Last month, Vice President Leni Robredo appeared on social media to once again accuse President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of mishandling the COVID-19 health crisis in the country.
As usual, Robredo’s accusations turned out to be hollow. Her speech simply proved that she was unaware of the latest measures the government has undertaken to fight the coronavirus, including the recent Bayanihan 2 legislation.
There was, however, something different this time.
Robredo sported eyeglasses and a new hair-do, and she spoke with several books on her table.
Unlike in her usual carabao English style of speaking during live interviews, Robredo spoke straight English this time, but with the use of a teleprompter, a device that allows her to read her prepared speech while looking at the television camera. Resorting to the device gave the public the mistaken impression that she is speaking extemporaneously.
As for the eyeglasses, Robredo probably needed them not only to look intelligent but also to enable her to read her speech on the teleprompter, which was several feet away from her.
It was, to all intents and purposes, a scheme desperately hatched by Robredo’s handlers to make her look serious, credible and intelligent.
On 24 August 2020, former film actress Vivian Velez posted on her social media account a stinging criticism of Robredo’s newest attempt at cosmetic politics.
“The worst political branding. It’s so fake. Obviously, they want to make her look smarter (kasi nga boba) with those glasses on and books on the table, not to mention the color choice of her outfit. Ano ‘to, shooting? Playing ‘the president’ daw siya?” Velez stated in her Facebook account.
Lea Navarro, a local musician of vintage popularity and ostensibly a Robredo fan, lashed back at Velez online, and insinuated that Velez isn’t exactly very smart herself.
Another Robredo fan, veteran writer Inday Espina Varona joined Navarro and posted, “Why are you so disturbed that the VP looks presidential, Vivian Velez?”
Those remarks registered by pro-Robredo matrons like Navarro and Varona are not only biased and unfounded, but also prove that enemies of the government think that they are the only ones who have the right to criticize anybody else.
These biased critics enjoy attacking the administration, but they get very angry when the criticism is directed against their political idol Robredo and her dubious allies in the discredited Liberal Party.
They supposedly advocate free speech, but only of the kind they like to hear.
For Navarro, Varona and their allies, it’s alright that Robredo has not done anything during the pandemic, besides occasional instances of distributing relief goods.
They also find nothing wrong about Robredo’s temerity to be the only vice president in Philippine history to live in a luxurious mansion paid for by government funds, when many Filipinos are begging in the streets.
For them, it is sufficient that Robredo looks presidential, even if she is politically hollow.
This is not the first time that Robredo was called boba. In 2019, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. called Robredo boba and said someone should give her a brain.
President Duterte and VP Robredo are lawyers. The President passed the Bar examinations on his first take. Robredo passed only on her second attempt.
The inability of Robredo to speak in complete sentences in English during live television interviews is manifest. Her TV interviews in the aftermath of the conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa for cyber libel, and after the House of Representatives decided against a new franchise for the ABS-CBN broadcasting empire, confirm this.
What Robredo lacks in form, she also lacks in substance.
Robredo once said the anti-cybercrime law unduly restricts press freedom. Later, when she was at the receiving end of criticism, she threatened to sue her critics for cyber libel.
Undoubtedly, Robredo is so consumed by her desire to be president that she will resort to anything, even a new image created through cosmetic politics, to keep her in the public consciousness. She has also forgotten that her assumption to office as VP is being questioned in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
Vivian Velez was well within her rights to criticize Robredo. In fact, Velez was telling the truth.