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    Bottomline Interview with Vice President Leni Robredo

    ELJ Communications Center Building, Quezon City

    Host: Mr. Boy Abunda

    BOY ABUNDA: Magandang gabi, Pilipinas. This is The Bottomline. Our guest, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, Vice President Leni Robredo. Magandang gabi. Welcome to The Bottomline.

    VP LENI: Magandang gabi, Boy. Thank you for having me again.

    BOY ABUNDA: And I would like you to meet our Bottomliners tonight. Unahin na natin si Adda Marie Zafe, Chairman, Social Issues and Advocacies, Adamson University Student Government. Thank you, Adda. And then we have the SK [Sangguniang Kabataan] National Secretariat, National Youth Commission, Amerson Aguinaldo; Editor-in-chief, The Catalyst, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Guia Freleen Sanchez; Paula Nicole Taneo, is the Vice President, Student Council, Colegio de San Juan de Letran; We have former Youth Affairs Consultant of Ilocos Norte, Willie Jake Sib-at. Good evening and welcome to the Bottomline.

    VP, are you in a better place today than, let’s say, 15 years ago?

    VP LENI: Tingin ko, Boy, hindi. Kasi 2003, my husband was still alive. Definitely, life was so much easier and happier when he was still with us. Sa isang pamilya naman kapag nakukulangan, it is never the same again, ‘di ba? Pero ano naman, despite losing him, despite the many problems, I still think there is a lot to be thankful for kaya parati naman tayong grateful.

    BOY ABUNDA: But you were happier before?

    VP LENI: Oo, definitely.

    BOY ABUNDA: Not even with the powers of the vice presidency?

    VP LENI: Parang walang powers. [laughter]

    BOY ABUNDA: Naalala ko lamang, in one of the interviews of your daughters, sabi nila, “Hindi namin alam kung paano ka namin maipagtatanggol kapag pinasok mo ito, kapag naging vice president ka.” How affected are your daughters about the bad and the good about the vice presidency?”

    VP LENI: Ako, at first, they were very affected. Ano kasi, Boy, e iyong… the statement you were saying a while ago, that was actually their opposition, objection to my running. Remember noong inaaya ako, talagang sila ayaw na ayaw talaga nila. Iyong reason nila, noong nabubuhay pa iyong Dad nila, they were oblivious to the ugliness of politics kasi I shielded them away from it. Noong nawala iyong asawa ko tapos ako iyong kakandidato, sinasabi noong panganay ko—si Aika—na, “Parang hindi ko kaya iyong ginawa mo for us when Papa was the politician.”

    BOY ABUNDA: The shielding, she meant—

    VP LENI: Oo. Parang sinasabi niya, “Parang hindi ko kayang pagtakpan iyong kapangitan ng pulitika na pareho iyong epekto sa aming magkakapatid noong maliliit pa kami.” At first, my children were really affected. Parang sinasabi nila, “Sabi na namin sa iyo e.”

    Eventually, nakita naman nila na hindi naman ako apektado e. And hindi ka apektado kapag alam mong hindi totoo; kapag alam mong lahat kasinungalingan iyong sinasabi. You go home at night na peaceful lahat, na wala kang… hindi mo dala iyong bigat noong nasa labas.

    BOY ABUNDA: Alam natin na kapag ang puso mo malinis, uuwi ka, makakatulog ka. But not when your relatives start to ask, “Totoo ba na may affair ka? Totoo ba nakipag-away ka?” That’s my first question. I mean, how did you get to that space of peace.

    Pangalawa, noong unang nag-react ang iyong mga anak na, “Sabi na namin sa iyo e.” May isa ba sa kanilang… na nag-express ng galit?

    VP LENI: Wala naman, Boy. Walang galit. Mas worried sila for me. Tapos iyong sinasabi mong kahirapan na may relatives ako na nagtatanong, may friends akong—

    BOY ABUNDA: In general terms iyon, VP.

    VP LENI: Oo, actually, Boy, iyong mga nakakakilala kasi sa akin alam na hindi totoo. Alam na hindi totoo halimbawa, iyong sinabi na iyong kama ko sa bahay 700,000 [pesos], na ako nagsho-shopping ng ganito karami. Wala namang nagtatanong sa akin kasi alam naman nila na hindi totoo.

    BOY ABUNDA: For many years, pinagtakpan, shinield mo iyong mga bata. Looking back now, VP, was that right?

