hard in making sure that we would get, from year to year, unqualified COA opinion is to show everyone that we were—we have been very serious in making sure that we have been very prudent in the way we spend public funds no matter how small our—no matter how small our budget is. The third, Sec. is—accountability, transparency—and the third is really, people empowerment. I believe that people empowerment should be institutionalized, and I’m saying this from the experience that we’ve had with my husband in Naga. The concept of direct people participation in governance has been very, very successful in Naga. A People’s Council was formed, and this People’s Council was like a parallel council for government. Meaning to say, people have a platform where they can directly participate in planning, in monitoring, in evaluating projects. Budgets are not passed before they are presented to the People’s Council. You know, the very concept of when ordinary people are there to monitor every single thing that the government is doing, then government will be forced to be—government will be forced to be very faithful in the way it conducts its regular business. And we—our experiences in Naga, we’re trying to replicate at the Office of the Vice President, and we have been very successful. It’s something, again, that can be scaled in the national level. I have come across… I have come across many local officials we’ve mentored, and in their own capacities have tried to replicate our programs, and they have been very, very successful as well.
RAFFY ALUNAN: Thank you very much, Madame Vice President. It’s so refreshing to hear that from you.
VP LENI: Thank you, Sec.
MODERATOR: May we now call on Director-elect Tony Lopez?
TONY LOPEZ: Good afternoon, Madame Vice President, and president-to-be. Can you cite some fundamentals and demographics that convinced you that you will win the presidency?
MODERATOR: Can we mute the others please, Madam Vice President, before you answer? You’ll have to unmute yourself, Ma’am. You’ll have to unmute yourself. Okay, you’re on.
VP LENI: Okay, okay na? Ako sir, just to give you an—maybe I have to provide context first. 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 as far as—you know, having a—you know, 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 are not very encouraging, and we expected that. I have been at the receiving end of a lot of disinformation, a lot of fake news. Sabi ko nga, if I will describe the five and a half years that passed, sabi ko para akong na-hazing. Para akong na-hazing for five and a half years, with the protest before the Supreme Court, my being booted out of two government positions. The first one was HUDCC chair and the next one as ICAD co-chair. So talagang ano, talagang we weren’t expecting this. In fact, I was so active in trying to do unification talks because O felt like it would have been the, you know, it would have been the best opportunity, the best solution for anti-administration forces to have a fighting chance in this elections.
Pero, I’ve been to a lot of unification talks. I had non-negotiables. I had non-negotiables, they were just a few things that I wanted to know before I decide on supporting a particular candidate. And when the unification talks collapsed, in fact, I was even on the verge of just weighing which of those contenders would, you know, make the most sense for me to support. But then, because my non-negotiables were still there, at the last minute, I decided to run. And running and having a difficult fight is something that’s not new to me. When I ran for Congress in 2013, I was running against a well-entrenched political dynasty in my province. And iyong surveys talaga noon, wala akong chance to win at all. I just lost my husband, I did not have—I think I mentioned this already to you in one of my speeches from way before that my district was seven towns and one city, lahat ng mayors hindi para sa akin kasi kalaban ko incumbent. Isa lang iyong mayor out of the eight LGU’s, less than 10% of the barangay captains were for me. Pero iyong sa akin kasi, what I was able to prove is that iyong resources will help you, but it’s not the end all, be all of everything. If you do an honest-to-goodness campaign where you allow people to get to know you, hindi imposibleng manalo. So my win in 2013 was the one which gave me the strength to say yes to the vice presidency run.
Noong vice presidency run, I started at 1%. I was number six of six candidates. When I was at 1%, the frontrunner then was at 40%. So halos imposible, but I used the same kind of campaigning that I did in 2013, and that was really going out of my way—sobrang sipag ko po magkapampanya—go out of my way to reach as many people as possible. And my trajectory during the 2016 elections was pataas talaga. And it was very encouraging in the sense na I think when the official campaign period started, I was already at third place. After the first debate, I was in second place. And then, last two weeks of the campaign, I was already in the first place.
So I do understand that the 2022 elections is 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. So talagang it’s a big gamble. Pero 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 will 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.
TONY LOPEZ: How different of a president would you be? Because our women presidents had really a bad time. They were faced by coup, economic crisis, destabilization, and a military that lacked discipline. How will you contain them?
