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    Interview of Talk Back with VP Leni

    5 July 2016

    Q: Let’s read some of the questions and comments from Twitter and Facebook. We have the Vice President Leni Robredo with us from Talk Back today. Not having a cabinet post maybe a blessing, but what can you do without any budget? How can you help uplift the poor? She’ll answer that as long as we finish reading the other questions. How are your plans to put up a satellite office, Madame VP? Do you think you and President Duterte can actually work together? Is it true that before she got married to Jesse, she actually married a leftist first? But we’ll take that first question. About the cabinet post.

    VP Leni: Ako naman ano, parang I’ve already set my sights on not having a cabinet post at all. So what we’re doing now is trying to put together or get together all the civil society organizations with anti-poverty programs and try to streamline them.

    Parang ang mangyayari lang, iyong Office of the Vice President will be a sort of a convenor for all these programs. Parang iyong imagination ko before that if I’d be given a cabinet post, I will try to streamline all of the governments anti-poverty programs and because it was not given to me, I can do it naman with the private sector.

    And surprisingly, there are so many of them who are coming forward trying to offer their help with regards to the programs that we might want to pursue.

    Medyo nakakalula na nga. Sabi ko lang sa members of my staff, let’s not spread ourselves too thinly, let’s just concentrate on a few core programs, iyong kaya lang namin.

    Q: Because the funds to help up these programs and activities will be coming from the private.

    VP Leni: And we don’t have a mandate to execute these programs.

    Q: You don’t have a mandate? And neither do the funds that are given by these donors….

    VP Leni: And we cannot accept funds. It need not be directed to any department or even to the Office of the Vice President. Parang ang mangyayari lang, parang mag-lelead lang kami.

    Mag-lelead, we will do environmental scanning, we’ll try to go around the country and try to reach out to the farthest, smallest, poorest barangays.

    Q: Is this going to maybe duplicate or even enhance the programs of NAPC and NAPC has Lisa Masa now and DSWD has Secretary Taguiwalo, hindi ba mag-ooverlap kung mayroon man?

    VP Leni: That’s the main purpose of trying to streamline everything. Ang gusto ko lang sabihin, after we have gathered all the civil society organizations already, we’ll try to have an audience with DSWD, the NAPC, and many other government agencies. We have anti-poverty programs and see where we can partner with them.

    Ang sa akin lang, we will not try to compete with any of their programs. Mas kami iyong mag-fifill-in ng gaps na nandoon. It doesn’t make sense naman to replicate or to make a duplication of programs already being implemented. Iyong mga hindi naaabot doon kami.

    So that’s what we’re going to do now. We have already scheduled a series of meetings with many civil society organizations. Marami ang nagpapadala ng proposals, nagpapadala ng information over the Internet. May nagpapadala sa amin ng hand-carried, binibigay sa amin iyong mga profile nila.

    So what we’re doing now is iniipon namin kung sino ba sa kanila ang may mga programs on hunger and food security. Sino iyong may mga programs on education, sino iyong may mga programs on rural development.

    Q: Parang i-lilink mo iyong donor with the government…

    VP Leni: Not with government but with the beneficiaries.

    Q: No. With the donor of the government? Kung ang donor ay isang bansa, idadaan iyong funds because you made a pitch for them, you will directly endorse them to an NGO? Kasi ganoon naman iyong ginagawa ng mga ibang departments eh.

    VP Leni: Yes. At saka wala namang mandate iyong opisina namin to do that. So kami lang talaga iyon. We’ll make the pitch, we’ll coordinate, we’ll do the scanning.

    Q: Is this the weakness of your office? What is it? You have no funds?

    VP Leni: Ano kasi, if you look at the Constitution, iyong Vice President, ang pinakatrabaho niya lang talaga is to take the place of the President in case something happened to the President. Parang ganoon siya ka-simple.

    Tiningnan namin ang dating ginagawa ng Office of the Vice President and for many years, heavy siya on ceremonial, heavy siya on local affairs, pero hindi masyadong nabigyan ng emphasis iyong policies at saka advocacies.

    And we want to do more advocacy work. Iyong budget niya doesn’t allow that. Talagang very limited iyong budget ng opisina.

    Q: So nakaisip ka ng isang innovation or innovative creative way of how you could build this to continue the programs that have been defined by government as well.

