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    Vice Presidential Daughter Jessica “Aika” Robredo on the 2022 Presidential Bid of Vice President Leni Robredo

    Vice Presidential Daughter Jessica “Aika” Robredo on the 2022 Presidential Bid of Vice President Leni Robredo

    Rappler Talk

    Host: Mara Cepeda

    MARA CEPEDA: Hello and welcome. This is Mara Cepeda and this is Rappler Talk. We are here today with Aika Robredo, the eldest daughter of Philippine opposition leader and Vice President Leni Robredo who is running for president in the 2022 elections. Hello, Aika! Thank you for joining us today on Rappler Talk.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Hi, Mara! Thank you—thank you for having me and thank you for the invitation.

    MARA CEPEDA: We know it wasn’t easy for you and your sisters Tricia and Jillian to accept that your mother was going to run for president. And you know, when we spoke to VP Leni after she announced her candidacy, she said, “mahirap at mabigat” iyong naging usapan ninyong mag-iiina. And we know that this comes from a place of love, because of course you’re being protective also of your mother. What made your mother’s decision so much more difficult this time compared to her previous runs?

    AIKA ROBREDO: I think it’s—I can’t really say that it’s more difficult this time. Parang it’s so hard to compare the difficulty of this one versus the last one. But I will say that this is different. It’s different in the sense that back in 2015, parang it came to us as a surprise. Kaming magkakapatid, in our heads, the worst case scenario was she was going to run for re-election. It’s another three years in Congress. The best case scenario for us was wala na, tapos na siya. Exit na talaga siya sa politika. So back in 2015, when she told us that, you know, some of the people—I think there was maybe a group who suggested na siya na lang maging running mate ni Sec. Mar at that time. Parang kami at first, tingin namin para siyang, “Joke ba ‘to?” Kasi para siyang out of nowhere. And then as the, you know, habang tumatagal, we realized na serious. And then iyon talaga iyong media—I would say more dramatic in the sense kasi talagang iyong oposisyon naming magkakapatid noon, parang we could not understand why. And then fast forward to today, parang while lahat namin ayaw—and I think siya mismo, she worked really hard to, you know, look for other ways na baka hindi naman talaga niya kailangang tumakbo. Parang hindi siya surprising in the sense na, parang it was a possibility na tina-try siguro naming hindi isipin or hindi i-entertain because ayaw namin—ayaw namin siyang mangyari. And I think ano, I think fair naman siguro for us, her daughters, na talagang—parang coming from a place of love, sa amin ganoon din. So if puwede lang naman sana na hindi siya tumakbo, for us, huwag na lang. But my mother being my mother, kapag ano, eh, kapag once she decides on something and once she strongly feels that it’s something that she needs to do, parang kami ano na kami doon, kumbaga white flag na. And the most that we can do to help her is to not stress her out and give her our 100 percent support.

    MARA CEPEDA: Okay, VP Leni says this time it was more of a slow burn for the Robredo siblings to accept it. Can you tell us more about that? What does that mean? I mean, alam natin na mahaba iyong discernment process ni VP Leni. So ano iyong naging approach niyong magkakapatid doon sa process na iyon na gi-no through ng Nanay niyo?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Siguro to elaborate further on discernment, hindi siya iyong nakaupo lang sa isang tabi, nagmu-muni and just waiting for the answer to come to her. Kapag sinabing discernment process, it involves talking to different groups, talking to different people. And while, you know, kaming magkakapatid we are not involved in the discussions. We don’t know the details, the specifics, but we had some idea kung sino iyong mga ka-meeting niya, say, throughout the week. For example, this week, ito iyong mga kausap niya. Next week, si ganito. And if I am to illustrate, para siyang flow-chart na may Yes or No. So if si meeting with Person A is successful, then what happens? Meeting with—hindi ko alam, maybe if that’s really our way to sort of, parang siguro iyon din iyong pag-manage namin of the whole siutation, na parang iyong ending na tinitingnan namin sa dulo ng flow-chart, it won’t be her na tatakbo. And then mayroon siyang—I guess may mga ups and downs. There was a point where we thought the different groups that she was working so hard to unite, you know, would come up with something. And then akala namin parang, “Okay. This is it. Malapit nang matapos.” But I guess, after a day or two it didn’t happen. So parang back to the drawing board.

