Political Expediency: The Monkey on Leni Robredo’s back

IN MY last blog entry I posed the hypothetical question of Leni Robredo, Liberal Party candidate for vice president:

If by late April or early May – right before election day – Robredo sees in their survey tracking that Escudero  and Marcos are still in a tie and she has no more hope to move up to their level, will she declare her withdrawal from the race and encourage her voters to go for Escudero, considering the very principled stand she has publicly declared against the return of the Marcoses into power?

The question is premised on her extremely popular image of being principled – having a simple lifestyle, having a background and legal career helping and caring for the marginalized, living up to the ideals of her late husband Jesse Robredo – and it was quite clear to our mind that when push comes to shove she would decide in favor of those principles.

Latest developments however, have me in a quandary. Her party with its chief President Benigno Aquino III and presidential candidate Mar Roxas had a big to do in Pampanga with its governor, Lilia Pineda. And there was Robredo, in all her campaign splendor.

Mar Roxas, PNoy, Pineda and Leni Robredo in Pampanga recently. Photo by Inquirer

Mar Roxas, PNoy, Pineda and Leni Robredo in Pampanga recently. Photo by Inquirer

As a bit of a background: Gov. Pineda is the wife of Bong Pineda, one of the alleged big time Juenteng Lords of Central Luzon. Long story short, that has always been common knowledge, but was officially outed in the time of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

In 2007 Pineda, then a staunch ally of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, lost to the LP’s candidate Among Ed Panlilio, a catholic priest whose support base was with the progressive sectors, including people like Jesse Robredo.

Last 2008, the Ateneo School of Government together with DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and former Governors Among Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca launched the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership (KN). Photo from Harvey Keh's blog, KN Lead Convenor.

Last 2008, the Ateneo School of Government together with then DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and then Governors Among Ed Panlilio (Pampanga) and Grace Padaca (Isabela) launched the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership (KN). Photo from Harvey Keh’s blog, KN Lead Convenor.

Panlilio won by the skin of his teeth, and upon assuming office started major reforms in the provincial capitol. But it was not long lived, as an election protest filed by Pineda overturned Panlilio’s election victory.

In 2012, after Roxas took over as Local Government and Interior Secretary after the death of Jesse Robredo, he pointedly told Pineda and police officials to stop jueteng in their province: “My ‘mystery shoppers,’ who are civilians, placed bets on jueteng and I have the pieces of paper [where the number pairs that they bet on were written], to show that jueteng is still being played here,” Roxas said.

And now this. The LP, Aquino, Roxas and Leni Robredo, celebrating their staunch ally in Pampanga for the May 2016 elections.

In their defense, Robredo is quoted in Rappler:

Hindi naman tayo nakipag-alyansa dahil sa links niya sa jueteng. Winelcome natin ang tulong ni Governor Pineda dail nirerecognize siya, hinahangaan siya, pati ng mga eksperto, dahil sa kabutihang ginawa niya sa Pampanga sa delivery of basic services, isa sa mga LGU official na ang performance ay dapat pamarisan. (We’re not allied with her because of links to jueteng. We welcome her support because she’s been recognized even by experts because of the good she’s done in Pampanga when it comes to delivering basic services. She is one of the LGU officials whose performance we admire.)

Tanong, na-o-overshadow ba ‘yun nung kwento ng jueteng? Hindi dapat maovershadow ang pagtulong kasi walang naman siyang hinihinging kapalit. (Should her service be overshadowed by stories on jueteng? It shouldn’t because she’s not asking anything from us in return.)

Pampanga is a vote-rich province. With 1.2 million voters of which the Pinedas have a high level of control. As journalist Chay Florentino wrote in Newsbreak in 2001:

Through the years, Pineda has built a strong psychological dependence on him by helping the poor. One time, he even provided Lubao’s barangay captains, all 45 of them, with brand-new handguns. It is said that he and his mayor-wife have chosen not to build hospitals because, once they do so, people will stop lining up to ask for their help. The Catholic hierarchy has also been the object of his generosity. Pineda gave priests who once concelebrated a Mass for his birthday envelopes that each contained P15,000.

Well, as social media goes this issue is already making the rounds, and the best her sycophants can come up with is: “Please don’t blame Leni for it, the politicians are just using her.” This actually does her a disservice, because she comes out as just another dumb blonde (okay, okay, she’s not blonde).

In fact, I’m sure that she got into the Daang Matuwid bandwagon with both eyes wide open. That and Mar Roxas’ proud declaration when they launched their candidacies: “The way we campaign is the way we govern. That’s how one can assess the character of a candidate,” Indeed, the way they’ll govern.

In my many years of covering elections as a journalist and handling elections as a communications specialist and campaign strategist I’ve always heard candidates say: “Let’s win first, we can have the principles and reform the system once we are in office.”

Well, let me ask: has it happened? Closer to reality of daily governance is the way of compromise. Closer to what Joe de Venecia’s political mantra: “Let’s look for a win-win solution to this.” That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you shouldn’t go around bashing traditional politics if you’re deep into it.

If Leni Robredo is in this for political expediency, then she is no different from Bongbong Marcos and his revision of history to woo voters.

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