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    #WeDecide: The First 100 days with Leni Robredo

    #WeDecide: The First 100 days with Leni Robredo
    Rappler Offices


    [START]

    MARIA RESSA: Hello and welcome, I am Maria Ressa. This is #WeDecide, the first one hundred days of Leni Robredo. Thank you so much for coming to Rappler, Vice President.

    VP LENI: Thank you, thank you.

    MARIA RESSA: So, you're one of– you have a lead to catch up to in the surveys, how important are the surveys, but you know I am a voter. Convince me to vote for you.

    VP LENI: Ako, kailangan kasi 'yung tao kinukumbinse natin sila to look at the track record. To look at the track record and to look at the character. Unang-una 'yung character palabas pa lang tayo sa isang pandemic. So, anong klase 'yung leadership qualities ng susunod na presidente na mahalaga sa isang bansa na nanggagaling sa isang pandemic na marami siyang kailangang asikasuhin? 'Yun number one. Napakita ko during the six years that I was Vice President na mahusay ako sa krisis. Mahusay ako sa mga difficult situations. Mabilis akong mag-isip saka magalaw. My ability to inspire not just the office pero my ability to inspire the private sector to be involved. And I think that's a very important element and component na kinakailangan natin to re-build– to re-build the nation after the pandemic. Hindi kaya ng gobyerno na siya lang 'yung gagalaw. Kailangan na kailangan na 'yung private sector should own the problem, should be part of the solution, and I have proven that in the six years that I was Vice President, 'yun 'yung una.

    Pangalawa, 'yung track record. Pinakita ko din not just during the time that I was Vice President, but when I was in Congress, all the years that I wasn't in politics yet. Pinakita ko that I am one leader who leads from the front, na hindi ako isang leader na nakaupo lang sa opisina at nag-oorder. I do not ask of anyone what I can not do myself, and I think that's very important given the times that we're in. Pag pinakita 'yung mga tinatayuan ko sa lahat na issues, I've been very consistent. Hindi ito put-on, I think itong track record na ito is also what inspires people to be part of the solution, knowing na kabahagi ako. Kabahagi ako ng pagod. I put in as much energy and as much number of hours in the work that we do. Very extra– we live in very extraordinary times. Not just because of the pandemic but because of the many different, complicated things that we're dealing with. 'Yung energy crisis, 'yung inflation, maraming mga– 'yung education crisis na kinakailangan talaga isang lider na babad sa realities on the ground para– the best solutions I would like to believe come from people who have undergone and have felt how difficult it is– 'yung pinagdaanan ng maraming mga kababayan natin.

    MARIA RESSA: Okay. I'm gonna fast forward. Some of the first thing you said is you know, qualities of leadership, okay. So, now you've won. You're President. What are the first three things you would do as President?

    VP LENI: Ako number one kasing problema natin ngayon, trabaho. 'Yung trabaho 'yung pinakaproblema and you know, during the entire campaign period, 'yung overarching theme of our campaign really is "Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat" pero it encapsulates a lot of many different things. And 'yung kakulangan sa trabaho, problema sa edukasyon, problema sa kalusugan. Ito talaga, ang pinakabuod nito para makabalik– hindi lang makabalik tayo sa pinanggalingan natin pre-pandemic, pero malampasan natin 'yung lahat na problemang pinagdadaanan. 'Yung confidence ng tao sa gobyerno niya eh, 'yung tao gagalaw, 'yung investors papasok pag naniniwala siya na 'yung gobyerno niya hindi lang malinis pero alam 'yung ginagawa.

    So, ang pinakauna ko talagang gagawin is to convey the message na my administration is serious about the many things that it set it self out to do. Para sa investors 'yung level playing field, the assurance na hindi– zero tolerance for corruption. Kasi pag inayos natin 'yung ekonomiya natin, papasok 'yung trabaho. 'Yung education, even before the pandemic, we have been faced with a crisis of a magnitude na talagang kailangan talagang tanggapin natin na sobrang sadsad na tayo. So, 'yung sa akin talaga, magde-declare na ako ng education crisis. All hands on deck pagdating sa education. We have been at the bottom rung of almost all the international assessments already.

    MARIA RESSA: Including when we opened classes face to face, we were among the last.

    VP LENI: 'Yung number one– ngayon hindi pa open lahat eh, so sisiguraduhin na bumukas na lahat. Halimbawa merong McKinsey na study na parang five over ten lang 'yung efficiency ng online classes. Ito siguro 'yung online classes niya na hindi pa taken into consideration 'yung dito sa atin na walang access to so many things. So, 'yung education, 'yung trabaho, edukasyon, tapos 'yung health, 'yung really making sure na handa na 'yung healthcare system natin sa pag nagkaroon ulit ng surge, handa na 'yung health care system natin to weather any crisis that can beset us in the future.