    So, like for us, parang we saw how hard she really tried. We saw all her efforts—parang grabe talaga iyong effort niya to try to bring in together different groups. And then towards the end, iyong—alam mo iyong options mo, para siyang funnel na towards the end paliit na nang paliit iyong different scenarios na I guess puwedeng maging outcome ng meetings. Parang kami, also to manage ourselves, parang medyo nararamdaman na, “Shocks, parang lumalaki iyong percentage na ito iyong magiging ending.” And dahil siguro updated din kami with what’s been happening, kumbaga noong dumating sa point na iyon, I guess hindi na rin kami super surprised? It was something that—parang iyon nga, we managed our own expectations. So that when that happens, more of iyong attitude na namin is more of, “Okay, what do we do about it? How can we help? Etc.” And I think, she mentioned also that it was more challenging to my youngest sister, si Jillian, because she’s not here. And kami naman kasi sanay kami na like as a family, makuwento, ma-update. So it was just really important to keep her in the loop. Kasi I’m sure, tama naman na iyong conclusion na is the same as me and Tricia na mukhang iyon nga iyong ending.

    MARA CEPEDA: Now can you take us behind the scenes of your discussions with your own mother? Nagkukuwento ba siya—you said ‘di ba na parang you sort of have an idea kung sino iyong mga ka-meeting niya pero I wonder, does your mother, you know, sit down with you guys and ask for your opinion na, “Ito iyong sinabi sa akin ni Candidate X or ni Group X”? And siguro, I’m asking this because your mother has been criticized to have been very indecisive or iyong iba parang scheme lang daw iyong unification efforts dahil in the end tumakbo rin siya. So you know your mother best. How tough really was that discernment process for her?

    AIKA ROBREDO: I think what people need to know about her is that she listens to everyone. But ultimately, when she makes the decision, sa kaniya talaga nanggagaling iyon. So every time na—kinukuwento niya what happened with so and so meeting and then ano iyong mga potential outcomes of meeting with, you know, with this person and that person. Pero well, kami naman kasi hindi mo kami kailangan hingian ng opinions, I guess, kasi may sinasabi pa lang siya—alam mo iyong kapag may friends kayo na may kinukuwento iyong isang kabarkada mo and then, “Hay nako, si ganito, ganiyan.” So I think medyo ganoon iyong dynamics namin sa bahay.

    But kami, we—siguro kami iyong best source to say na siya iyong tipong kahit grabe iyong sinasabi niya, kahit grabe iyong pressure, grabe iyong sinasabi, maraming voices, maraming opinions, I think kumbaga parati siyang may clarity of thought and I think that’s also something na kapat tinatanong mo siya na, “What do you pray for every night?” And parang doon parati iyong focus niya na every time she would make a decision, kailangan it has to come from her. Kailangan tama iyong reasons behind [kung] bakit ganoon iyong naging desisyon niya.

    And ano ba, I think siguro iyon din iyong common misconception na ‘di ba, you see all these things on social media na puppet daw o she doesn’t listen to ganiyan ganiyan. And I think people na she worked with before or people na kasama niya, anywhere, actually, would tell you na siya iyong taong hindi mo talaga madidiktahan kasi she takes all these seriously and alam niya na behind her decision, ultimately siya naman iyong magiging responsible sa desisyon na she makes each time.

    MARA CEPEDA: Aika, can you take us behind the scenes of that day VP Leni told you, Tricia and Jillian na, “Okay, tatakbo na ako.” I mean, may ganoon bang conversation. And when was that—when did that happen? At home? And how did it feel noong sinabi na ng nanay mo na, “Okay, ito na. Tatakbo na talaga ako.”

    AIKA ROBREDO: Actually, ano, eh, parang wala siyang conversation na umupo kami and then, iyon na nga, because we’ve been updated on, you know, on what’s been happening, what’s been going on with the—kami naman ano, eh, less on the details and more of, “so what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen?” Parang mas ganoon kami. And ultimately, to something that I guess Tricia and I just assumed. And then siguro towards the end of the series of meetings, ina-update namin si Jillian na kahit—without even telling her na malamang ganoon na nga ang mangyayari, siya mismo nag-arrive na sa ganoong conclusion, and then to the point na, you know, the conversation just became, “So when do you plan to announce or—“ Mas ganoon na siya. And it wasn’t na she had to sit us all down and tell us, “This is what’s gonna happen,” etc. But you know, if you know her well enough and you talk to her regularly enough, it’s not something that she needs to tell you. And parang—tingin ko nga at some point, medyo napangunahan namin siya in a way na iyong mga tanong namin, “Okay, kailan and then sino iyong running mate?” And then she was like, “Wait lang. Wala pa tayo diyan. I need to settle this and this first before we go to that.” So hindi siya iyong tipong mga nai-imagine siguro natin sa mga drama na, “Okay, mga anak, dito kayo lahat…” [laughter]

    MARA CEPEDA: May meeting.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Hindi talaga siya ganoon. I guess hindi kami ma-drama as a family so walang ganoon.