    VP LENI: Ako, I think so. Tingin ko, Boy, tama, in the sense na lumaki iyong mga anak kong normal, na walang sense of entitlement, na akala nila—my husband was Mayor for almost 18 years, 19 years I mean—akala nila, iyong trabaho ng Tatay nila parang pareho lang ng trabaho ng Tatay ng mga kaklase nila na engineer, teacher—

    BOY ABUNDA: How did you do that, VP? Kasi siyempre nakikita nila mayor, maraming taong pumupunta, nasa diyaryo—

    VP LENI: Kami kasi, Boy, talagang I shunned entitlement. Wala akong driver, nagta-trabaho ho akong full-time, ako iyong nagha-hatid, nagsu-sundo sa mga anak ko. Sa akin, iyon iyong pinaka-number one lesson: We have to work hard for everything that we want.

    Ako kasi, Boy, iyong worry ko noon, noong kakandidato na iyong asawa ko, iyon iyong pinagtalunan namin. Parati kong sinasabi na, “Iyong nakikita ko kasing mga anak ng mga pulitiko, hindi naman lahat, pero maraming examples na…” Alam mo iyon, Boy, iyong entitlement? Ang sabi ng asawa ko, “Puwede naman nating ibahin. Puwede nating pagtrabahuan na hindi ganoon.”

    Until now, nandoon kami sa bahay na tinitirhan namin from before: maliit, ano siya, apartment. Nasa apartment complex. Ano talaga, normal na normal iyong buhay even when I was in Congress already. Regular pa rin—

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay, so you lived that life. You lived that experience. You lived the message that you wanted your children to understand.

    While you’re telling us a story, pasensya na, hindi ko maiwasan isipin si Jess, ano, at hindi ko maiwasan iyong kuwento na noong una kayong nagkita, I think you were applying for a job and he was your boss—

    VP LENI: Yes, oo.

    BOY ABUNDA: —and he didn’t even like you or you didn’t even like him. What was the story?

    VP LENI: Oo, kasi, Boy, I was a fresh graduate of UP [University of the Philippines]. Nag-apply ako sa isang government office sa amin. Pag-apply ko, Boy, alam mo, ano iyon e, parang kinasanayan na kapag mag-a-apply may recommendation from a politician. [To bottomliners] Kaya huwag niyo iyon gagawin. Pagpasok ko, iyong recommendation nasa harap. Tinanong kaagad ng asawa ko iyong boss—siya iyong mag-i-interview sa akin— “What’s this?” So hindi ako makasalita. Sabi ko, “Recommendation.” Tapos sabi niya, “What is this for? Don’t you know this is a different time?” Parang… para akong, Boy, binuhusan ng malamig na tubig na nasa isip ko, “Oh no, hindi na ako matatanggap.” Parang lesson iyon sa akin na hindi lahat na kinagawian, mabuti.

    BOY ABUNDA: Parati kong sinasabi iyan—hindi lahat ng bahagi ng ating kultura ay tama; hindi lahat ng ating kinagisnan sa ating tradisyon ay tama.

    VP LENI: Saka siguro, Boy, dahil marami tayong mga kabataan na kasama—na nasa kamay mo iyong pagbabago—na kahit ginagawa ng lahat ng nakakatanda sa iyo, kapag alam mong mali, puwede mo iyon baguhin.

    BOY ABUNDA: You can choose to do what is right. Fast forward tayo, VP Leni, kasi ngayon halimbawa, ako kapag nagba-browse ako ng internet, I go to many sites. If I were to believe everything that’s written on the internet, I would believe—

    VP LENI: Uy, grabe naman. [laughs]

    BOY ABUNDA: I would believe that you are an evil woman.

    VP LENI: Yes. I’ve been—

    BOY ABUNDA: Does that worry you? [Break]

    VP LENI: Noong una, Boy, hindi. Noong una, I was too naïve to think na because these things are not true, people will not believe them. Kasi I was coming from a local setting e. Iyong asawa ko was also a victim of a lot of vilification. Pero dahil kilala siya ng tao, hindi nagwo-work. Kahit minamasama siya, hindi pinapaniwalaan ng tao because people see him up close and they know what’s true and what’s not.

    BOY ABUNDA: But not in this volume?

    VP LENI: Yes, and I realized that too late. Pinabayaan ko siya, Boy—lahat na kasinungalingan I thought they would just go away because they’re not true.

    BOY ABUNDA: What was the turning point? Na parang, “Sobra na ito. Hindi ko na kaya ito.”