VP LENI: Ako, Sir, it is very, very difficult to go into specifics now.
TONY LOPEZ: How different of a president will you be, Ma’am?
VP LENI: To the two other women presidents, or to all the other presidents?
TONY LOPEZ: How different of a president will you be, Madame Vice President?
VP LENI: Compared to all the other presidents, sir, or just to the two women presidents?
TONY LOPEZ: How different of a President will you be, Madame Vice President?
MODERATOR: I don’t think Tony is hearing the clarification.
TONY LOPEZ: Maybe, VP Leni, you can answer it in the context of all the other presidents, and, in particular, of the two prior women presidents? Tony is having a bad connection.
VP LENI: Ah, okay. I’m very sorry about that, sir. You know, this is a very extraordinary time in our history. Unang-una, 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 office in the middle of a terrible crisis that we are in. So the focus of everything will really be in controlling the—controlling the disease. All the, you know—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—that is one.
Number two, I will be giving a lot of effort into fixing the bureaucracy and strengthening the institutions. As I’ve said, this is a very different time in the history of our country. In a sense, it’s like 1986. In a sense, it’s like 1986 that there are a lot of institutions to be fixed. The last five and a half years have seen—we have seen a weakening of institutions. So a lot of it will be, you know, a lot of focus will be on that. A lot of focus will be on governance. A lot of focus will be on fixing the kind of politics that we have. I see a fixing of the, you know, strengthening of our electoral laws. I will be doing a lot of effort into making sure that all the systems that will make corruption very difficult will be at hand. 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, you know, for what we need now.
As far as, no, in relation to the other women presidents, I feel that decisiveness does not have anything to do with gender. For me, government—an efficient government—is a government that gets the job done, and that is exactly what—that is exactly what we have shown at the OVP, what we are set to do. You know, we have seen decisiveness from many women leaders all over the world as they take the lead in the frontlines against this pandemic. We see very effective women leaders in New Zealand. We see Tsai Ing-wen—President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany. All of them are being recognized for the speed and 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 brought them through… has brought them through the entire pandemic. And, you know, I think this also bears pointing out, because 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 firm yet dignified, compassionate, empathetic, and thrives quietly yet decisively amidst adversity. I think we were able to—we were able to showcase that, the five and a half years that I was Vice President.
MODERATOR: Thank you, VP Leni. Our next questionnaire is Governor Obet. And by the way, we have reached a thousand in the audience. Those who have friends who want to join, we’ve posted the Facebook link in the chat box. Okay, so over to you, Governor Obet.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Thank you very much, Lito. We’ve reached a thousand, but hindi na kaya. Thank you very much, Ma’am. We’re talking about the number of crises that are being confronted with the country today. Now, here’s a question from a number of participants: Some sectors have floated the idea, Ma’am, the alleged billion-peso Pharmally anomaly, the looming case with the International Court of Justice, the worsening poverty and unemployment arising from the anemic response to the COVID pandemic, will push the President to declare—consider declaring Martial Law in the country. Have you considered this scenario, and how will you respond to this if it happens, Vice President?
VP LENI: Gov. Obet, I did not get the entire question because the audio was choppy, but I did get some of them. I did get some of them. So if—
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Okay, some sectors have floated the idea that the alleged billion-peso Pharmally anomaly, looming case in the International Court of Justice, the worsening poverty and unemployment rates arising from the anemic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will push the President to consider declaring martial law in the country. Do you consider this scenario and how will you respond to this if this happens?
VP LENI: Okay, Gov. Obet, I am not considering it at all. I don’t think there’s any need for it. The Pharmally scandal has been very frustrating because the alleged corruption is happening in the middle of the gravest health crisis of our time. But you know, any kind of corruption at any stage is unforgivable, especially because we are in the middle of a pandemic. And you know, we always hear government officials say that we do not have enough money, only to find out that there are irregularities such as this. In our minds, how could Pharmally get all these contracts without colluding with ranking government officials. I think it’s a fair question to be asked by the public and I hope that the ongoing investigation gets to the bottom of this. You know, the people need—the people deserve clean, honest, and accountable government, most especially in times of crisis.