    MARA CEPEDA: Pero na-mention mo rin kanina, ‘di ba, and nag-post si VP Leni noong isang araw na si Jillian talaga iyong pinaka-against. Siyempre siya iyong apo—ay, iyong bunso, sorry about that—and I guess mas gusto sana niyang more time to spend with your mother na kumpleto kayong mag-iina. Papaano mo hinandle din iyon siguro bilang eldest, bilang pinaka-ate diyan sa family niyo? Paano niyo kinakausap si Jillian regarding this discernment?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Si Jillian kasi ano, eh, parang—matalino naman kasi iyong batang iyon, eh. Parang iyong important lang, even for me and Tricia, it was just really a conscious effort on our part to update her and keep her in the loop on the things that we also know. Kasi even without telling her na—parang you don’t need—we didn’t need to spell it out for her kasi alam namin na maiintindihan niya kung bakit ganoon. Although siya rin kasi since she’s in her senior year and in college, parang ang dami niyang plano sana na, “Uy, gagraduate ako next year. Ang dami nating puwedeng gawin kasi sakto, matatapos na iyong term mo.” Parang ano, eh…

    MARA CEPEDA: Vacation ba dapat?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Many things. Kasi actually sa amin, siguro malapit na mag-one year na hindi sila nagkikita. And siya iyong—parati naming sinasabi—siya iyong favorite ng nanay namin. [laughs] And I think when my mom ran for Congress, si Jillian was just 12 years old at that time. So iyong tingin niya, parang parati siyang may ka-share doon sa times na dapat siya lang iyong bunso or sa kaniya lang. And ngayon, she’s what, she’s 21 years old. So parang nagka-countdown talaga siya to the last day of, I guess, of my mom’s term. But kami naman ano, eh, Jillian being Jillian, ano naman iyon, eh, the moment na—parang siyempre, siyempre it was hard for her to sort of accept. While I know she understood why, siyempre iba iyong coming to terms with it versus understanding it and now, after naman noon, iyong questions niya na—“so how can I help her here? What can I do from here?” Or nag-offer pa siya na, “Can I go home kasi baka mas marami akong magawa diyan,” you know. Kami naman, once ano na, eh, once nagsimula na, game time na rin kaming tatlo.

    MARA CEPEDA: You mentioned na, you know, mahirap iyong struggle having to feel like you have to share your mother with the rest of the country. Mahirap iyon. Many of us will never have to, you know, deal with that kind of a problem, ‘di ba. And your family has been, you know, on the receiving end of the most brutal attacks, the most vicious attacks, especially your mother. And yet when duty calls, kayong magkakapatid ready kayo to share you mom again—do the possibility of having to share your mom again with the rest of the country. Saan niyo hinuhugot iyong lakas na iyon, kayong magkakapatid?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Ang hirap sagutin niyan. I think, ako kasi I think, like for example, Mara—ako, all my life, my dad was already in politics so I was born six days before his first election as mayor. I guess being attacked by his political opponents was something that I have gotten used to even at a young age. And siguro, iyong growing up years namin na na-emphasize lang na, you know, it is really important for us to figure out or at least determine ano ba talaga iyong bagay na mahalaga sa amin. And hindi—walang room for selfishness na iyong iniisip mo lang is your own personal discomfort or your own personal inconveniences. Given na parating mayroon ka noon, I guess forever siyang challenge. But ultimately, ‘di ba, parang iniisip mo ano naman iyong… ano iyong kapalit noong kaunting inconveniences and kaunting discomfort.

    And you mentioned being attacked online—kailan ba, so election 2015, 2016, and then nag-VP siya. I think after maybe 2017, parang iyong feeling kasi namin lahat ng puwedeng sabihin about her nasabi na. So I don’t think may lalabas pa that would surprise us or would shock us or would affect us. Parang rehash na lang siya paulit-ulit of what’s been said over the past years na tingnan natin kung mas creative sila this time, I guess—[laughs]—kung may bago. Pero honestly parang ano, parang hindi siya—like for us, it’s not something we even stress about or think about anymore, even maybe to a fault kasi—like, I think my mom would always say na sana pala early on, kinounter na natin iyong attacks kasi kapag hinayaan mo lang, sometimes people will start believing na, you know, what’s online, na iyon talaga iyong totoo. Pero in terms of kami, if it’s something that we worry about or we stress about, parang tingin ko wala. Parang lugi na sila, I think, at this time kasi kumbaga, alam mo iyong parang na-practice ka na, na-warm up ka na for the past six years. And I guess ano, kumbaga, iyong shock factor siguro ngayon mas challenge na for them than for us.