    VP LENI: Ako, Boy, iyong recently lang. Hindi ko alam kung ano iyong one specific incident pero recently lang, parang ang daming taong naniwala, ang daming taong naniwala… parang ang hindi na lang naniniwala iyong mga taga sa amin kasi kilala nila ako. Tingin ko may kapabayaan ako kasi alam mo, iyong tao kung hindi ka kilala, fineed ka ng information na ganito, wala naman ibang information na in-o-offer sa kanila—

    BOY ABUNDA: That’s my next question. What did you do? Mayroon ka bang alternative site, ‘di ba?

    VP LENI: Mayroon ako, Boy, mayroon akong dalawang Facebook accounts—

    BOY ABUNDA: Dedicated simply to telling your side of the story?

    VP LENI: Dedicated to telling what I’ve been doing everyday. Pero itong social media account namin, ano ito, parang telling the good news all the time. Wala itong paninira sa kahit kanino. Nag-subok na nga ako na sabihin na kung ano iyong totoo: nagkaroon kami ng video na parang interview sa akin. Ito, Boy, iyong nakakatawa kasi sabi ko sasagutin ko lahat. Pina-gather ko sa staff, “I-gather niyo nga lahat nang pinagsasasabi tungkol sa akin at sasagutin ko lahat.” Na-realize ko, Boy, sobrang dami pala.

    BOY ABUNDA: Ang dami talaga.

    VP LENI: Sobrang dami na talagang hundred percent hindi totoo.

    BOY ABUNDA: Pero, VP, mayroon ba doon sa maraming sinagot mo, kahit papaano totoo ang pinanggalingan?

    VP LENI: May pinanggalingan… halimbawa, mayroong isang picture, umiikot ako sa maputik na lugar. Naka-suot ako ng sapatos, iyong flats na beige. Binilugan nila iyong sapatos na suot ko—iyon iyong basis siyempre totoo ‘di ba—tapos sa katabi noon nakalagay na, “Grabe, napaka-ostentatious niya talaga kasi pupunta lang siya sa maputik na lugar may suot siya na 700 o 7,000-dollar na Ferragamo shoes!” E iyong sapatos ko, Boy, hindi naman Ferragamo. Pero mukha siyang… mayroon siyang pinakitang Ferragamo shoes may—

    BOY ABUNDA: Pinagtabi—

    VP LENI: Pinagtabi so iyong basis, tama. Pero iyong konklusyon, mali.

    BOY ABUNDA: I get it.

    VP LENI: Parating ganoon. Mayroon din talagang walang basis. Halimbawa, iyong 700,000 na bed, hindi ko nga alam na mayroon palang—

    BOY ABUNDA: Nag-away kayo ni Loren Legarda—

    VP LENI: Nag-away kami ni Loren Legarda, iyon din may basis iyon kasi nandoon ako sa Senate to defend the budget. Magkasama kami ni Senator Loren. Pumunta kami sa Plenary ng sabay. Mayroong picture na hindi naman kami mukhang nag-aaway pero inangguluhan na sinugod ko raw—iyong mga ganoon. Tapos halimbawa—

    BOY ABUNDA: Na mayroon kang boyfriend—

    VP LENI: Maraming boyfriends, Boy. Marami akong boyfriends. Ako, Boy, all the time I’m surrounded by men. Iyong trabaho ko, Boy, is a man’s world e. Pero iyon nga, iyong mga nakapaligid sa akin, boyfriend ko. May picture ka na sweet kayo ng friends mo kaya pinagtatawanan sa amin kasi kapag may bago, “May bago nang boyfriend si VP Leni.” Tapos iyong boyfriend pala, mas feminine pa sa akin. So iyon iyong—

    BOY ABUNDA: You’re talking about gay friends halimbawa—

    VP LENI: Iyon iyong hirap sa mundo natin e, na kapag babae ka, 2018 na ito pero iba talaga pa rin talaga iyong tingin pa din ng society sa babae e—

    BOY ABUNDA: I agree.

    VP LENI: Iyong lalaki, ang dami mo nang ginawa, hindi ka pa papansinin pero iyong babae, wala ka pang ginagawa, napapansin ka na.

    BOY ABUNDA: VP, lalo naman kami—ang LGBT. Pero that’s for another interview.

    VP LENI: Oo. [laughs]

    BOY ABUNDA: If Jess were alive today, I’m just tempted to ask this, what do you think would he tell you?

    VP LENI: If he were alive kasi Boy, I would not have entered politics—

    BOY ABUNDA: Hypothetical lang. Palagay mo ano kayang sasabihin niya sa iyo?

    VP LENI: Ako, tingin ko, Boy, ang sasabihin niya: “I told you so na kaya mo.”

    BOY ABUNDA: Sasabihin niya iyon?