But you know, Gov. Obet, I don’t think there’s any need for Martial Law. If there is… if there is a a need to declare anything, it’s really health and education crisis. There is no need for Martial Law to reign because we have, you know, we have enough laws that we can use to help us get through this crisis. If only government was more efficient, if only government was, you know, was more accountable—I have been pushing for government to declare an education crisis since last year. You know, we have been faring very, very badly in many of the international surveys as far as education is concerned. That’s one thing that needs extraordinary means. The health crisis is here already but it’s something that can be solved by good governance. There are a lot of things that we can do now which does not necessitate emergency powers. There’s a lot of—you know, people are already raising their—[interruption]
MODERATOR: Paki-unmute, Madam Vice President.
VP LENI: A lot of people are already raising their hands and offering to help and you know, I have said this in my speech already a while ago that it is just important for government to be the center of gravity. Of all the initiatives that are happening in our midst, it’s not like we need emergency or extraordinary powers to do that. We have the Bayanihan laws already. We have enough law to pull through this economic crisis. We just need good and effective governance.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Thank you very much, Ma’am. Thank you. Another wonderful answer.
MODERATOR: I’ll turn over to you, Director-elect Raffy.
RAFFY ALUNAN: My next question, Madam Vice President, is on foreign policy and national interest. In July 2016, the Philippines obtained favorable rulings in motions to the arbitral tribunal against China’s fictitious nine-dash line and its contemptible, intrusive, coercive and destructive behavior in our EEZ. Subsequently, the incumbent administration chose to focus on an independent foreign policy posture as stated in Article 2 Section 7 of the Constitution. Unfortunately, many see it rightly or wrongly as neither independent or balanced. My question is: what are your thoughts on this? Will you sustain the policy posture and in what ways will it differ in practice under your presidency?
VP LENI: Sec. Raffy, for me it will always be more beneficial to us to have an inclusive and independent foreign policy as opposed to one which favors specific countries. But that being said, for China, we will collaborate with them in areas that we have no conflict, such as trade and investments, much like what Vietnam has been doing. But when it comes to the West Philippine Sea, we cannot deal with them without their recognition of the arbitral ruling. For example, we only agree to joint oil exploration with them if there is first a recognition of our rights as declared by the arbitral tribunal. As for the United States being one of our oldest allies, we will continue strengthening our relations with them, especially given the fact that a lot of Filipinos are working and living there.
But we want to create better ties, especially in the areas of protection for our citizens, increasing exports, bolstering trade, military and intelligence capabilities, and of course, protecting the West Philippine Sea. We also need to strengthen our diplomatic relations with our other allies—the ASEAN countries, EU, Great Britain, Australia, and all the others. And in countries where there are large concentration of OFWs, we do all we can to cement bilateral agreements with them to ensure the protection of Filipinos and to ensure satisfactory labor conditions for them. We will be open to working with everyone so long as it is, of course, to the best interest of the Filipino people.
RAFFY ALUNAN: Thank you very much, Madam Vice President.
VP LENI: Thank you, Sec.
MODERATOR: Tony, you are next.
TONY LOPEZ: Yeah, Madam Vice President, I must say you are very good—you are super good.
VP LENI: [chuckles] Thank you, Sir.
TONY LOPEZ: You are super good and you really are surprising me. You know how to answer elegantly—[technical lag]—substantially. Now, my question is this: 30 million of our voters do not have a job. They want their jobs right now. What can you offer them, Ma’am, aside from slogans?
VP LENI: You know, it is very difficult to overpromise. But one thing that will bring jobs back is to make sure that the pandemic is under control. I have never subscribed to the false dichotomy of health versus the economy. For me, for us to be able to open our economy again, we have to control the virus first. We have to control the transmission first. It will be very difficult to say that—you know, I know that we have to live with the virus. But it is a different thing to live with them and not controlling them. So that will be the first. The first really is how can we effectively control the virus so that we can successfully open the economy already.