    Halimbawa, kahit pandemic lang ang pag-usapan, 'yung vaccination rate natin ngayon is just 58%. 58% pa lang 'yung naka-two doses, 16% pa lang 'yung naka-booster shots. We see what is happening now in Hong Kong na sobrang grabe noong tama sa kanila ng latest surge nila and the reason for that is people have been complacent because of the low numbers. Ang vaccination rate nila ang baba so we don't have to wait for the surge– the next surge to happen again. Sisiguraduhin natin na ma-reach na natin 'yung targets natin. 'Yung targets natin kulang pa tayo ng 13 million people because we're targeting 77 million. It's not even a high enough target if you will base it on the targets of other countries. Pag tiningnan natin 'yung basics, halimbawa 'yung testing, tracing, and treatment, parang it– there's still so much to be desired. 'Yung making sure na pag nagkaroon tayo ng another surge, 'yung testing natin sigurado na tayo. 'Yung contact tracing natin two years in to the pandemic, we don't have a centralized database yet.

    MARIA RESSA: Relatively non-existent, yeah.

    VP LENI: 'Yung mga iba't ibang mga LGUs may kanya-kanyang, may kanya-kanya silang mga contact-tracing app and there's not even an attempt to centralize everything. So, kailangan gawin siya in the first one hundred days. Kasi what we don't want to happen is if another surge happens, and it’s not you know, it’s not an impossibility, na we will be caught flat-footed again. Tapos, halimbawa 'yung treatment, 'yung Philhealth natin 86 billion ang unpaid as of now. Our hospitals are suffering, 'yung numbers natin as to capacity sobrang baba pa. Halimbawa 'yung number of beds to population ratio, 'yung doctors to population ratio, marami pa tayong kailangan asikasuhin. 'Yung roll-out ng Universal Health Care, you know the law has been signed 2019 pero sobrang bagal ng roll-out and that's primary health care. So, those are the things– ang magiging target ko, na in the first three months, in the first one hundred days, mai-register na lahat sa Universal Health Care. Maraming– maraming kailangan asikasuhin just in the first three months to make sure na ito 'yung jump off point ng ating administration. Medyo nasa mabuti tayong– nasa mabuti tayong spot.

    MARIA RESSA: You were reluctant to run, to declare. I mean, do you feel like, could you have led better to pull Filipinos together?

    VP LENI: Alam mo hindi ko alam kung ano 'yung sagot. Hindi ko alam 'yung sagot kasi, you know, yung starting point ko was of a very different mindset. Even when I ran for Congress, the entire three years that I was there, I was so sure that that will be my first and only term ever. So alam mo 'yun, walang preparation for a bigger role. Siguro ang naka– ang saving grace lang is that naging ugali ko naman na whatever is given to me, however limited the role is, ginagawa ko talaga 'yung lahat. So, when I became a Vice Presidential candidate, it was very clear to me that I wasn't even the first choice, na parang, parang panakip butas and I was doing it just because I felt that I had a role also to play. You know, in the bigger scheme of things. Tapos when I became Vice President, siguro hindi ko inasahan, hindi ko inasahan na ganito 'yung magiging political landscape na tingin ko if I was aware of it already or if I was gunning for the presidency from day one already, there were many things I could've done differently.

    Pero having said that, tingin ko blessing din na the presidency wasn't in the plan until the filing. Kasi siguro kung plano na siya, baka sobrang na-– you know 'yung motivation ko ng mga ginagawa would be more political already and I'm not so sure if I would have done things the way I did. Halimbawa, when we did Angat Buhay just after I became Vice President, we went to the farthest and the smallest communities in the Philippines– na iniisip ko ngayon, siguro kung pinaplano ko na maging Presidente noon, baka hindi na kami pumunta. Baka hindi na kami pumunta kasi pag political na 'yung consideration– parang pag nag cause-benefit ako na political na 'yung considerations, hindi na rin siya worth puntahan kasi malayo, mahirap, kaunti 'yung botante. Siguro kung nagplano na ako maging Vice President baka nag-concentrate na lang kami ng mga programa dito sa Metro Manila where di ba– 'yung the bulk of the voting populace is. So, siguro blessing siya. Blessing siya in the sense na we were doing things for the right reasons.

    MARIA RESSA: I'm gonna come back to that because the balance that you're gonna try to keep now. I'm gonna lay another scenario: So, you've taken your oath, you're President, hello Madam President, and you've received word that supporters of a candidate refuse to accept it. And it looks like the same thing that happened with EDSA III, that they're coming to the palace. What would you do?

    VP LENI: Ako kasi, ako I'm so used to very difficult situations. I don't think there was ever a role that I played, even before I joined politics, that wasn't difficult. So ako, because I've been so used to it, I've been used to handling crisis already, na I have you know– ako looking back ha– looking back, it gave me the ability to focus on the more important things. Kasi pag iniisip ko na kasi 'yung politika, halimbawa, pag naging Pangulo ako, iniisip ko na 'yung possibility na mag EDSA III, baka ang gawin ko na lang nang gawin, nililigawan ko nang nililigawan 'yung mga politiko and mga people who have influence. And I think that would cost me my, you know, my being a good President.

    Pero pag focus lang ako sa trabaho na hindi ko 'yun iniisip, ako in that sense kasi very fatalistic ako. Very fatalistic ako na parati kong iniisip na pag gumagawa ako ng mabuti, parang the universe will conspire to you know, to make sure I'm given the kind of strength, and the kind of support that I would need.

