“A strong woman stands up for herself.
A stronger woman stands up for everybody
else.” – St. John
“You educate a man; you educate a man;
You educate a woman; you educate
a generation.” – Brigham Young
There are some undeniable elements in these quotes – women, indeed, educate a generation. But some men also do. Among the known women who have educated generations – Queen Elizabeth I of England, Joan of Arc of France, and one of our own, Gabriela Silang. Of course, with Elizabeth and Joan that was centuries ago and with Gabriela, more than a century.
Internationally, there are many contemporary strong and stronger women who are in positions of top leadership in their respective countries – Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jacinda Anders of New Zealand, President Tsai Ing Wen of Taiwan, Chairperson Ursula van Leyden of the European Commission, Vice-President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the United States of America. Not so long ago, many strong and stronger women leaders made indelible marks not only in their countries but in the world – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and President Sirimavo Bandaranike of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
In the most recent past, we have our share of known strong and stronger women – late President Corazon Aquino, late Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw, late stage actress Celia Diaz Laurel and life long companion of the late Vice-President Salvador and the late Member of Parliament and radio commentator, Inday Nita Daluz of Cebu City. The greatest among them is my friend and freedom fighter, Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw. Eva is the stronger woman in the definition of St. John. All of them are dead.
But not everybody is dead. There are live ones like – Former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, Vice-President Leni Robredo, Senators Leila Delima and Risa Hontiveros, Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao City, Former Senator Nikki Coseting, and left of center social engineer Princess Ronquilo Nemenzo. These are the specialists – all traditional politicians except Princess Nemenzo who is a left of center revolutionary.
The are also strong and stronger women who I have had the chance of knowing – iconic elementary public school teacher, Rufina Andoy Adaza, my mother, whose roots are from Baclayon, Bohol, has educated grateful thousands of school children and parents from one generation to another; Assistant Dean of the College of Education of Xavier University, Felicidad Padua Dadole, my mother-in-law and wife of the strong and unbending Governor of Misamis Oriental, Alfonso Dadole They are both dead. Of the living strong and stronger women who have no known open political involvement, I know of a number – beautiful socialite Deana Jean Lopez, similarly beautiful socialite and television host Cory Quirino; BLim, a non-lawyer but better than most lawyers in formulating theories on cases and preparation of pleadings but who hates her name being mentioned; beauteous editor, publisher, television and radio host, journalist and poet – Rita Gadi; another journalist, TV host and author – Julie Yao Daza; and, of course, two women close to home – my wife, Margot “Marge” Dadole, who has inspired me and stood by me through many difficult years of political battles of campaigning, political imprisonment, shoot to kill orders, politically-inspired criminal cases all of them dismissed for being baseless and unending death threats as well as educating my children; and my daughter Eileen who is a UP lawyer with an intelligence quotient within the upper level of the genius range whose beautiful and flawless writings as shown in her pleadings with incisive power of analysis, more than deserves a seat in a genuine Supreme Court..
Of course, this list is not complete as there are many others who are not in my radar screen, for one reason or another.
History: In the history of the vice-presidency in our country, there were five Vice-Presidents who became Presidents – Sergio Osmeña, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos Polistico Garcia, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Three of them assumed the presidency because of death of the President – Osmeña because of the death of President Manuel Luis Quezon, Elpidio Quirino due to the demise of President Manuel Acuña Roxas, and Carlos Polistico Garcia due to the death of Ramon Magsaysay. Joseph Estrada became President by election. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became President through the ouster of President Estrada and later by election.
Usually, Vice-Presidents eventually run for President. The exceptions were Vice-Presidents Fernando Lopez, Emmanuel Neri “Maning” Pelaez and Noli De Castro. Among them, only one showed determination to be President – Vice-President Pelaez of Misamis Oriental who lost to Ferdinand Edralin Marcos in the highly contested and controversial Nacionalista Party Convention in 1965.