The second thing is confidence. You know, even before the pandemic happened, we already had problems with foreign direct investments. We were already filling in that particular aspect and confidence is one of the reasons why we’re not doing very well as far as attracting foreign investments are concerned. And there is a lot to be desired as far as, you know, gaining the confidence back so that foreign direct investments will once again flourish… will once again flourish in the country. That is as far as bringing in investments. As far as our local economy is concerned, we all know for a fact that a large swath of our businesses are MSMEs. A lot of them closed shop during the pandemic and that is equivalent to a lot of jobs lost. So one of the things I’ve been pushing since last year was not just offering low interest loans to our MSMEs. But really providing for a stimulus package for them. Meaning to say, conditional grants for our MSMEs so that they will be in a better position to open up again, provide jobs for those who became unemployed during the pandemic.
But you know, everything else is policy and how government inspires confidence. And to inspire confidence, you know, we have to make sure that corruption is in check. We have to make sure that we are offering our businesses a level playing field. We have to make sure that opportunities are fair and are equal as far as businesses are concerned. So it’s a whole lot of many different moving parts.
TONY LOPEZ: Thank you. But you don’t cite numbers on how many jobs you are going to create in the first six months, Ma’am.
VP LENI: Sir, as I have said earlier, I do not want to overpromise. I just can’t promise the number of jobs without really understanding what is the exact plane we are taking off from. I don’t have enough data to say that, you know, we have this much money to infuse in this particular activity. So as I have said, it’s many different moving parts and you know, one thing I can promise is I will make sure that my administration will inspire confidence as far as the business sector is concerned.
MODERATOR: Thank you, VP Leni. Thank you, Tony. By the way, for everybody’s understanding, VP Leni did not receive our questions in advance. And probably, that’s the reason why veteran publisher Tony Lopez is impressed. So anyway, let’s move on to Governor Obet, ano.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Yes. Madam Vice President, after—oh, I see there’s an audio problem. Can you hear me, Ma’am? After failed attempts to unify the opposition, you filed your COC for president and chose Senator Kiko Pangilinan as running mate who declared that he will be willing to give way to someone who may be deemed to enhance your chances of winning. Are you still open to the possibility of uniting the opposition at this stage, Madam Vice President?
VP LENI: You know, I will be very candid with you, Governor Obet. From,I think August until September, that is all I ever did. I have been visiting many of the contenders. I have been visiting many people in an attempt to… in an attempt to unite the opposition. But you know, I mentioned this earlier already that in those conversations, there was an acceptance that a lot of my non-negotiables would not be, you know, would not be answered. Of course, I cannot revel the details of all the discussions. I cannot reveal the details of the discussions but while unification was a very important objective—objective of all those talks—there was a limit. There was a limit to what we can unify behind.
When I decided to run for the vice presidency, it was my signal to move on already from all attempts to unify the personalities and the parties. But one of the things why—I’m sure you have heard of it already that I decided to run as an independent. My decision to run as an independent was really to send a very important message that we are open to those who want to join our cause—to share our vision of better governance for the country. I am still honorary chairman of the Liberal Party but running as an independent was our symbolic way of showing this openness. We have seen where hateful and divisive politics can lead our countries, especially during the pandemic, and my personal take on this is that now more than ever, we really need to put our people’s welfare first before politics.
We have been pushing for inclusivity and we have already started doing this after I filed by reaching out and talking to those who are not members of the party. From the start—as I have said—from the start, our goal has always been to forge the broadest unity possible. But the 2022 elections is not just about me or our party or between the personalities, it’s really the collective power of the people. So, we have already finalized our slate. I am not—I have not been authorized to reveal it first but if you look at our… After we announce our senatorial slate, you will see that our slate is composed of representatives from many different parties. At most, we would only have, I think, three from the Liberal Party. So, if unity was not possible among the presidential contenders, I have not given up on unifying our people. And we have seen from the response after the announcement and after the filing that we have been getting support from people who belong to different parties or people who were apolitical at first, now volunteering to help join our cause. So we are very hopeful that unity is still possible. Maybe not among the presidential contenders but definitely, among many different kinds of people from many different political affiliations.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Ma’am, you talked about inclusivity. May I just ask you a follow-up question. You’re doing very well in the surveys, according to the statistics, and this is a question from many from the floor: you’re doing very well with the A, B, Cs. But there are about 50 million voters who are not even social media members. How do you plan to reach out to them and win the support of the D, E demographics who constitute a great majority of the voters, Madam Vice President?