    MARIA RESSA: Public service over politics–

    VP LENI: Yes.

    MARIA RESSA: But in politics, you have to win. So, back to this like, again in a scenario like that I guess, where does the military or law enforcement stand in terms of, you know, how would you command them as Commander-In-Chief?

    VP LENI: Ako kasi I have great faith in them.

    MARIA RESSA: You have a good relationship with them?

    VP LENI: I have. It's not a very intimate relationship, pero it's a relationship based on respect. And I think that's more important than personal relationships. Kasi itong mga sundalo, mga ano ito eh, mga professional, na pumasok ito dito sa pagsu-sundalo because of their great love for country. And ako ang paniniwala ko talaga na pag binigyan mo sila ng choice between good and evil, parating pipiliin nila 'yung kabutihan. Kailangan lang nilang makita na sincere ako sa ginagawa ko, na seryoso ako sa trabaho. Kasi over the years, over the six years, I've been through a lot. I have been at the receiving end of a lot of things. Pero 'yung military at least a great majority of them, very healthy 'yung relationship namin.

    MARIA RESSA: Two biggest lessons you've had in the last six years? You have gone through a lot.

    VP LENI: Yes.

    MARIA RESSA: As have we all. What were the two biggest lessons that you took out of it?

    VP LENI: Ako talaga 'yung sa akin, to remain focused.

    MARIA RESSA: Despite.

    VP LENI: Oo. To be able to choose your battles well, na there are fights, there are battles worth fighting for and marami ding hindi. And 'yung sa akin talaga, ang realization ko, 'yung Pilipino mabuting tao eh. 'Yung Pilipino mabuting tao, na pag nakikita niya na, you know, we were able to survive because of partnerships with the private sector. And a lot of our partners talagang sinugal nila. Sinugal nila 'yung alam mo 'yun, you know the political situation.

    MARIA RESSA: They took a risk despite the dangers to themselves, right?

    VP LENI: Oo. And ginawa nila 'yun not because ako 'yun, pero alam nila na 'yung vehicle na ino-offer namin sa kanila would be a way for them to help communities. And I think 'yun talaga. We should just continue doing that. Ako 'yung paniniwala ko pag ang tao nakikita niya na mabuti 'yung hangarin mo and pinaghuhusayan mo 'yung trabaho, they are willing to invest.

    MARIA RESSA: You are one of the– I think you may be, as a political figure, you're one of the most targeted online. Really horrific stuff, I mean I came very close but not quite, because I'm not running for President. [crosstalk]

    VP LENI: I'm not sure about that.

    MARIA RESSA: but we've– [crosstalk]

    VP LENI: You had your, you continue to have your fair share of the mock.

    MARIA RESSA: How did you handle it and how do you deal with this as– [crosstalk]

    VP LENI: I think the most important thing talaga is, hindi siya totoo eh. So, you know, hindi ako– [crosstalk]

    MARIA RESSA: But it hits– it [inaudible] people.

    VP LENI: Even then. You know, talagang ang greatest weapon mo is your own conscience. Ako I would have to admit that we did a lot of missteps. Kasi the first half of our term, talagang we dealt with all this disinformation, na ang instruction ko to everyone in the office is don't dignify. Huwag pansinin. Huwag natin pansinin kasi hindi naman 'yan totoo. It would just go away. Pero how wrong I was, di ba? Parang we realized too late that dapat pala bago pa lang sinasagot mo na. Not in the manner that they're doing the propaganda thing, pero there are a lot of many different things that you can do to counter them. That was our biggest mistake. Pero if the question is, was I losing sleep over this? Not at all. Kasi wala talagang totoo eh. Lies repeated many times over, 'yun 'yung nagiging totoo. And I think that's the reason why a lot of people bought in doon sa propaganda nila.

    MARIA RESSA: In the last two years, I've started calling social media a behavior modification system. We were a petri dish. You were a target as Hillary Clinton was a target, you know. What would you do, I mean what should be done with this technology that now is insidiously manipulating us?

    VP LENI: Ako, I've been saying this many times over already. Ang ideal sana self-regulation.

    MARIA RESSA: Ah, hindi na kaya 'yun.

    VP LENI: Hindi na kaya kasi we have been asking the social media platforms to self-regulate–

    MARIA RESSA: They make too much money.

    VP LENI: –for so many years already and they're not doing anything about it. So 'yung sa akin talaga, because they're not doing something about it, ako talagang Congress should already pass laws that would make them accountable. Alam ko na there's a thin line between you know– freedom of expression. Pero sino ba 'yung lugi dito? Ang lugi dito 'yung taong napapapaniwala nila.

    MARIA RESSA: It's not a freedom of speech issue, it’s the algorithmic amplification, but these are some of the things that we’ve focus on, to try to get laws in place in outside the Philippines cause it just cascades to us. 36 years after People Power ousted Ferdinand Marcos. You are– the front runner according to the statistical surveys is Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and we have in Rappler actually exposed starting in 2019, focusing on the three parts series, all the data that shows information operations, the insidious manipulation. How do you deal with the changing history, how do you deal with your front runner?