    VP LENI: Oo, kasi when his term ended, he was telling me na, “My political leaders want you to run.”

    BOY ABUNDA: And then you said?

    VP LENI: Sabi ko, Boy, “Over my dead body.” [laughter] Pero ang dami ko nang kinain sa mga sinabi ko.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay, if he asks you, “Is it worth it?” Anong sasabihin mo sa kaniya?

    VP LENI: Ako, “Yes.” Public service is always a privilege—

    BOY ABUNDA: Go ahead, talk about your Tsinelas Leadership na iyong minana mula sa iyong asawa.

    VP LENI: Sa akin kasi, Boy, iyong pag… iyong noong mag-asawa pa kami ni Jesse, it was really a partnership. Ako, I was lawyering for the poor. Siya iyong politician in the family but we learned a lot from each other. Iyong opisina ko iyong communities kasi iyong ginagawa namin noon, community organizing. Tinuturuan namin iyong mga sektor ng mga karapatan nila sa batas—we were translating laws into the dialect with the belief that when people know their rights under the law, they will be in a better position to fight for their rights. So maraming aral sa pagbaba and iyong pinaka-malaking aral iyong empathy.

    BOY ABUNDA: Ang tawag namin diyan sa social development, co-feeling.

    VP LENI: Ayon. When you co-feel, parang the sense of urgency is there, parang hindi makakahintay iyong pagdurusa. Iyon iyong natutunan ko nashe-share ko kay Jess and I would like to believe na mayroon akong participation doon sa kind of leadership that he espoused—

    BOY ABUNDA: Iyong Tsinelas Leadership. Bakit tinawag iyon na tsinelas?

    VP LENI: Iyon, ano iyon, literal and figurative. Iyong asawa ko, parating naka-tsinelas, Boy. Kilala mo naman siya. Parang hindi siya sanay mag-sapatos. Noong nandito na siya sinabi ko sa kaniya, “Hindi ka na puwedeng mag-tsinelas sa Maynila.” Pero ang ginagawa niya, iyong sapatos niya nasa sasakyan lang. Naka-tsinelas siya pagsakay, kapag bababa na, saka siya magsasapatos. Pero ang reklamo niya, kinakati siya, mainit, kasi hindi sanay.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay. Let’s talk about the vice presidency. There is this notion na alam namin that the vice president is a spare tire. [Break]

    VP LENI: Ano kasi, Boy, if you look at our laws, talagang ganoon e.

    BOY ABUNDA: Talagang spare tire.

    VP LENI: Kasi kapag tinignan mo, Boy, iyong batas natin, walang nakasaad na mandato ng Pangalawang Pangulo. Nakalagay lang na kapag may nangyari sa Pangulo, dapat iyong Pangalawang Pangulo, nakahanda, which is really unfortunate kasi sayang ang anim na taon e, ‘di ba? Parang iyong naging kaugalian sa atin, because under the constitution, the President may appoint the Vice President to a Cabinet post, iyong the Cabinet post is the one that… parang occupies the time of the Vice President. Kapag tinignan mo iyong budget, walang pondo for programs—iyong pondo niya, operations, suweldo, iyong mga ceremonial work.

    BOY ABUNDA: Functions, yeah—

    VP LENI: Talagang you have to be creative to be able to do something.

    Kaya noong pagpasok ko, Boy—naalala ko wala pang inauguration—nagkaroon ng statement si Pangulo na, “I don’t intend to give her a Cabinet post,” although eventually, he did. Pero dahil sinabi niya, sinabi ko sa staff that na, “We can’t do 6 years just doing ceremonial work kasi sinasayang natin iyong pera ng gobyerno na nag-e-exist tayo pero wala namang makabuluhan na ginagawa.”

    So nag-craft kami ng isang programa—tawag namin doon Angat Buhay—iyong programa is an anti-poverty program kasi iyon naman iyong kinasanayan kong gawin. Pero iyong pinaka-problema noon, wala kaming pondo so kailangan namin maging innovative.

    Ako, Boy, it was strategic, it was intentional na most of my staff are very young people kasi very innovative talaga iyong mga bata. Hindi na inaabot ng mga isip natin, naiisip nila iyon. And sa tulong nila, na-craft namin ito na we were able to position the office as a sort of a conduit. Parang tulay na kami iyong magpapakilala ng mga communities needing help sa mga private organizations—

    BOY ABUNDA: Ah, private?

    VP LENI: Yes, private.

    BOY ABUNDA: Oh, okay. Not government agencies?

    VP LENI: We just ask for help from government agencies but the funding comes from private—

    BOY ABUNDA: Private entities.