    VP Leni: Yes, kasi if you remember, galing din ako sa NGO. Before I became a congresswoman, I was an NGO worker. This was what I was doing for the longest time.

    And then my husband was Mayor of Naga. And even when he was DILG secretary, he was partnering with private organizations a lot. So this is something I’m very familiar with.

    Parang ito rin iyong strength ko dahil ito iyong matagal ko ng ginagawa na now that I’m given, parang the position allows me to do many things on a bigger scale, it’s a blessing.

    Tingin ko in the next 6 years, basta mapatama lang iyong pag-ayos, marami kaming matutulungan.

    Q: Mayroon bang pagkakataon kapag nag-prepare na iyong budget for 2017 eh hihingi ka ng increase in the budget para may kaunting way to do what…. Kung mayroon man.

    VP Leni: Ako, sana. Pero we also have to prove with DBM that we can do it and siyempre hindi naman ganoon. I don’t think na palakasan naman iyong paghingi ng budget.

    Kailangan mapakita mo sa DBM na una, mabuti ang hangarin, hindi nag-duduplicate ng ginagawa ng iba, at kaya mong, parang iyong absorptive capacity ng opisina nandiyan.

    So kami baka maipakita namin iyon this year sa mga gagawin namin. We still have almost half a year, 6 months pa iyong natitira.

    Kahit hindi pa ako nakakapag-take oath we have started doing initial talks already with many civil society organizations and many are excited to work with us.

    Q: Is there a sector na sa palagay mo after all your experience, especially when you decided to run for Vice President na hindi pa masyadong nabibigyan ng pansin? Of course these are the fringes. Pero iyon bang fringe, iyong laylayan na sinasabi mo? Talagang walang tulong na dumadating?

    VP Leni: Hindi naman sa walang tulong pero parang hindi lang na-mamaximize iyong resources para maibigay iyong gusto nila. Halimbawa, kapag pinag-uusapan iyong hunger, parang marami nang programa on hunger na lahat ng feeding.

    Iyong sa akin, iyong paniniwala ko, dapat iyong pag-solve ng problema ng hunger hindi lang feeding pero iyong poverty mismo asikasuhin.

    So we actually piloted a program already. It’s not original, it’s inspired by the zero hunger program of Brazil na which has been very successful in Brazil. After 10 years of implementation natanggal na iyong Brazil from hunger map.

    Pero ito, parang iyong mga pinakamahihirap na farmers and fisher folk inaasikaso mo. Sila iyong binibigyan mo ng support services para sila na iyong nag-susupply sa mga feeding programs.

    So inaasikaso mo iyong poverty aspect, inaasikaso mo iyong hunger, sinimulan namin ito last year in my district. Bago pa lang siya pero mukang very encouraging na ang results.

    Q: So binigyan niyo ng pondo iyong mga fishermen and farmers para sila na ang mag-produce para ibigay iyong pagkain sa mga recipients ng feeding program?

    VP Leni: Yes. Ito iyong mga farmers and fisher folk na walang pag-aari ng kahit ano. So they don’t have access to credit because they don’t have collaterals at all. Sila iyong tinutulungan, sila iyong hindi natutulungan ng DA kasi hindi sila organized.

    Q: Hindi sila under the CCT? The traditional cash transfer program?

    VP Leni: Some of them are and nilakad na namin na lahat sila ay makasali kasi these are really the poorest.

    Q: So naniwala ka doon sa intensyon at sa implementasyon ng CCT na nakatulong ito?

    VP Leni: Oo naman. I saw how successful it was sa amin. Itong tinutulungan naming farmers ngayon, iyong average income nila is only Php 1,800.00 a month. Talagang way way way the low poverty, the poverty line, ano ito, nagkaroon kami ng agreement with DSWD na atleast 30% of their purchases will be from the small farmers already.

    We also entered into an agreement with the Department of Agriculture and DAR na iyong support services na dating nagbibigay ng donation sa mga credited organized farmers, mabigay na sa kanila. So nabibigay na iyong support services.

    Ngayon very encouraging iyong results and we want to replicate it in other parts of the Philippines.