    VP LENI: Ako I would have to admit that it's been very frustrating na alam natin 'yung katotohanan and yet, people buy into it and, may pagsisisi din you know, I also can't help but blame myself why I have not done enough or early enough na harangin siya. Ano talaga, parang I started my term, when I started my term, I was too naive about how powerful social media was. So 'yun 'yun. 'Yung frustration is actually born out of also blaming myself and it only heightens parang the frustration that you feel, but you know in the recent past, we see shift on the ground. It's a massive shift on the ground, it's something that we have not seen for so long.

    When I filed my certificate of candidacy, pag titingnan mo I had absolutely no chance of– at least 'yun 'yung tingin ko. I had absolutely no chance of having a shot at it. Pero ngayon, wala akong pagsisisi, observing how people are taking the cudgels already. How people are doing a pushback.

    Natatawa nga ako ngayon eh, pag nagrereklamo sila na grabeng lumaban 'yung mga supporters, kasi at the back of my mind naisip ko, ito 'yung ginagawa niyo sa akin in the last six years, ito 'yung ginagawa niyo sa akin in the last six years tapos kayo, concerted. Ito, organic eh, 'yung pushback is organic.

    MARIA RESSA: Weaponization of social media was followed very quickly by the weaponization of the law, you know. Leila de Lima has started her sixth year in prison. Rappler has eight cases, seven– I have seven– we have 22 more filed in the last few months. Not cases but complaints and since many of them are in Davao we’re preparing for cases. Weaponization of the law, you talked earlier about rule of law, how do you fix that when the law was used as a weapon against dissent, against journalists, ABS-CBN shutdown?

    VP LENI: Ako kasi, 'yung pressure will really come from people. 'Yung nakita ko naman in the last six years na I was losing hope already. Halimbawa–

    MARIA RESSA: Hindi ka puwedeng mag-lose hope [laughs].

    VP LENI: Hindi, I was losing hope already kasi you know, I've been at the receiving end of so much tapos ang feeling ko, ako lang mag-isa. So ako ang nasa isip ko lang noon, gagawin ko 'yung trabaho ko to my utmost pero at the end of six years, I'm done. Pero ngayon kasi that people are doing a pushback already and halimbawa, we never expected local officials to make public their support of us but little by little, they're coming out in the open and these are public officials who listen to their constituents. So para sa akin, tao din eh, tao din talaga 'yung magpu-put ng pressure.

    MARIA RESSA: Over the last six years, we had a president who emphasized loyalty above all and appointed officials that weren’t competent but yet, passed through the entire system right, they gained power and a lot of that inefficiencies that have happened. You’ve mentioned test, trace, treat. All of these things happened because of a lack– partly a lack of competence, a lack of priority. When you're choosing people, what are the primary qualities you look for?

    VP LENI: Ako siyempre, experts in their fields, pero more than being experts, kailangan nasa kanya 'yung respeto ng lahat ng stakeholders na he will have to deal with. Saka 'yung pangatlo, kailangan malinis 'yung pangalan. Kailangan malinis 'yung pangalan kasi 'yun 'yung paguumpisahan ng lahat eh. 'Yun 'yung paguumpisahan ng lahat. Tapos pang-apat siguro, kailangan pareho 'yung aming mga gustong mangyari. Pero ako, my style of leadership is very hands on. So 'yung nakita ko kasi, and this was exacerbated by the pandemic, parang all the departments have been doing their own thing, na parang kulang talaga 'yung nagko-konduktor. That's one thing that, gagawin ko mismo, na sisiguraduhin ko that all the agencies are working harmoniously together. There are lot of programs na kailangan 'yung convergence. 'Yung pandemic, we could have done a lot better. May IATF pero the departments are still doing their own thing. I first discovered this when I was in ICAD for 18 days, na all the important agencies were there but they were doing their own thing. So, 'yun 'yung aasikasuhin ko pag-upo, na 'yung administrative na trabaho, tututukan ko.

    MARIA RESSA: You talked a little bit about how in the last, as Vice President, it was lonely. I mean we felt it, you know, when you hold the line, it's lonely.

    VP LENI: Yes, yes.

    MARIA RESSA: And sometimes, you feel alone, you said you did. Could you have done more?

    VP LENI: Definitely. Definitely. Kasi halimbawa, in areas where, in communities where the local officials are, you know, cooperative, mas marami kaming nagagawa eh. Mas marami kaming nagagawa because pag okay 'yung local officials, we are able to converge all the different departments who could help. Halimbawa, we're doing a farmers program in Camarines Sur, and it's very successful only because the local officials we're dealing with are very cooperative. All the regional offices of the national government agencies are all helping out in one program. We can't say the same for many other areas. Kasi halimbawa, pupunta ako to do a courtesy call sa local official kasi ang ideal na pag roll-out ng program, through the local government unit. And sanay na ko na hindi ako haharapin, sanay na ko na when I'm there, conveniently biglang nasa business trip 'yung mayor o nagkasakit 'yung mayor. So, ano 'yun, that was the norm in the six years that I was Vice President.