    MARA CEPEDA: Okay. Now, VP Leni said in a Rappler Talk interview a few weeks back na in all things that she does, it’s always, “what would Jesse do?” What do you think your father would have to say if he were alive today and your mother is running for president?

    AIKA ROBREDO: I think ano, siguro aasarin niya na, “Oh, akala ko ba ano… Akala ko ba…” But at the same time, though, I think kung hindi rin siya iyong asawa ng tatay ko, I don’t think she would be in this position to—kasi tingin ko malaking bagay na… Siguro nakakahawa din. Iyong tatay ko even in conversations we had at home, parati niyang iniisip, “ano kaya iyong mas mabuti para sa Naga, para sa bayan,” etc. And siguro, unconsciously, nag-rub off on us na… I guess how we see the future going forward, parati siyang it’s a question of, “ano ba iyong puwede mong magawa?” or “ano iyong puwede mong gawin?” And if there are things na you could have done but didn’t do na sana, you know, halimbawa would’ve made a difference in making the city, a country a better place tapos hindi mo ginawa, parang that’s really on you. So, siya it’s always—in anywhere or in any discipline or in any organization, I guess, that we find ourselves. And kailangan, mahanapan mo ng way para magkaroon siya ng saysay for you.

    MARA CEPEDA: How did you feel—now let’s go to the mismong candidacy announcement ni VP Leni—how did you feel when the so-called “pink revolution” started happening and social media feeds have been flooded with pink? VP Leni says ‘di ba it wasn’t a color planned at all.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Hindi talaga! Kasi if you would notice, we were all wearing blue kasi we thought blue was going to be the color. I don’t even remember—parang the days or the day before, Tricia and I were messaging her, “So ano iyong plano tomorrow? Do we have a color?” etc. Parang you had maybe 10,000 questions and you know you can’t answer those 10,000 questions so parang na-manage mo rin na important questions na lang itatanong mo. So I think when they told us na parang blue yata tomorrow, so kami, “Okay, what kind of blue? What shade of blue?” Parang no more time to ask, “Bakit blue? Bakit hindi—“ Parang ano na, eh, because pressed for time na nga, eh, and there are other things to think about, sumunod na lang kami. And I think late—iyong mga the night before, we were seeing posts on social media na pink. So parang kami, “Wait, sure ka ba na blue kasi baka pink?” So parang kami, “Hindi, bahala na. Bahala na tomorrow.” You know, “Let’s just figure out kung anong mangyayari the next day.” So the next day, we stuck to the original plan. We were all in blue. And then when we got to her office, parang doon nagsabi na, “Hindi, all the people who have been supporting you or have been asking you to run, parang pink iyong color nila.” So kami na lang iyong nag-adapt…

    MARA CEPEDA: Kayo na nag-adjust.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Oo, kami na iyong nag-pink masks. Parang sabi ko nga, “hindi ba weird iyong pink masks sa blue?” But mukhang okay naman. But I think ano iyon, eh, inspiring iyon for us especially—even after one week, even ngayon na it’s been what, a week after—almost a week after she filed and announced. Kasi anything you see online, parang lahat iyon crowdsourced—the color that she used, puro crowdsourced, especially ngayon medyo fixing pa kami, the organization and the whole campaign structure. So for us, very, very inspiring iyon kasi we didn’t really expect the support to be this overwhelming. Isa iyon sa mga—I would say pangamba namin na… Para siyang ano, eh, parang lumundag ka na lang talaga na parang sige, because you know… Well, before kasi siya nag-decide na tumatakbo, ultimately iyong tinatanong naming magkakapatid, “Sige kung mag-e-endorse ka sa kanila, sino ba iyong may closest sa core na paniniwala mo, and kaya mo ba?” And ngayon na parang hindi, you don’t, you know—you don’t unify for the sake of unification, may values that are really important to you. And parang tingnan natin. Parang kung baga, “laban na” iyon ang paniniwala niya.

    So for us, we are very humbled by the continued show of support, na parang kumbaga tama din na kami iyong nag-adjust sa color na gusto nila kasi ultimately, I don’t think even the whole—even the strength to go about the day-to-day and thinking ahead na parang overwhelming iyong campaign, ‘di ba, without siguro that show of support. Sobrang encouraging siya for us na parang, “hindi, sige, kaya natin ito. Kasi kung sila nga na hindi natin kaano-ano, and sila nga na, you know, matagal ng naniniwala sa kaniya have been sticking to us until this time…” Sana, ano, sana lang tuloy-tuloy and sana lang hindi sila mapagod.