    VP LENI: Ang isang nadiskubre namin, Boy, there are just so many people who want to help but don’t know how. So we fill in that gap. Kami iyong nagsasabing ito iyong mga communities na nangangailangan ng tulong.

    And, Boy, it has been very satisfying. We have been doing this for… magtu-two years na ngayong October. We started with 50 very poor communities. We’re now in 176. Very satisfying na iyong pinupuntahan namin iyong pinaka-malalayo kasi ito iyong hindi naabot e.

    BOY ABUNDA: At pinaka-mahihirap katulad ng aming probinsya.

    VP LENI: Oo.

    BOY ABUNDA: I want to raise a point dahil pera ang pinag-uusapan natin. Iyong net worth mo sa SALN [Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth] has gone down to 1.1 million [pesos] dahil—it used to be like 7.8 [million pesos] something—doon ka kumuha for your case?

    VP LENI: Kasi, Boy, iyong problema, umutang ako, Boy, e. Hindi ko kinuhaan iyong money pero umutang ako sa relatives noong hinulog ko sa Supreme Court kasi bawal ako, Boy, tumanggap ng donations. As a public official, I cannot accept donations.

    BOY ABUNDA: Can you explain that again? So dati kasi ang SALN mo was about 7 point something—

    VP LENI: Eight point something—

    BOY ABUNDA: Tapos ngayon, it’s down to 1.1—

    VP LENI: Yes.

    BOY ABUNDA: So bakit bumaba kung hindi mo ginalaw ito at nangutang ka?

    VP LENI: Kasi ire-report mo, Boy, iyong utang mo e. It’s a liability.

    BOY ABUNDA: Ah, ayon. So you had to borrow money. Ang tanong ko nga, bawal ba sa isang vice president… wala… ang magkaroon ng ibang sources of income?

    VP LENI: Bawal, Boy, e. And mahirap talaga siya. Mahirap siya kasi unang una, bawal kang mag-accept ng donations at I think, tama iyon para hindi ka indebted to anyone. Pangalawa, bawal ka to have any business interests. Iyon iyong mahirap kasi magkano lang naman iyong suweldo. Medyo mataas na siya ngayon compared to before. Pero iyong problema kapag may extraordinary expenses gaya nito, ang hirap talaga. Hindi mo alam saan ka kukuha.

    Actually, there was a group who fund raised for me. Ang tawag sa grupo nila, Piso Para sa Laban ni Leni. They were able to raise 7.5… 7.4, I think, million pesos. Pero I cannot accept it, Boy, e kasi bawal ako—bawal ako to get donations.

    So noong hindi ko tinatangap, nakakalap na sila and they got it from so many people, mayroong mga… Ang kuwento nila, Boy, mayroong drivers na nagbigay ng 50 pesos, a hundred pesos, almost 25,000 people iyong nag-donate sa kanila pero hindi ko matanggap. Parang ang sama sa loob kasi hard-earned money ito na parang gustong itulong sa iyo tapos hindi mo matanggap.

    They petitioned the Supreme Court to receive the amount but the Supreme Court said we cannot receive it because it is tantamount to the Vice President accepting donations. And inaano nila iyon, Boy… dino-donate nila for our Angat Buhay projects.

    BOY ABUNDA: So napunta doon?

    VP LENI: Napunta doon pero I was the one who suggested to them, “Why not… Why don’t we spend it to make an Angat Buhay village in Marawi?”

    BOY ABUNDA: That’s allowed by law? I mean—

    VP LENI: That’s allowed by law kasi iyong sa amin, Boy, we did not… parang it was intended for us but we did not receive the donation.

    BOY ABUNDA: Yeah. But what I’m trying to say is, I raised funds for something pero gagamitin namin for another. That one is allowed?

    VP LENI: Oo, Boy. Humingi kami ng—

    BOY ABUNDA: Kasi there were 25,000 people who donated to—

    VP LENI: Actually, Boy, humingi kami ng permission from them. They have a website e.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay.

    VP LENI: So they asked permission from the donors also and we chose a local partner in Marawi. Ang partner namin doon, Boy, iyong Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. So the money was given to them, they were our local implementors and two weeks ago, we already inaugurated the houses.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay. Going to your electoral protest, I’d like to read this quote. Ang Commission on Elections kasi in front of the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, and I quote: “For the purposes of the 09 May 2016 NLE, National and Local Elections, Comelec, in order to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading or that no accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes in order to reflect the true intent of the voter, had set the ballot shading threshold at 25 percent.”