    Pero, we were able to make do with what was given to us. Lalo na, lalo na kung mas cooperative. Maraming missed opportunities na kung mas cooperative lang sana, kung hindi lang sana kami nire-regard na kalaban, we could have done more.

    MARIA RESSA: But Leni, I’m asking this one in terms of frontal confrontation, like I actually always wind up saying silence is complicity, but syempre that's cause also–

    VP LENI: Yes, yes.

    MARIA RESSA: –we were under attack, right? Do you think– I mean what you said, you wish that people came together sooner, did they just need you to do that sooner? Or is confrontation really the wrong thing? I mean it's so fascinating listening to you when, you know, public service. You have a feminine– and that's a good thing, I think. An empathetic leadership style, but were you silent? You weren't really silent, how do you look at that? Like in terms of the courage? Did we say enough about what was wrong?

    VP LENI: Ako, I'm not sure if you will regard it as silence, pero I've been very vocal of things that I did not agree with. Pero when we look at the numbers, every time I criticize a program of this administration–

    MARIA RESSA: Like the drug war.

    VP LENI: Like the drug war.

    MARIA RESSA: Yeah.

    VP LENI: I'm not afraid of the trolling, pero my numbers would dip. And every time my numbers would dip, nawawalan kami ng strength as an office. Nawawalan kami ng strength as an office to continue doing what we're doing. Kasi halimbawa, we're doing Angat Buhay Program and we're not just depending on our own funds, but a lot of our programs happened because, you know, the private sector trusts us. And you know, when we don't have that level of stature, when we don't have that stature as an office, sino pa 'yung tutulong sa amin? So, it's a difficult balancing act. Ano 'yun eh, maraming supporters sometimes become frustrated, pero hindi kasi nila nakikita na as Vice President, ang una kong kailangan gawin, na magawa namin 'yung trabaho namin. Hindi ma-strengthen 'yung partido o ma-strengthen 'yung political capital, pero ang una kong mandato is to perform my task as Vice President. So, ano siya, maraming push and pull, na at the end of the day, you ask yourself: Bakit ako nandito? Ano ba 'yung naatasan sa akin na gagawin ko?

    MARIA RESSA: And you choose. And of course, thank you for standing up when press freedom is attacked. But I guess now, what do you need to do to win?

    VP LENI: As I've said earlier, we're seeing a massive shift on the ground. People are coming out. Pero we need to convert this into votes, and by converting this into votes dapat 'yung mga tao na may access to more information and are basing their decisions on that, dapat siguraduhin nila na 'yung ibang walang access to the same information that they have, they would be able to reach out to them. Lagi kong sinasabi 'yung radikal na pagmamahal. And I understand the frustration of many of our supporters, pero we can’t allow it to be relegated to name calling, or alam mo 'yun, to let their frustration get the better of themselves, kasi there's a fight to win eh.

    MARIA RESSA: With your values intact?

    VP LENI: Oo naman.

    MARIA RESSA: Yeah, what’s important to you now, cause like you've said that you're finding the balance, you’re staying true to your values, but it's a really tough, dirty world.

    VP LENI: Ako siguro, I've gotten past that. Meaning to say, klaro kasi sa akin what I am willing to do and what I am not willing to do.

    MARIA RESSA: You've drawn your lines already.

    VP LENI: I think I've drawn it during the early days of my being Vice President. There have been a lot of opportunities for me to be more politically strong by entering into you know, by doing transactional politics, but I've refused that. And now it's not that difficult anymore. Halimbawa ngayon, kailangan ko manalo, pero klaro na sa mga kasama ko kung ano 'yung hindi ako willing to do. So it's not like it's still a struggle for me. So sa akin, parang I don't have to explain myself to the campaign team anymore. They know me very well already, they don't agree with me most of the time in many of the political decisions, but nasanay na sila na I'm so hard-headed about it. Sobrang stubborn ko when it comes to things I'm very passionate about.

    MARIA RESSA: It’s so much better.

    VP LENI: It’s so much better. Kahit admin candidates kami nung 2016, we didn’t have this kind of you know, parati kaming inaakusahan na hakot crowds, nagbabayad ng entertainers but they are not true at all and I’m not even bothered by the accusations kasi bahala kayong mag-isip. Pero talaga ngang ‘yung problema nga namin sometimes is how to control. Kasi meron kaming mga events na we want a more intimate setting so that it would be a more of a listening, listening exercise but we can’t do that anymore because our supporters are really very passionate. Pero we make do and I think– sabi ko nga, sobrang laking blessing na to, to any candidate, to have supporters this involved and this engaged.

    MARIA RESSA: I have to throw a World War III scenario. I mean, you have Putin now. The west– the world seems to have come together.

    VP LENI: Yes.

    MARIA RESSA: A hundred and forty countries voting to sanction, voting against Russia.

    VP LENI: And NATO’s stronger than ever.

    MARIA RESSA: NATO stronger than ever. The west finally found itself and yet, you have “Autocrats Inc.” kind of also coming together; Russia, China, Iran. The same countries doing–

    VP LENI: Yes, yes.

    MARIA RESSA: –information operations and information warfare. How will you deal with this much more complex world where democracy isn’t assured?

