Vice President Leni Robredo, who heads the Liberal Party (LP), is the most indecisive Philippine public official of the 21st century.
When Robredo assumed office as Vice President in 2016, the country’s accidental veep inevitably became the LP’s likely bet for president in 2022. For the next five years, however, she continuously dodges questions about her running for president in 2022.
As early as mid-2016, Robredo and the LP were already plotting to discredit the very popular President Rodrigo Duterte. That strategy failed miserably.
By 2019, the LP had become so associated with corruption and incompetence that, on the eve of the election season for the 2019 midterm senatorial election, the LP could not even field a full 12-man senatorial slate. LP bigwigs had to settle for a last-minute outfit of eight candidates the party labelled as Otso Diretso.
All eight were flatly rejected by the electorate. The 12 seats available went to President Duterte’s candidates and political allies. That embarrassing defeat for the LP was a clear indication that Robredo cannot hope to win as president in 2022 if she will depend on the LP.
From the way she comported herself from 2019 until the end of 2020, Robredo still entertained the pipe dream that as the incumbent Vice President, she should be the rightful candidate for president of the political opposition in 2022. That meant Robredo needed to be seen as politically relevant.
In November 2019, Robredo accepted President Duterte’s offer to join his war against illegal drugs. Less than three weeks later, she was fired for undermining the President’s anti-drug war.
Robredo’s handlers also gave their boss a cosmetic overhaul by making her wear eyeglasses and sport a new hairdo. The scheme backfired. A veteran actress called it Robredo’s failed attempt to look intelligent.
True to form, Robredo exploited the Covid-19 pandemic as a vehicle to discredit President Duterte. At most of her press conferences since 2020, Robredo cited what she alleged were shortcomings of the President.
Despite her obvious politicking for the past five years, Robredo continues to be secretive about her political plans for 2022. Since the pandemic began and as of this writing, Robredo’s tongue-in-cheek excuse for her prolonged indecision is that she prefers to help the people survive the pandemic rather than to engage in politics.
The bad news for Robredo is that President Duterte kept the mortality rate among all Filipinos who tested positive for Covid-19 to a remarkably low one-and-a-half percent. Although the economy suffered a recession because of the protracted effects of the pandemic, the recession ended earlier this year. All that explains why Duterte continues to enjoy unprecedented public approval today.
Last month, and despite her professed disinterest in the presidency amid the pandemic, Robredo held separate “exploratory talks” with two potential rivals in 2022 — Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon. Nothing came out of those meetings.
Ex-senator and former cashiered military mutineer Antonio Trillanes IV, a known enemy of President Duterte and who is also dreaming of residing in Malacañang, once invited Robredo for a meeting. Robredo refused to even see Trillanes apparently because she has no use for him.
Just last week, Robredo held “unity talks” with two more anti-administration politicians interested in the presidency — punch-drunk Senator Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso. Nothing materialized, because Pacquiao and Domagoso eventually declared that they will run for president.
Right after Pacquiao announced his presidential run, Robredo told media that she was still open to running for president as a “unity candidate,” but offered no clear details.
After Domagoso announced his bid for the presidency, Robredo’s camp said their principal will be making an important announcement in due time.
Robredo is running out of options and excuses, and remains undecided. Like a headless chicken, Robredo is going nowhere.