    MARA CEPEDA: Okay. Aika, now, mag-one week after VP Leni announced her candidacy, ano na ngayon iyong ginagawa niya in terms of her campaign? I understand nag-o-organize pa. She has to play catch up kasi literally, sabi niya last minute din iyong naging decision niya to run for president, finally, at kalaban niya, mga matagal nang nag-se-setup ng makinarya. So paano ngayon iyong schedule ni VP Leni? Nakakauwi pa ba siya ng maaga these days sa inyo?

    AIKA ROBREDO: She tries to be home at least—parang tina-try pa rin niya kaming habulin for dinner, pero hati talaga iyong oras niya, kasi even—kahit start na iyong meetings—I think she attends several—series of meetings related to the campaign—hindi niya pa rin iniiwan siyempre iyong work niya sa OVP. Especially ngayon, may areas na na tinamaan iyong bagyo. Parang tuloy-tuloy pa rin iyon—I think iyon din iyong rule niya sa start na kung gagawin niya ito, kailangan iyong existing na initiatives and projects ni OVP hindi magbago, kasi iyon naman especially iyong mahalaga at this point. So at least from what I know, tuloy-tuloy iyong meetings niya sa office. I think iyan din iyong advantage ngayon na pandemic, halos lahat online. So in terms of productivity, mas marami rin siyang natatapos. A lot of the campaign management and organization, talagang surrender na rin kay Sen. Bam because siya din iyong campaign manager. Para talagang heaven-sent iyon sa amin. I don’t think magkaka-lakas ng loob iyong Nanay ko to run kung hindi niya campaign manager si Sen. Bam.  Kasi at least malaking load of the whole organization, of the whole structure, etc., talagang si Sen. Bam na iyong nag-iisip. So half siya ngayon, OVP and then, campaign. I think marami din silang hinihintay pang guidelines from COMELEC as to how to go about the campaigns especially nasa pandemic pa tayo ngayon.

    MARA CEPEDA: So kampante kayong magkakapatid that your mother got Senator Bam again as her campaign manager, this time?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Oo naman, very much. At saka okay din, I guess sanay na rin sila sa styles ng isa’t-isa. And I really can’t imagine anyone else na magte-take on ng role na iyon kung hindi si Sen. Bam.

    MARA CEPEDA: And how about si Senator Kiko, isa din iyon. In a way, parang pareho iyong narrative ni VP Leni and ni Senator Kiko in terms of, you know, accepting the offer to be the running mate and we know you’re quite close also to Senator Kiko. Tingin mo, ano iyong value ni Senator Kiko being tapped as the running mate of your Mother, even if it was a last minute decision? Alam natin, mabigat na mabigat iyon for Senator Kiko.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Iyong sa amin, I think, ever since kasi, I remember noong binanggit ni—ng nanay namin na si Sen. Kiko iyong magiging VP, parang lahat kami, para kaming collective exhale na magkakapatid—

    MARA CEPEDA: Really?

    AIKA ROBREDO: —na si Sen. Kiko iyon. Kasi ano eh, alam mo iyong kampante ka, magaan siya dalhin, magaan siya i-kampanya. And then mayroon yata kami, the first encounter na mayroon kami—nahanap iyon ni Tricia—iyong first encounter namin with Sen. Kiko na medyo prolonged na, I guess, interaction, was when my mom was running for Congress in 2012, 2013. Pumunta si Sen. Kiko sa Naga, and sinamahan siya to campaign in some areas. So may picture pa kaming tatlo na kasama siya. Sabi ko, “shocks, ito iyong start.” And then, I think, ano, very important talaga na iyong ka-partner niya, pareho sila ng mga paniniwala. Parang hindi mo kailangan mag-worry kung iyong mga importante ba sa iyo, iyong core mo, iyong mga bagay na hindi mo kino-compromise, ganoon din iyong paniniwala ng ka-partner mo. So noong sinabi niya na si Sen. Kiko, parang for us, magaan siya—magaan siya dalhin, magaan siyang ipakilala, and proud kami na siya iyong napiling running mate.