    VP LENI: From the point of view of the Philippines, ito yung perfect opportunity for us to strengthen our place under the sun. ‘Yung gusto kong sabihin, actually when people were talking about being neutral, sobrang grabe ‘yung frustration ko about it kasi this is not who we are. Ang gusto kong sabihin, I know na ang foreign policy natin is really to you know– to take on a position of neutrality most of the time. But this is an extraordinary circumstance na we can show the world who we are as Filipinos. So ‘yung sa kin klaro kasi ‘yung– again klaro ‘yung battles lines now. Alam natin kung sino ‘yung aggressor, alam natin na baseless yung attacks and this is an opportunity for us to show the world na we fight for whom we think is right. Siyempre very small player tayo, very small player tayo compared to the others pero–

    MARIA RESSA: Critical, Critical for the South China sea.

    VP LENI: Yes. ‘Yun nga e. ‘Yun nga, parang mas–

    MARIA RESSA: or West Philippine Sea, Sorry.

    VP LENI: –dapat mas forward looking tayo. Hindi naman in a selfish way, hindi gagawin natin ito kasi may ine-expect tayong rewards. Pero dapat kasi ‘yung lesson natin, lahat ng ginagawa natin meron siyang mark in the future, na mas marami ‘yung kakampi sa tin, mas marami ‘yung tutulong sa tin pag klaro ‘yung mga posisyon natin. Halimbawa, when we failed to leverage our arbitral win, it was a missed opportunity for us. Not too late, kasi pwede pa naman natin ma-turn things around. Pero nasayang– parang sayang ‘yung years– from 2016 until the present na hindi natin siya na-leverage to get the you know, to get the support of so many other countries waiting for the Philippines to express–

    MARIA RESSA: To act?

    VP LENI: –to act on the arbitral tribunal. So parang ganoon din siya. Totoo na napakalayo natin sa Ukraine saka sa Russia. Although maraming economic na repercussions as far as the Philippines is concerned. Pero pag tiningnan natin sa geopolitical stance, ano to eh, klaro kasi ‘yung– klaro ‘yung battle lines and ‘yung bilog – ‘yung mundo bilog eh. ‘Yung mundo bilog. And di ba– para sa kin opportunity siya na kailangan– mas malakas ‘yung boses natin dito, mas mabuti.

    MARIA RESSA: Were you surprised that allies now– foes turned allies like Pantaleon Alvarez are coming up, are coming out and supporting you?

    VP LENI: Definitely. You know I didn't know of it until very recently. Pero the good thing about it is a lot of people are skeptical about it– about the entire arrangement.

    MARIA RESSA: [inaudible].

    VP LENI: Pero ako, I would have to assure everyone that there is no arrangement at all, that it was not transactional at all. In fairness to– not just the Former Speaker but also the Governor, wala talagang hiningi na kahit ano.

    MARIA RESSA: So, they just decided to turn to allies just this– [crosstalk]

    VP LENI: I was traveling to Davao del Sur and 'yung advance team namin on the ground was asking if we could do a side trip. We didn't have an event there pero the day before if I was willing to do a side trip to Davao del Norte. And dahil mag-eexpress ng support, the Governor. 'Yun 'yung unang sinabi, the Governor and then I learned later that pati si Speaker Alvarez.

    I know that we have– I talked to him before for some other things pero it was not to discuss shifting allegiances. It was just, you know, one of the things– you talk to a lot of many different politicians from many different camps over the course of the campaign. Pero when we were told that they would be announcing on the day that they announced, sobrang nagulat ako. Parang ilang beses ko pang tinanong na, sigurado ba kayo? Sigurado ba kayo?

    So, wala siyang pag-uusap. I mean, wala siyang pag-uusap at all na ganito 'yung kailangan o hihingi ng puwesto, walang ganoon. So, sobrang vina-value ko 'yung help knowing that, you know if you look at the surveys, 'yung Davao Region is where I am faring the worst. Hindi ako doon nagdo-double digits, talagang single digits lang ako doon. So, to get the support of local officials of that stature in the region, ang laking ano niya– ang laking tulong niya sa kampanya. And not only that, when they made public their support they were getting a lot of expressions of support also from many other local officials..

    MARIA RESSA: Do you see any more consolidation? Are you going to try to, you know, pull these unity talks together?

    VP LENI: Ako kasi I've tried and ako ang paniniwala ko talaga, ang best bet namin to have a unification ticket was before the filing.

    MARIA RESSA: Yeah.

    VP LENI: Kasi you know when you file your certificates of candidacy already, you have supporters already who invest in you.

    MARIA RESSA: Correct.

    VP LENI: And ako mismo hindi ko na-iimagine 'yung sarili ko na iiwanan ko 'yung supporters ko. So, that was my– that was the reason why hindi ako pumayag doon sa earlier talks na magkandidato tayo lahat tapos mag-withdraw na lang ng March-April kasi I think it's very difficult to do. So, I am aware that there are supporters who are still trying to unify. Pero ako mismo– 'yung ako mismo actively seeking it out, hindi na. Kasi our days are filled with campaign trips already. So, talagang 'yung mga araw namin I'm in Metro Manila only one or two days every week.