    Q: So hindi kailangan itong CCT program apart from helping the children so that they’ll have their check-up regularly sa health center at saka pumasok sa paaralan. Hindi kailangan na ensure na may mga trabaho itong nanay at tatay para mailabas sila doon sa CCT?

    VP Leni: Kasi ang CCT mayroon na siyang… iyong tawag dito, there is a new name already pero before ang tawag dito iyong SEA-K.

    Ang SEA-K, ito iyong livelihood component ng CCT na binibigyan ng pagkakataon na magkaroon ng sariling livelihood ang parents ng enrolled children.

    Pinapautang, binibigyan ng kaalaman, mayroong mentoring. Ano ito, sa amin very successful iyong nag-undergo ng SEA-K.

    Ito ay preparation para matanggal na sila sa programa. Kailangan lang talaga na parang matutukan. Para iyong mga aalis na sa programa o gagraduate na sa programa, hindi babalik ulit sa….

    Q: Kung mayroon kang nakita na gap doon sa continuing program ng CCT para nga maialis na sila at makakuha ng mga panibagong pangangailangan, saan ninyo po gustong i-improve iyong CCT?

    VP Leni: Ako number 1, iyong coverage talaga. Papalawakin iyong coverage. Tapos nagkaroon din ng problema before pero mayroon kasing monitoring iyong DSWD na hindi naman full proof iyong sistema, paminsan may napipili na mayroong mas deserving na hindi napili. Pero sila mayroon silang periodic na evaluation nito.

    Iyong pangalawa, strengthen talaga iyong livelihood component na iyong sa akin, ang livelihood component kasi, tingin ko iyong kulang doon, parang ma-late sila sa demand chain, kasi marami iyong nabibigyan ng livelihood pero wala namang market.

    So iyong sa akin, iyong sanang pag-tetrain, pagbibigay ng livelihood, mas directed siya. Mas directed doon sa mga bagay na mayroon ng ready market at tutulong pa din ang gobyerno na maghanap ng market.

    Parang iyong programa namin sa malnutrition, iyong tinutulungan ng mga farmers, guaranteed na iyong benta ng kanilang produce kasi gobyerno na ang bibili. Parang pag ganito mas nabibigyan sila ng pagkakataon kasi they don’t have to compete with more established ones.

    Ito, gaya ng sabi ko, very encouraging iyong results. Mabigyan lang ng mas sufficient time, mas ma-dadramatize na kung ano iyong magagawa nito sa mga mahihirap talaga and magpakita na puwedeng magawa sa ibang lugar pa sa Pilipinas.

    Q: Plans to put up a satellite office?

    VP Leni: Nandoon iyong plano. That is the reason why we moved here. Dito makakapag-save kami ng around P200,000/month. Kasi kung titingnan iyong budget, walang budget siya for a satellite office.

    Iyong pinapatingnan namin ngayon is kung iyong savings ba namin sa rent ay puwede naming magamit…

    Q: Satellite office, meaning hindi lang kapag dadating ka doon? Ito ay ang opisina na nandoon na haharap sa mga nangangailangan?

    VP Leni: Pero iyong sa amin mas mabuti na mas nakabase sa programa. Gustong sabihin na hindi siya parang social services office lang in the sense na puntahan lang siya ng humihingi ng tulong pero mas gusto namin na opisina ito na iyon ang nag-aasikaso ng mga programa doon.

    Ngayon dahil wala talaga siya sa budget ng OVP, gusto naming magkaroon lang ng isa for Luzon, isa for Visayas and isa for Mindanao.

    Ito iyong ine-explore namin ngayon pero marami kasing kailangang klaruhin. As far as the rules would allow us. Kasi wala nga siya sa budget. Marami nang nag-volunteer ng free office space pero siyempre nangangailangan iyon ng overhead expenses, nangangailangan iyon ng personnel, so tinatanong namin ngayon na kung sa savings ba namin, doon i-charge iyong pangangailangan na gastusin sa satellite office?

    Kasi iyong ma-sesave namin starting this month ay substantial. Lumipat kami dito, kagaya ng sabi ko kanina, P200,000/month iyong ma-sesave namin. Malaki laki rin iyon. Naghahanap pa kami ng ibang ma-sasave-an pero ngayon kasi nandoon pa lang kami sa pag-aaral noong buong structure.