VP LENI: Actually, Gov. Obet, I also thought before that I was doing very well with—because the surveys will be A, B, C, then D and E, with D being the biggest voting bloc. I always thought that I did best in the A, B, C category but if you look at the numbers, that’s not the case. If you look at the numbers, I do very well with the E but I’m not doing well with D1 and C. Naka-lump po kasi siya A, B, C so we don’t really have good enough imagination na ilan ba doon sa A, B, C iyong C. Pero I’m not doing good with D and we’ve had many briefings already from survey companies and they’re saying that this is the population bloc that are on social media. So, iyong C at saka iyong—because there’s D1 and D2—iyong C and D1, that’s where I am not good at all. My numbers are very, very low doon sa C and D1. And iyong sa amin, iyong ine-explain sa amin, iyon iyong middle class. Iyon iyong middle class na are on social media. So the interpretation is that the propaganda against me over the past five and a half years have been very successful. Have been very successful that this is the bulk of the voters and this is the bulk who think that I am no good at all. So that is where we will concentrate our efforts. We continue to reach out to the A, B and the E. But we will pour in a lot of time and investment on the C and the D1 who are on social media. And because we do not have the resources for that, we are relying on volunteer support, which we have a lot of. It’s a good problem for us. After the announcement, we have been deluged with volunteers and we are trying to harness… we are trying to harness the enthusiasm and energy of our volunteers. So, we want to have stronger social media presence. But it’s not like the social media presence that have been—that was being pushed by some parties—but we want this to be a truth-telling kind of campaign just to break all the disinformation and the propaganda that has, you know, that has proliferated in social media for—since the elections of 2016. So it’s one of the things that we’re looking at very, very seriously.
OBET PAGDANGANAN: Thank you very much, Ma’am. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, VP Leni. We understand you have time constraints.
VP LENI: Yes, I have a 1:30 p.m. meeting, Sir.
MODERATOR: Okay, so I guess, one more question—one more will suffice.
VP LENI: Yes, yes. One more.
MODERATOR: It’s 1:27 p.m. na kasi and we still have more minutes for you know, sharing something with you. So over to Director Raffy, please. Can you please unmute?
RAFFY ALUNAN: Okay, can you hear me now? All right, I hope this can be answered in three minutes, Ma’am. The first 100 days of a president is traditionally meant to hit the ground running and lay the presidency’s cornerstones and foundations to define it. Based on what you’ve learned through the years in statecraft, from keen observation and actual experience, what can the Filipino people expect from you in your first 100 days in office? What matters to you most that you’d like to have most impact or imprint on the society?
VP LENI: Ako, the first question, Sec. Raffy, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, the first order of business is to really be controlling the pandemic. Focusing all our efforts on decreasing the number of COVID cases dramatically so we can fully reopen the economy. And to do this, we must realign the national budget so that it will be more akin to addressing the pandemic. We will be coming in from a set budget already. This means realigning the budget, allotting more funds for healthcare services and facilities, COVID-19 response, social services for Filipinos. This also means improving access to hospitals, building more facilities if needed, improving infrastructure to access COVID-19 vaccines, the logistical support for vaccines.
Time and again, I have said that health is the front-end domino. We address it and the rest of the challenges become less daunting. We will have a comprehensive plan—we already have a comprehensive plan on testing, tracing, treating, vaccination. We will empower our healthcare system, take better care of our medical frontliners, vaccinate as many people as possible. But to the next question, I have always said that it is good governance. It is really good governance that will pave the way for a better Philippines. It is good governance that will give the necessary changes that we have been dreaming of. So, one can expect a real focus on strengthening institutions, on cleaning the bureaucracy, setting platforms to ensure that good governance is in place. It’s really changing the entire culture of politics and governance in the country. It’s giving more space for people to directly participate in governance. More institutions that will make sure that transparency and accountability will be primordial. So it's many of those things.
RAFFY ALUNAN: Thank you very much.
TONY LOPEZ: Can I ask a question. Madam Vice President, before you leave?
MODERATOR: Puwede pa ba talaga?
VP LENI: Sir, sorry, I’m being called to the next meeting already, Sir. They are here already. So, I promise po if you can leave na lang in the chatbox, I can send the answers later.
MODERATOR: Yes, VP Leni. Tony, she has to go. VP Leni has to go. Thank you, Madam Vice President.
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