    MARA CEPEDA: So you had concerns when, you know, VP Leni was talking to other—other presidential contenders who, you know, have been criticized as being enablers of Duterte, or, you know, fence-sitters? Ano iyong mga naging concerns niyo doon magkakapatid na, “hala baka ito iyong maging ka-partner ni Mama kapag tumakbo siyang President?” I mean, just curious.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Mayroon naman, but I guess, ano, para siyang attorney—client privilege. I think, ano—you know, even si Jillian, para siyang ano, like kung may therapist ka, kung ano man maging discussion niyo, sa inyo na lang. But si Jillian, even siya na kahit nasa New York siya, very emphatic siya kapag sinasabing, “kailangan sa stand na ganito, firm ka. Hindi ka puwedeng—” Parang, I think sa aming tatlo malinaw kasi kung ano iyong important for us, ano iyong hindi. Parang for some people may gray areas, but may certain issues talaga na we see it as black and white. So kapag—kapag parang iyon pa lang, eh—halimbawa, kami, it would be easy for us to say anyone but si Mama ang tatakbo para lang hindi siya tumakbo. But objectively, kapag tinanong—I think si Jillian and I had this conversation—parang sabi niya, “Hay naku, bakit kasi si Mama—anyone but her.” So sabi ko, “okay, kung hindi siya, sino iyong kaya mong mag-campaign wholeheartedly na, you know, you would knock on the different doors and convince them na, ‘this is my President. Pareho kami ng paniniwala especially on issue A, B, and C.’”

    MARA CEPEDA: Okay. So iyong mga non-negotiables ba na iyan, would include human rights, the Marcoses? Maybe you could name the non-negotiables na hinahanap niyo for, you know, the running mate of your mother?I have to try! [laughter]

    AIKA ROBREDO: Nabanggit ko nga na okay na iyon [inaudible overlap] I think, you know, she’s been very clear on where she stands on those issues, especially doon sa top two na na-mention mo. I think important iyon to her, important iyon to us, important iyon, actually, to a lot of people. And while it would be a good idea sana to, you know, grow your numbers and—and iyon na, parang may certain issues talaga na pag iyon iyong ki-nompromise mo, parang, “bakit pa,” ‘di ba? Iyong favorite line ko nga sa speech niya, “Kung hindi mo man lang masabi kung ano iyong tama or mali, kanino ka ba talaga pumapanig or kumakampi?” So, iyon, I think, ano iyon, eh, nag-resonate iyon, especially sa akin. Naalala ko, nagtinginan pa kami ni Tricia. Kasi iyon talaga iyong iniisip mo, eh, “ano iyong mga bagay na willing ka i-compromise, and ano iyong hindi?” Especially sa ganitong panahon, important talaga to, you know, take a stand on the things that are non-negotiables for you.

    MARA CEPEDA: Aika, now, how do you plan to campaign for your mother in 2022? What kind of involvement can we expect from the Robredo siblings? Siyempre, you guys are much older now. Can we expect na mayroon kayong official position or role in the campaign team siguro? Especially you, you have experience in public service.

    AIKA ROBREDO: I think, ano—kami even—so, the whole time na nasa Congress siya or OVP siya, clear sa family namin hindi talaga maging involved ang family sa official work or official function. And I think sa campaign ganoon din. Parang even noong 2016, the most involvement I had as far as the organization was concerned at that time was really just iyong volunteer management, but everything else, sila na. Iyong pinaka assignment namin last time—and probably until this campaign is—parang surrogates na lang kami na if she can’t attend this and this, kami iyong mag-re-represent sa kaniya. And okay naman kami. Game na kami ngayon. Kumbaga, waiting for instructions na lang kami sa commander kumbaga kung ano iyong next steps. Pero kasi, siguro natutunan din namin na, you know, over time na pangit din kapag iyong family members masyadong ding nakikialam doon sa official and iyong sa, you know—parang, “let them do their jobs and then sumunod na lang kayo.” Parang iyon iyong pinaka-efficient din para isa lang iyong kumukumpas.

    MARA CEPEDA: Now, Aika, VP Leni said in her candidacy announcement speech that she is a mother figure for not just sa inyong magkakapatid but for all Filipinos suffering under Duterte. How is she like as a mother, and if she is going to be mother figure for the rest of us, Filipinos, why would that be good for the Philippines?