    Q: How’s the Liberal Party? Iyong organization. Nabalitaan namin na for a while mas marami ngang naglipatan at iyong mga talagang solid Liberal na nandiyan pa, papaano na ngayon ang posisyon na nakikita mo sa both Houses of Congress? Buhay pa ba iyon at magiging masigla pa rin?

    VP Leni: Ako, marami nang movements. Although ito iyong movements na expected kasi kung titingnan natin kung na saan ang Liberal Party before 2010, ang biro nga nila kasi I wasn’t part of the Party at all, before my husband died.

    Ang tawag nila isang Volkswagen lang kami noon. Ganoon kami kakaunti. Pero PNoy became President and PNoy is a member of the Liberal Party so biglang dumami iyong members ng Liberal Party. Pero dahil hindi ulit Liberal Party ang nanalong Presidente, balik daw ulit sa Volkswagen.

    Paminsan nakakalungkot rin. Nakakalungkot na nag-iiwanan pero palagay ko kasi necessary result ito ng pag-chachange ng administration. Siguro ito din iyong test kung sino talaga iyong kasama mo through thick and thin.

    Q: Are you willing to take on the leadership?

    VP Leni: It hasn’t been talked about yet formally. Ako, I would rather just be a titular head in the sense na iyong rules kasi ng Liberal Party, parang nakalagay na iyong mag-lelead iyon ang highest elected official and in this administration ako iyon.

    Pero ako kasi, bago pa lang din ako sa partido, parang isa din ako doon sa mga nag-aaral palang tungkol sa partido. Mas marami kaming mga kasama diyan na matatagal na sa partido.

    Si Senate President Drilon, Speaker Belmonte, Secretary Mar, all the others na matagal nang nagtrabaho para sa Partido, mas alam nila iyong ins and outs ng partido.

    Pero gaya ng sabi ko, hindi pa napag-uusapan kung anoman iyong desisyon ng majority, I will abide by it.

    Tingin ko naman si Pangulong Aquino nandiyan pa naman to help us out. Tingin ko kasi parang wala pang pressure ngayon to really sit down and talk about it kasi the reality is that siguro until Congress opens in July 25, marami pang movements.

    Q: Let’s go back to Pres. Duterte. One of the things we were watching you on Facebook, we saw that he escorted you down the stairs why you’re waiting for your car?

    VP Leni: I was telling the President, “Huwag ninyo na po akong ihatid nakakahiya naman po sa inyo.”

    Ang sabi niya, “That will be a very ungentlemanly of me if I don’t bring you down kasi babae ka.”

    Tapos nahiya pa ako kasi matagal makapasok iyong sasakyan and he waited.

    Q: Hindi pinapasok iyong sasakyan mo sa loob?

    VP Leni: Bawal mag-park sa loob. So may car park outside so we had to wait for it to enter the gate pero he waited the entire time.

    Q: They have a thing that we caught there of the sound. It was that you were saying thank you to him. And then what happened?

    VP Leni: Kasi iyong thank you ko yata ay bow as a sign of respect. Sabi niya huwag kang mag-bobow sa akin. So I was telling him, “ But you’re my boss, Sir.”

    Sabi niya, “Naku, don’t take it very seriously.” Napaka-humble niya.

    Q: And one of the many things that I was reading on my way here was that marami na palang usap-usapan sa netizen na love team daw kayo?

    VP Leni: Oh my God. (laughs)

    Q: How was that? You know that kind of exchange is really, as far as we were concerned was a kilig time. We were watching you in the office and everybody were, “Haaay. They’re so sweet and they’re so nice.”

    VP Leni: Palagay ko because over the course of more than a month, parang all that was written about us was that we weren’t seeing eye to eye di ba? So when we finally met na mukhang maayos naman iyong aming meeting, I think many Filiipinos are relieved.

    Q: And what did your children say when they were watching you?

    VP Leni: Actually happy sila. Concerned sila noong una na, “Naku, magkikita na kayo ni Presidente, ano kaya ang sasabihin niya sa inyo?”

    Sabi ko nga, “Pag dasal ninyo na lang ako.” Basta mabuti naman na magkikita na kami.