    MARIA RESSA: Yeah.

    VP LENI: And 'yung araw namin, we would start 6 o'clock in the morning on the average and nakakabalik kami sa hotel room ng midnight. Pagbalik mo sa hotel room, you know everyday you are in a different place in a different hotel so, you unpack everyday. Pag-unpack mo, tayong mga babae mamamalantsa pa tayo, di ba? Mamamalantsa pa tayo. Minsan pag gumigising ako, hindi ko alam kung nasaan ako. So, it’s like that parang there is no time anymore to do a lot of–

    MARIA RESSA: – these political alliances.

    VP LENI: Oo. Yes, yes.

    MARIA RESSA: You're on a path. Under the Duterte Administration, he was a leader who was sexist at best and a misogynist at worst, and you were a target.

    VP LENI: Yes.

    MARIA RESSA: Not just online but by President Duterte. How did you deal with it and what can be done now to change these? He almost gave permission for everyone to be their worst selves and it happened.

    VP LENI: Ako, many things. 'Yung una 'yung pag– misogynistic remarks about me naiintindihan ko na hindi ako– especially when I was in the Cabinet. I understood that I cannot allow it to get in the way of the work that I was doing. But outside of it I was very vocal of my, you know, of my displeasure of how things were turning out. Pero 'yung sa akin kasi, I guess to a certain extent his style of leadership caught many of us off guard. In the sense that, you know we were learning the ropes by the day na para sa akin 'yung pinaka-concern ko was how I would be able to exercise my mandate in the way na mama-maximize ko whatever little, you know, opportunity was there.

    So, 'yung lahat na ginagawa ko was really just that– papaano ako makakapagtrabaho ng maayos given the fact that I was at the receiving end of so much bashing, of so much trolling, of how I was treated by, you know, many government officials. Parang kung iisipin ko pa na you should not be treating me this way, parang waste of time, waste of emotion. So, ako ang pinoproblema ko lang given na sobrang kaunti lang 'yung space na given to me, papaano ko magagawa 'yung trabaho ko?

    MARIA RESSA: Impact. So, you were just looking at– [crosstalk]

    VP LENI: Saka ano talaga, parang I cannot let the six years go by na masasayang 'yung mandato ng opisina namin. In fact, we re-invented our office. Ako, I have no regrets as far as parang pushing whatever button was available for us just so we can do the work that we wanted our office to do. Parang 'yun wala kaming sinayang na opportunity. Marami kaming nasayang na opportunity politically saka siguro defending myself. Hindi ko nadepensahan 'yung sarili ko nang maayos. Pero looking back, wala na din akong regrets, eh. Wala akong regrets na nag-focus ako sa trabaho.

    MARIA RESSA: What will your relationship be with the left given that, you know, someone like Neri Colmenares for example became a sticking point and someone like Leody de Guzman said he ran because your party didn't really seem to want him?

    VP LENI: Alam mo, ano, ako I am one person who is open to everyone whether left, whether right. Bukas ako sa lahat. In fact, all the six years that I was Vice President we were forever talking to many different groups, many different sectors. Pero towards the start of the campaign, we were very much aware 'yung mga sore points na hindi lang ako. Pero it was a coalition ticket and it was very important to us na 'yung mga makakasali sa– a lot of people were disgusted about the combination. Pero marami kasi siyang considerations na hindi siya ideal pero pinakamahalaga sa amin na 'yung makakasali 'yung magco-commit to the kind of governance that we wanted to push.

    Pero mahalaga sa amin na lahat ng mga members ng Senatorial Slate– not just Senatorial Slate but also Senator Kiko, were in agreement to each and everyone who would be included in the ticket. And sinabi ko naman ito sa kanila, merong mga strong reactions about some of them. And ako laging binibigyan ko ng premium 'yun. Hindi ko i-iinsist 'yung gusto ko lang kasi ganoon naman 'yung paniniwala natin na, pinapakinggan natin 'yung lahat. There were a lot of many different groups pushing for Neri Colmenares–

    MARIA RESSA: And the Makabayan bloc.

    VP LENI: –wala akong problema with Neri personally. I was with him in Congress. Pero may mga strong feelings about including him in the slate and naalala ko, 'yung pinagpipilian for the seventh spot was him and Attorney Sonny Matula. And you know, the entire group agreed na si Attorney Sonny Matula 'yung kukunin. So, maraming mga considerations. Maraming mga considerations na while bukas naman ako– pag isasali kasi sa ticket kailangan– I was running as an independent and kailangan ko 'yung agreement ng mga kasama ko. So, there are a lot of things that I can't reveal publicly pero you know, we needed to agree on very important things.

    Ano naman, wala akong problema sa kanila, even Ka Leody. Even Ka Leody, we are you know– I only met him during the first debate– CNN debate. We were together pero– we were discussing 'yung security of tenure, contractualization, so I ano naman– you know, siguro hindi kami nagkausap before pero 'yung sektor naman na nire-represent niya, mga manggagawa, si Attorney Sonny Matula from the same sector so hindi naman masasabi na hindi namin kinukonsulta 'yung sektor nila.

    MARIA RESSA: So, Vice President Robredo, we have a question from a student from De La Salle University.