    I know we can’t talk much about the merits of the case because this is in the courts of law but tell me what you can about the case.

    VP LENI: ‘Di ba iyong shading, we’re asked to shade a hundred percent of the small circle? Pero over the years, nag-iiba iyong… nag-start tayo ng automated elections, 2010. Apparently iyong 2010, iyong naging rule was 50 percent so ang mababasa ng machine, if you are able to shade at least 50 percent, iyon iyong mababasa ng machine. Pero iyong 2013, ginawa iyong 20 percent kasi napansin nila na after the 2010 elections, maraming mga ballots na hindi nabasa kasi marami talaga iyong hindi nakakasunod sa instructions. So in 2013, they did 20 percent. In 2016, 25 percent iyong rule ng Comelec.

    As early as we were able to get the Comelec resolution, ano ito, mga news clippings, mga as early as February of 2016, nag-announce na ang Comelec na 25 percent ang gagamitin nilang threshold.

    BOY ABUNDA: The Comelec is defending itself dahil ang Solicitor General ng Pilipinas has taken the position that it has to be 50. I am not a lawyer; I’d like to ask you, Vice President, are you supposed to be defended by the SolGen?

    VP LENI: No. The SolGen is supposed to be the lawyer for the Comelec. Kasi the SolGen is the lawyer—

    BOY ABUNDA: But the SolGen is supposed to be the lawyer of the Comelec but they have a fundamental disagreement.

    VP LENI: Yes.

    BOY ABUNDA: So is it right kapag nababasa namin sa mga diyaryo ngayon, ang sinasabi ng Comelec, “Our lawyers, we are defending ourselves because we have the fundamental disagreement with the Solicitor General.”

    VP LENI: Kasi, Boy, dapat kapag ikaw iyong abogado, you’ll just make sure that iyong truth about your client is, ‘di ba, is amplified in the proper forum. Pero in this case, that did not happen. In this case, iba iyong posisyon ng Comelec pero iyong abogado niya, ibang posisyon iyong tinake. So iyong abogado niya, na which is the SolGen, iyon iyong unang nagbigay ng pahayag. So noong nagbigay ng pahayag iyong abogado niya, the Court had to ask Comelec to submit their position paper.

    BOY ABUNDA: Right. Okay. Let me be very blunt. Do you trust the Supreme Court? Sitting as, of course, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. [Break]

    VP LENI: Kapag hindi natin pinaniwalaan iyong Supreme Court, parang wala nang pag-asa iyong demokrasya natin—

    BOY ABUNDA: So you do?

    VP LENI: Yes.

    BOY ABUNDA: There is political buzz that by October or November or the first quarter of 2019, you’re gone as Vice President.

    VP LENI: Actually, Boy—

    BOY ABUNDA: Have you heard of this?

    VP LENI: Yes. Pero actually, Boy, from 2016 there has always been buzz, that I will be booted out of office. Dati sinabi noon, “Hindi iyang magwa-one year na nakaupo.” Sunod… paurong ng paurong iyong deadline. Pero ito, Boy, noong kumandidato kami iyong mandatong binigay sa amin ng tao was for six years.

    Hanggang mayroon pa akong capability na panindigan iyong mandatong binigay sa akin, obligasyon kong gawin iyong lahat kong magagawa para ma-represent ko iyong tao in the best way I can.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay. Let me read to you a quote of the President—of President Duterte—“I will not resign because it will make her president. My resignation is addressed to the people so that they can choose the leader they want. I don’t think she’ll be ready to govern the country. Reason? Incompetence. That she’s not capable of running a country like this, the Philippines.”

    Let’s talk about competence. I’ll put it straight. Are you competent enough to run this country?

    VP LENI: Hindi naman ako dapat iyong nagsasabi niyan ‘di ba? Because I will always say I’m competent. Iyong makakapagsabi niyan, iyong mga taong nakatrabaho ko, iyong makakasabi niyan iyong mga kasamahan ko sa Kongreso, iyong makakasabi niyan iyong mga nakapaligid sa akin ngayong Pangalawang Pangulo na ako.

    Pero iyong sa akin kasi, Boy, parang ang dami nang away e. Ang dami nang away sa bansa natin and I don’t think nakakatulong iyon sa atin—nakakatulong iyong away. Kaya iyong sa akin, ayaw ko nang patulan iyong statement ni Pangulo. Pero sa akin iyong wish ko lang, sana mas maging unifying siya.

    BOY ABUNDA: Your relationship with the President was very good in the beginning. What happened? And when did it start to turn sour?

