Why Leni is the candidate who can

Leni Robredo, if, or rather when, she gets elected president, will hit the ground running. She knows exactly where she wants to go. The other candidates, as we saw in this column last week, either don’t, or have barely, a clue as to the economic, health, and education crises the Philippines faces. Not to mention the moral crisis—the country seems to have lost its moral compass because its leader threw it away.

She has plans for the Filipino people—her five-point “Hanapbuhay Para Sa Lahat” (Ibalik ang Tiwala sa Gobyerno, Gisingin ang Lakas ng Industriyang Pilipino, Wakasan ang Diskriminasyon sa Trabaho, Suporta sa Maliliit na Negosyo, Saluhin ang mga Nawalan ng Trabaho) ; and her three-point “Kalayaan sa COVID” (Kalayaan sa Pangambang Magkasakit, Kalayaan sa Gutom, Kalayaan sa Kakulangan ng Edukasyon) Plans (see All fleshed out, for translation into a Philippine Medium-Term Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028 and ready to be implemented. And her plans are in Pilipino, to be read, understood, criticized, or praised by every Filipino, not just the upper-income classes.

Can she implement these plans? Will she implement them?

It is not so easy, Reader. President Duterte lauded his PDP 2017-22, saying that it was based on the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of his campaign. It was—after all, his socioeconomic agenda was just a set of bullet points, motherhood statements more like the Isko and Lacson ones. If you have a plan that contains these bullet points, it is relatively easy to flesh it out. But it took more than six months to publish it, and had a lot of “to-be-determined” targets.

And Mr. Duterte, after he lauded it, ignored it completely, never referring to it in his State of the Nation addresses. I noted many times that the latest StatDev, which monitors the performance of the PDP, has only 126 out of 300 targets monitored likely to be achieved, while 141 have low likelihood. Not a very good record, even as the Plan itself had about more than 500 targets, and had none at all (for national security reasons!) regarding peace, security, public order, and safety.

In short, Mr. Duterte could not and would not implement his Plan. I doubt he even read it.

Robredo has fleshed out her plans herself, from obvious familiarity with the problems of the country. Her undergraduate degree in economics and her law degree make her the most qualified to run the country in its present dire straits. And her previous record while in the private and public sectors shows that she is capable of implementing and has indeed implemented several plans. She can.

Will she? Even before she joined the government sector, she was already familiar with the problems of the poor and was immersed (for nine years) in helping them on the ground. When she became vice president, she vowed to help the “last, the least, and the lost”—and she did, with programs like her Angat Buhay: Partnerships Against Poverty, started in 2016, which the Development Academy of the Philippines (Center of Excellence on Public Sector Productivity) recognized as one of the Government Best Practice efforts in 2019.

And please remember that she has no political baggage, no one to answer to except the Filipino people. No padrinos or big financial backers (remember Dennis Uy) who may want their favors reciprocated by actions that would hurt the Filipino people. Pharmally and Malampaya will never occur during a Robredo administration.

Her leadership by example—do you recall that picture of her, a congresswoman, waiting for a bus so she could get back to her constituency?—will be more effective in preventing corruption than any other action she takes. The Filipino people know she is for real. No fancy cars, no fancy houses, no first-class airplane rides (Bongbong admitted that when he returned to the Philippines, he borrowed money for a first-class ticket because he couldn’t bear to ride coach/economy).

So she will implement her plans. And be transparent about it—we will get progress reports, during her Sona, based on StatDev (the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Plan monitoring arm).

My brothers and sisters, the Philippines is in the worst situation since the end of World War II. On the other hand, we are given a one-off: a candidate who has the unique capabilities to lead the Philippines out of this darkness. We refuse her at our peril.


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