    LARA JOMALESA: Hi, I’m Lara Jomalesa, currently a junior taking up International Studies. Vice President Leni Robredo, what are your plans on transportation modernization? Will you phase out jeepneys?

    VP LENI: Ako, over the course of the– siguro four years? Four years. The last four years of my term as Vice President, I've been talking to many different transport groups. And I've been asking them of what they feel about the jeepney modernization. Alam mo, surprisingly, hindi sila kontra. Hindi sila kontra, nahihirapan lang sila sa terms. Nahihirapan sila sa terms, halimbawa– agree sila na it is time to start talking about modernization. Siguro lalo pang na-heighten 'yung need ngayong ang taas-taas na ng gasolina– really the need na mag-shift na tayo to e-jeepneys. Pero ang problema nila, sobrang mahal for them, sobrang bigat noong terms.

    So, ang hinihingi lang naman nila, na 'yung subsidies lakihan, 'yung terms ay habaan, para makaya nila. And ako, agree ako sa kanila. Kasi, pag hindi nila ito gagawin, ang makaka-comply lang, 'yung dati nang may capacity, pero 'yung bahagi ng transport sector na hirap, na dapat nga sila 'yung mas tinutulungan natin, sila 'yung hindi makaka-comply. And 'yun na 'yung nangyayari ngayon. Pero ang hindi ko maintindihan, kung bakit noong height ng pandemic, na wala na nga silang mga biyahe, pinush pa ito nang pinush, na I think, 'yun 'yung mali doon, na the pandemic would have been the time na habaan nila 'yung pag-intindi sa kakulangan. 'Yun 'yung number one.

    'Yung number two, I think also this is the time to seriously think about service contracting kasi ang tagal na nitong– may budget na ito actually. May budget na ito, I think 5.5 billion. Pero pag tiningnan natin, doon sa 5.5 billion that was set aside for service contracting, one billion pa lang 'yung nagagastos. I'm not sure if it was 5 billion o 1.5 but it's somewhere between that amount. So, ngayon na nag-pandemic, di ba dapat sana ngayon 'yung time na mas naging active 'yung– kasi 'yung social distancing, para sana hindi naman nalulugi 'yung mga drivers ngayon na ang taas ng presyo ng gas.

    So, sana mas may empathy 'yung pag-roll out ng mga policies kasi ang experience ko naman, ang tao basta kabahagi siya ng pagplano at naiintindihan niya kung bakit dapat ito gawin, mas cooperative naman siya. Pero, 'yung frustration ko about it is, sana huwag nating payagan na may mga maiiwan na naman. Kasi agree naman tayo eh. Agree naman tayo na dapat may shift na, pero dapat 'yung policy natin should make sure na 'yung pinakamaliit, hindi siya maiiwan.

    MARIA RESSA: Fantastic. What you just described is the paper that was written about Jesse Robredo by a Princeton University series right? What you did in Naga?

    VP LENI: Yes, yes.

     

    MARIA RESSA: My last question is, you’ve lit a spark. So it’s reminded the nation in many ways of you know– of a time of beliefs that weren’t rewarded. So how do you keep this going?

    VP LENI: Ako kasi unang-una, I don’t want to get the credit for it. Ako tingin ko naging symbol lang ako pero parang the time was right. Parang it was a long journey going to this point. Pero I think with the pandemic, with how we were during the pandemic parang the dots connect eh. So ‘yung filing ko, I think naging symbol lang ako for people to converge pero it could have been anyone else. ‘Yun ‘yung tingin ko, na ‘yung tao handa na siya. ‘Yung tao parang matagal na siyang nagkimkim, kasi you see the energy eh. It’s not the ordinary kind of energy that you see in many of the, you know, exercises we did in the past. Pero it’s the kind of energy that was like 1986. ‘Yung people are just raring to, they are just raring to be part of the change that is happening. So ako, I see it that way, na tingin ko kahit ‘yung to keep it going is not with me anymore. Tingin ko ano–

    MARIA RESSA: Are you being too modest?

    VP LENI: No, I’m not. Tingin ko, ‘yun nga dahil naging symbol ako I think the one thing that we should do is to keep listening to people. To be attuned to how people feel about a lot of things and to give them the platform to express themselves. I think that’s one of the most– ‘yung mas empowering, mas empowering na klase ng engagement. And I think kahit manalo na ako, this is the bigger challenge. I think the bigger challenge is, halimbawa manalo ako, hindi naman niya maso-solve ‘yung problems natin. So kailangan, ‘yung bigger challenge sa aking administration is how to keep people getting involved and how to make them feel that they are part of the solution, how to make them feel– how to make them own the problems that beset the nation, kasi without that, we will again fail eh. So sa tingin ko, ‘yun ‘yung pinaka-greatest challenge if I win.

    MARIA RESSA: Wonderful. Leni, thank you so much.

    VP LENI: Thank you, thank you.

    MARIA RESSA: You’ve been watching #WeDecide, the first hundred days of Leni Robredo. I’m Maria Ressa. Thank you for joining us.

    [END]

     

    Posted in Transcripts on Apr 20, 2022