    VP LENI: Actually, Boy, wala naman kaming problema ni Presidente. Alam niya iyon. I have always been very cooperative noong nasa gabinete ako—alam niya iyon na I work very hard, ano iyon, we were okay. Until the weekend of… parang last weekend of November—

    BOY ABUNDA: 2017.

    VP LENI: Yes. Iyong last weekend of November, naalala ko, Boy, ano iyon e, there was an occasion which I attended. Pero the occasion which I attended coincided with the big rally in EDSA. The occasion I attended, nandoon si Secretary Taguiwalo, who was still part of the Cabinet; there were other government officials present and there was a big rally in EDSA—I never went to the rally in EDSA. I never participated in it. Bahagi ako ng gabinete, hindi naman ako dapat pumupunta doon.

    Pero apparently, iba iyong nakarating kay Presidente. Iyong nakarating sa kaniya na I participated in the rally sa EDSA. Nag-decide siya na huwag na akong pa-attendin ng Cabinet meetings.

    BOY ABUNDA: Hindi ka nagkaroon ng pagkakataon ipagtanggol ang sarili mo?

    VP LENI: Hindi, Boy. I was never given the chance.

    BOY ABUNDA: You were never given the chance.

    VP LENI: In fact, Boy, iyong nag-deliver ng message was also a member of the Cabinet na, “Pinapasabi ni Presidente…” Ako naman, Boy, kung hindi mo ako papa-attendin ng Cabinet meetings, magre-resign na lang ako kasi I was handling a sector na kailangan tulungan—housing. Iyong housing backlog natin grabe. I was trying to present a project to him, na kailangan talagang tutukan. Kapag may ganoon na dynamics, mas mabuti hindi na ako para maasikaso siya ng maayos so I resigned—

    BOY ABUNDA: So since then, hindi na nagkaroon ng pagkakataong mag-usap? Hindi na kayo—

    VP LENI: Nagkikita kami, Boy, in some events and iyong events na nagkikita kami, he has been very nice to me—very civil. In fact, I think it was in the… parang graduation of PMA [Philippine Military Academy] last year, na noong nagkita kami sabi niya, “Mas mabuti mag-dinner tayo para makapagusap tayo.” So sabi ko, “Sige po. Pasabihan lang ako.” And in fact, parang may sinabi nang date na… noong dinner, na ako naman it was very welcome kasi iyong sa akin, palagay ko the country will benefit kapag hindi kami—

    BOY ABUNDA: Kapag nagkakaintindihan ang President at tsaka Vice President—

    BOY ABUNDA: Natuloy o hindi natuloy?

    VP LENI: Hindi, Boy. Hindi siya natuloy.

    BOY ABUNDA: Bakit?

    VP LENI: Hindi ko din… I was never given a reason why hindi siya natuloy.

    BOY ABUNDA: Kanina, VP, you were starting to tell me about the context doon sa—sabi ko nga—iyong “incompetent.” I mean, kung nanggaling lamang iyon sa ordinaryong tao halimbawa, or a political critic, but this is coming from the President.

    VP LENI: When he said that, the day before, he had another statement. And the statement the day before was, “Ayaw ko na. Iiwan ko na kay Robredo iyong ano… Siya naman.” Tapos the following day, the following day kasi, Boy, that was the time that I was asked in a press briefing whether I was ready to be the leader of the opposition and I said, “Yes.” Sabi ko, “Baka nagalit si Presidente noong sinabi ko iyong “Yes” kaya iba na iyong sinabi niya.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay, so it was in response to your accepting the… Well, is that—

    VP LENI: Baka, baka… I can only speculate.

    BOY ABUNDA: Okay. Because it merited a reaction from Harry Roque, who is President’s spokesperson, and I’d like to quote. He said, “An active opposition has a vital role to play in a healthy, well-functioning democracy.” But he, likewise, put up a challenge for the opposition to, I quote, “present a viable alternative platform of government to address longstanding problems of the nation.”

    VP LENI: Tama siya, Boy. Tama siya na iyong gobyernong walang oposisyon, hindi magiging mabuti, na parang echo chamber ka na ang naririnig mo lang puri kasi hindi naman tayo perpekto e. Kahit ako, kahit ako hindi naman ako perpekto, nagkakamali ako. Dapat kapag nagkamali ako, iko-call iyong attention ko kasi kung walang magko-call ng attention ko, hindi ko na alam na mali na pala iyong ginagawa ko. Kaya iyon iyong role dapat ng oposisyon. Ako naman, Boy, when I said I was willing to be the—

    BOY ABUNDA: The leader of the opposition.