VP Leni Robredo: Normally, VP Leni should be the uncontested presidential candidate of the Opposition – high profile, always in the news, apparently a woman of principles and character, could not be intimidated by the bullying President Rodrigo Duterte, people-oriented, pretty and charming and easy to reach and communicate with the people, a very attractive Bicolana, soft-spoken and humble with no airs.
In normal times, these should be strong and dominating assets for a politician. But the times are abnormal – not just because of the pandemic but due to the non-performance and horrendous errors of the Rodrigo Duterte administration which highlight the argument that we need a total overhauling of the current system. We have been living in a failed system for so long due to ignorance, lack of education and lack of incandescent courage.
Campaign assets and liabilities: I have had two opportunities to meet with VP Leni – once with Congressman Douglas Hagedorn at the floor of the House of Representatives during a lull in the House session and another occasion arranged by a friend for a one and one conversation. The latter did not materialize as it turned out to be a conversation witnessed by the executive assistant of the VP.
The impressions I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs come from these two meetings and of many of her television and newspaper interviews. We shall leave writing of her personal qualities as they are impressive, though not as impressive as that of her husband, the late DILG Secretary Jessie Robredo. This time let us concentrate on the assets and liabilities of her presidential bid.
The political assets maybe specified as follows: 1) Her personal touch with the common masses; 2) The support of what is left with the Cory Aquino magic; 3) The expected landslide of support from Bicolandia; 4) The surging forces of women in all levels of human activities, not only in this country but in the world; 5) The expected support of powerful economic groups whic are disgusted with the unpredictable and erratic policies of the Duterte administration; 6) The disgust of even ordinary citizens at the bullying, cursing, vulgar and indecent language of President Duterte; 7) The revulsion of the people at the extrajudicial killings, the giving away to Communist China our exclusive economic zones and territories and the pampering of Chinese in their control of the Philippine economy;The revulsion of the indigenous peoples in the violation of their rights by the Duterte military forces; 9) The miserable living conditions of millions of Filipinos; 10) The mismanagement of the Duterte administration of the pandemic; 11) The continuing rampant graft and corruption in government; 12) The inutility of Duterte and his boys to solve the illegal drug problem; 13) Red-tagging, imprisoning and killing of critics of Duterte and his government; and 14) Continuing blatant violations of the Constitution. This enumeration is just the starting point.
But it’s not all assets for VP Leni, like the other prospective presidential candidates, she also has liabilities. First, while the Cory Aquino magic is an asset, it is also a liability. Why? It has many pretenses and false claims which can be unmasked from time to time. Second, she is surrounded by notorious advisers line Senator Franklin Drilon. Third, her political party and group are not that well organized anymore throughout the coultry. Fourth, she was tested by Duterte on the illegal drug issue and she failed to make the proper responses either for lack of proper advice or lack of courage and knowledge. She could have resoundingly devastated President Duterte on the issue but failed. She settled for jabs when she could have knocked out cold Digong with a power punch or power punches. She missed the opportunities which were there for the grabbing. Fifth, her propaganda machine is very amateurish. She needs a lot of reorganizing in that area. Sixth, considering that President Digong is the star of his party in the 2022 campaign, it will be bashing and bruising without limits and I don’t think VP Leni Robredo has the stomach for it. Eighth, she may have a kink in her personal armor that, in the words of President Ramon Magsasay, may not be able to stand the test of scrutiny at Plaza Miranda.
Conclusion and unsolicited advice: Considering the nature of the presidential election in 2022, it is best for VP Leni to reconsider very seriously her plan to run for President next year. A defeat will be devastating as it will write finis to her political career. She is an asset to this country and she is still young. She should prepare herself for many tomorrows to come. In the meanwhile, she should run for governor of her province and support the winning candidate for President.
It is almost certain that within the next ten years, there will be a federal and parliamentary system in this country. By then, if she still nurses an ambition to be the leader of this country because she has a definite plan to reorganize and govern this country, she can always run for a seat in the Parliament in her Region or State where she’ll sure win. And winning, she can make a bid to be the Prime Minister and take it from there.