    Iyon ang first time and then this afternoon they knew I was visiting the President, iyon pala iyong mga anak ko nag-aabang yata sa Twitter. They were getting live feeds from I think RTVM, tapos hindi pa ako nakakalabas ng gate, kasasakay ko lang sa car tumatawag na iyong anak ko nagpapakuwento na.

    I think iyong pakiramdam ng mga anak ko, iyon din ang pakiramdam ng marami. They were interested as what transpired. Ano iyong mga pinag-usapan? Mabait ba siya sa iyo? Iyong mga ganoon.

    Ang sabi ko nga, I was interviewed this weekend, sabi ko naman iyong first meeting namin ni President, exceeded my expectations.

    Gaya ng sabi ko kanina I was really expecting for the worst.

    Q: What kind of expectation that it could be the worst?

    VP Leni: Ako sabi ko, baka hindi ako pansinin kasi you know, nauunahan kasi ng kuwento.

    Q: Hindi ka pansinin in a crowd?

    VP Leni: You know I never met him before eh. So I didn’t really know what to expect. So siguro it was just my way of preparing myself na posible na hindi niya ako pansinin.

    Q: But can you work with him?

    VP Leni: Oo naman. I think I can work with him. Gaya kanina sabi ko, the meeting was very casual, parang it was not very formal in the sense that we talked about life in Metro Manila, adjusting to our new roles.

    Ano siya, talagang it gives you a warm feeling. Iyon lang, iyong immensity of the tasks ahead of us na nag-agree kami pareho na kailangan tayong magtulungan.

    Sabi niya nga noong pababa na kami ng stairs, sabi niya basta aalalayan mo ako rito.

    Tapos ang sabi ko naman sa kanya, “Basta, Mr. President kapag may gusto po kayong ipagawa sa akin patawagan ninyo lang po ako.” Ganoon, ganoong klaseng conversation.

    Q: But naalala mo ba in the course of the campaign, I don’t know if it was on the debate or in the Q&A na gagawin kang assistant president?

    VP Leni: Oo, nabasa ko iyon. But I think he was saying it in jest. Ano lang, parang nagbibiro lang siya. Parang may disclaimer nga siya after.

    Parang I saw that particular clip in one of the interviews. Parang sinabi niya nga na sana hindi ka ma-offend pero parang pinapasaya ko lang sila. Referring to members of the BBM.

    Q: Noong hindi mo pa siya nakikilala, hindi mo siya nakikita, hindi pa siya pangulo at ngayon na kakilala mo na siya. What did you think of that character prior to his metamorphosing into this man that we now see. Presidential to some degree but I think tried so hard to control himself that he do the right thing because he is now president. But sometimes he loses it and grace out to..

    VP Leni: Ako malayo na. Iyong na-meet ko noong Friday at saka kanina, malayo na doon sa dati kong nakikita sa TV. Malayo doon sa pre-conceived notions ko about him.

    Kasi dati parang sound and fury eh. Nagmumura, madaling magalit. Pero Friday at kanina, ibang-iba. He was very respectful, malumanay magsalita, mina-Ma’am pa nga ako.

    Q: Sini-sir ninyo naman siya?

    VP Leni: Oo naman. Nahihiya nga ako kasi paminsan mina-Ma’am niya ako. Gaya ng sabi ko, he did not just walked me out the door of his office, pero talagang bumaba sa stairs.

    Malayo iyon eh. Malayo iyong private office niya papunta sa labas pero hinatid niya ako hanggang sa labas.

    Q: If there were two things that could bind you together in the course of your work as the two highest officials of this land, what would it be?

    VP Leni: Ako palagay ko love for country. It was very apparent to him that he was willing to make a lot of personal sacrifice para sa ating bansa. Ganoon din ako. As I have said, marami man kaming hindi magkaparehong pananaw, halos pareho iyong pinanggalingan namin.

    Galing lang kami sa simpleng buhay, galing kami sa lokal. I think pareho iyong appreciation namin sa mga problema ng baba.

    Iyong kanyang mga kinukuwento sa akin kanina na iyong mga inconveniences, parang nakaka-relate ako kasi ganoon rin ako eh.

    Iyong uneasiness sa protocol, parehong pareho kami. Kaya iyong sa akin naman, dahil pareho naman kaming willing to set aside our personal interests to serve this country well, I think that’s enough.

    Posted in Transcripts on Jul 05, 2016