    VP LENI: The leader of the opposition. Quinalify ko iyon, Boy, e. Sabi ko, iyong para sa akin, iyong opposition na relevant. Hindi iyong lahat na oras kumo-kontra. Sa akin, iyong oposisyon na relevant, kumo-kontra kapag kailangang kumontra. Kino-call iyong attention ng gobyerno kapag kailangang i-call iyong attention ng gobyerno.

    BOY ABUNDA: VP, do we have a united opposition? Do we have a robust opposition? [Break]

    BOY ABUNDA: VP, do we have a united opposition? Do we have a robust opposition? Because some critics are saying, anemic, uncharismatic, hindi naman daw buo ang oposisyon.

    VP LENI: Iyan naman, Boy, partly true. Pero historically kapag pinag-aralan mo, parati namang ganiyan, ‘di ba? Parating ganiyan. Kapag bago iyong administrasyon, kapag bago iyong pangulo, parating binibigyan naman siya ng pagkakataon. That was the case during PNoy [Former President Benigno Aquino III]’s time, that was the case during GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo]’s time, even the presidents before them. Parang may honeymoon period parati.

    Normally, nag-iiba after the midterm elections. Ano naman iyon, parati namang ganiyan. Iyong masama lang sa atin kasi, iyong party system… iyong political party system sa atin masyadong personality-oriented. Dapat sana iyong mga partido, ang pinaglalabanan iyong mga paniniwala, ‘di ba, mga prinsipyo, iyon iyong nakakatulong sa parang… pagka-malakas ng bansa natin bilang isang political entity. Pero anong nangyayari sa atin? Makikita natin iyong nangyari sa House of Representatives—

    BOY ABUNDA: Let’s talk about that. Kasi hindi lamang sa House of Representatives, before that pinalitan si Senator Koko Pimentel ni Senator Sotto, napalitan si Speaker Alvarez ni Former President Arroyo. What’s happening in the political landscape?

    VP LENI: Ano kasi siya, Boy, e. Reflection siya ng everything that is wrong in our political system. Halimbawa, iyong partido namin, Liberal Party. Talagang maliit lang naman siya na partido. But when PNoy became president, nagdagsaan sa Liberal Party. nagdagsaan sa Liberal Party, naging maraming-marami. Pero noong nag-step down si PNoy, naubos ulit.

    BOY ABUNDA: Puwede ho akong sumagot? Kasi ang behavior ng mga tao doon sa Kongreso ay, “Kapag hindi naman kami kumampi dito sa, halimbawa, sa Presidente ay hindi kami mabibigyan ng mga proyekto. Paano naman ang aming mga constituents?” So doon tayo sa turncoatism.

    VP LENI: Pero mali nga iyon, Boy, e. Kasi sumasali ka sa political party kasi iyong paniniwala mo pareho ng paniniwala ng partido.

    BOY ABUNDA: Ideyolohiya, kung mayroon man.

    VP LENI: Pero iyong sa atin nga, Boy, masyado nga siyang personality-oriented.

    BOY ABUNDA: So saan natin dapat ito i-cure?

    VP LENI: Kailangan talagang baguhin iyong batas. Dapat i-strengthen iyong political parties, magkaroon ng tulong—financial help—iyong political parties from the government. Ganoon naman sa ibang bansa, Boy. I-bawal iyong political turncoatism. Sa ibang bansa, Boy, kapag halimbawa na-elect akong Congressman under the Liberal Party, kapag lumipat ako ng partido habang nakaupo akong Congressman, puwede akong tanggalin and I cannot run again during the succeeding elections.

    Dapat, Boy, may ganoon na batas para hindi in-a-allow iyong ganito. Kapag personality-oriented kasi okay iyon kung parating okay iyong pangulo. E iyong pangulo, nagkakamali din e. Kapag naging abusive iyong pangulo, iyong parang may tendency na… to chose to look the other way.

    BOY ABUNDA: At tsaka iyong from the academic point of view nga, iyong role ng robust, vibrant opposition.

    VP LENI: Hindi… hindi nga siya magiging vibrant, Boy, e as long as ganito iyong sitwasyon.

    BOY ABUNDA: Ang nakita ng maraming tao dito sa House noong nagpalitan ng liderato ay nagkaroon ng alyansa, ano—Duterte, Arroyo, who is now the Speaker, and Marcos, okay—

    [End of Part 1]

    Note: Continuation of VP Leni’s interview will be aired on ABS-CBN Channel 2 next Saturday night, August 11.

    Posted in Transcripts on Aug 05, 2018