    AIKA ROBREDO: How is she as a mother? I think, iba siguro. Depende on what stage of your life. Kasi kami, growing up, especially growing up, talagang tough love siya. Talagang disiplina, talagang kumbaga—I guess iyong kasi iyong formative years mo. parang iyong goal naman niya at that time na, “Oh, kapag lumaki kayo, kailangan kaya niyo mag-function independently without me. Kailangan confident ako na kahit wala—kahit hindi ko kayo kasama, kaya niyo on your own.” And iyon iyong—iyon talaga iyong ano—iyon iyong, siguro iyong pinaka-goal niya growing up noong mga maliliit pa kami. And then as we got older, parang iyong kind of mother that she is, parati siyang ano, always at a safe distance na always there, always supportive, na she won’t hesitate to call you out kapag tingin niya mali ka. Kami, specifically, kung mayroon kang problema, that’s something na kailangan you solve on your own—mas independence, I guess, iyong focus niya sa amin. And I think iyong tinitingnan ko is kung paano niya pinatakbo iyong—iyong OVP. And iyong ugali niya parati is, palagi siyang she makes the most of kung ano iyong mayroon siya at that time. We all know na napaka-limited iyong resources ng OVP, and yet she made a lot of things happen. Kung tatanungin mo iyong mga staff niya kung strict ba siya as a boss, I’m sure sasabihin nila lahat, “Oo.” And minsan kapag may napapagalitan siya, para kaming nagkaka-flashbacks ng aming growing up years. I think, ano, naiintindihan naman nila ano iyong goal or kung bakit siya ganoon ka-strict. Kasi mayroon siyang objective in mind na, “Ito iyong goal natin at the end of it. Iyong opisina natin, nag-e-exist to serve kung sino iyong—kung sino iyong mga kababayan natin.” And I think parang siya—I don’t think you ever heard her complain na, “Eh kasi hindi namin ito kaya because iyong budget, etc.” Parati siyang, “Hindi, kailangan natin gawan ng paraan. Kailangan may sistema. Kailangan maayos.” Which is, throughout the pandemic, I think kung kailangan namin ipakita how she works, I think balikan na lang natin how she handled the COVID-19 response. Kasi para siyang ano, eh, para siyang summary of how she is as a leader, mobilizing different groups, different resources and then abutin iyong mga specially malalayo na wala masyado access.

    MARA CEPEDA: Aika, pakilala mo sa amin lalo si VP Leni as a mother, now that she’s running for President, what’s one thing that most people don’t know about VP Leni that now you want the rest of the Filipinos to know, especially heading into 2022?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Nako, parang hindi ko alam ano pa iyong ire-reveal ko. [laughter] I think ano lang, if there’s anything siguro kaming magkakapatid—ito mas coming from siguro something personal na if there’s one thing na we don’t question, it’s my mother’s gut or my mother’s vibe, or kung ano iyong kapag sinasabi niyang, “Pakiramdam ko, ito iyong kailangan kong gawin.” Minsan, marami kaming discussions at home on different things, normal to disagree to have varying opinions on different issues. Pero minsan ano, eh, minsan kailangan—gaya kami, tiwala kami sa kaniya. Kapag when she says something na we probably don’t understand kung bakit ganoon iyong decision niya, or kung bakit nag-end up na iyon iyong pa-planuhin gawin. Pero because of our experience since pinanganak kami all the way to present, the one thing that we do not question is iyong kaniyang gut and iyong kaniyang vibe. I guess siguro to also give confidence na—siya talaga ano, eh, she listens to everybody pero never siyang nagpa-dikta kung ano dapat iyong magiging decision niya on certain things. She believes in the—alam ko one of the criticisms I think prior to her announcement was her indecisiveness or bakit daw ang tagal-tagal mag-decide. But sa akin it’s more of, “bakit mo kailangan madaliin iyong isang bagay na grabe iyong kalakip na responsibilities once you say yes?” She’s true to her word. Kapag sinabi niyang, “Oo, lalaban ako,” she will see it through until the end, hindi—walang atrasan iyan kasi nag-commit na siya and marami din nag-commit for her. Siguro iyong assurance lang na she has always been her own person. She will always listen to you. And I guess siguro at times—although, baka siguro mas makaka-appreciate lang, kaming mga anak—siguro at times na hindi namin masyadong naiintindihan, magtiwala ka lang kasi later on, mas maiintindihan mo kung bakit ganoon iyong calls niya or bakit ganoon iyong decisions niya.

    MARA CEPEDA: Aika, winding down to my last few questions for today, should VP Leni win in 2022, she would be the second widow in Malacañang. What role do you think that would play in the Palace, if any?

    AIKA ROBREDO: What role in being the second—I think, ano, siguro it’s maybe a—iyong nakikita ko kasi ngayon, ‘di ba, how do people define strength? And iyong sa kaniya, sometimes tingin ko, iyong strength comes from restraint, iyong strength comes from empathy. Iyong strength comes from understanding. And you will see, actually, even—I guess, even the countries with female leaders na ganoon iyong approach nila sa pandemic, nakita natin na iyon iyong effective. And that, I guess, siguro iyon iyong misconception—for me, at least. Iyon iyong naiiisip ko na, if or when she does win next year as the 17th President, siguro mare-redefine niya kung ano iyong ibig sabihin ng strength and kung ano iyong whole approach niya to a whole lot of things. And I do think na iyon iyong kailangan din ng bansa natin, especially maraming kailangan ayusin, especially ngayon, actually, hindi pa rin tapos iyong pandemic. And maybe that kind of approach, and that kind of strength na mayroon siya, baka iyon iyong mag-spell ng difference between where we’re at right now, as to kung ano man iyong hino-hope natin maging tayo in the, I guess in the future.

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Medyo nag-ha-hang si Aika. Can you hear me again? Okay naman?


    MARA CEPEDA: Mayroon tayong work-from-home problems, eh. Now, Aika, there was a time that there were actually calls for you to run for public office in Naga. And in the Philippines kasi, parang may expectation ba for—na kapag anak ka ng politiko—at dalawang pulitiko pa iyong magulang mo—someday, you will look—you will run for public office as well. but, you know, you seem so sure that you don’t want it, at least, right now. Why so? I mean, you have the experience in public office. That’s why you earned that very prestigious fellowship scholarship in Harvard.

    AIKA ROBREDO: I think, Mara, that’s precisely the reason why I don’t want to run. Kasi all my life, I’ve been in the backseat of all my parents’ elections. Lahat-lahat kami. And we really know na iyong commitment kasi, when you are a government official, hindi siya iyong parang 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. corporate job na kapag umuwi—parang ‘di ba, you can’t compartmentalize home-life, etc. Pero kumbaga iyong government service kasi, parang wala, iyon talaga, responsible ka or kailangan mo managot sa lahat ng tao. And hindi ka puwedeng magreklamo. Kailangan hindi—walang problema na puwede kang atrasan. Kailangan lahat mo sila harapin, lahat mo sila solusyunan. And, I don’t know, I guess, sabihin na natin na putting the work part aside, iyong rule din namin sa family, talagang isang tao lang sa amin iyong nasa politika, hindi puwedeng madoble. Iyong joke ko nga sa nanay ko before, sabi ko, “Ako na lang kaya mag-file para sure na hindi ka na mag-file?” [laughter] Pero siyempre empty threats leading towards September-October kapag jino-joke ko siya. “Kung mag-file na lang kaya ako, ano, para tigilan ka na?” And kasi ‘di ba one in the family lang? So parang naging running joke siya for a time. But, really, I think ibang—ibang klase iyong… Siguro mataas iyong level of respect din naming magkakapatid sa kind of commitment that is required of every government official. And kung hindi buong—kung hindi ka buong-buo na willing ibigay iyon, eh then dapat hindi ka nandoon. Kung nandoon ka for any other reason, or if it’s half-hearted, or it’s just to kung ano man, placeholder for something, I think ano, siguro hindi dapat ganoon iyong trabahong papasukan mo.

    MARA CEPEDA: For my final question for today, Aika, your parents have been regarded as two of the best leaders to hold office in this country. What lessons on leadership, governance and public service have you learned from Jesse and Leni that you hope the rest of the country would learn from, too?

    AIKA ROBREDO: Parati nilang sinasabi na combination siya of different things, na kailangan matino, kailangan mahusay, kailangan may puso, kailangan consistent, hindi lang iyong pang-eleksyon o pang-kampanya. Kailangan all your life, kailangan the whole time na nasa—the whole time na elected ka, consistent iyon lahat. Actually, dapat nga titingnan mo rin ano iyong—both of my parents, even before they became public servants or public officials, kung babalikan natin iyong track record nila, parati kong sinasab nai iyong consistency of the kind of people that they’ve always been, makikita natin doon. I guess iyon siguro iyong pinanghawakan ko or pinaka-proof ko na any kind of position na hawakan nila in the future, kung ano man sila, even before they became known to a lot of people, then ganoon talaga sila as mga tao. And, yeah, kahit— ‘Di ba sinasabing hindi puwedeng magaling lang, hindi puwedeng mabait lang, hindi puwedeng matino lang, it has to be a combination of all those things. Kailangan pakinggan lahat. Kailangan maging inclusive. Kailangan hindi lang—kailangan iyong point of view mo is, kailangan sama-sama kayo lahat. Leaders kayo of the people of who both like you and who do not like you, and dapat wala silang pinipili.

    MARA CEPEDA: And on that note, thank you so much, Aika, for joining us today. And good luck sa next seven months ng campaign. I bet it’s really gonna be one busy couple of months for you and VP Leni and your siblings.

    AIKA ROBREDO: Thank you, Mara! Thank you again for having me today.

    MARA CEPEDA: All right. Once again, that was Aika Robredo, eldest daughter of Vice President and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo for the 2022 elections. I am Mara Cepeda. This was Rappler Talk. Join us again next time.


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    Posted in Transcripts on Oct 19, 2021