By Charmaine A. Tadalan
ANALYSTS SOUGHT for comment on recent statements by Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo noted her “assertiveness” following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s attacks against her and his proclamation voiding the amnesty for opposition Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV.
Ms. Robredo on Thursday visited Mr. Trillanes in the Senate in a show of support for the senator. “Maraming problema ngayon iyong ating bansa. Napakataas ng ating inflation rate. Kagagaling ko lang sa Zamboanga kahapon, at iyong reklamo ng mga tao doon, iyong grabe iyong presyo ng bigas,” she told reporters there. (The country has many problems now. Inflation…is so high. I also visited Zamboanga yesterday, and the people there are complaining about high prices of rice.)
She also flagged the government’s “attempt to silence the opposition.”
Ms. Robredo also issued a statement on Thursday saying in part, “Expending political capital for divisive moves like revoking the validity of the amnesty provided to Senator Trillanes at time when the quality of life of our people is at stake comes at the expense of addressing the issues that truly matter to the Filipino.”
“What our people need is for its leaders to work together for solutions: the stabilization of the country’s rice supply through the installation of competent and trustworthy leadership at the NFA; revisiting the excise tax on fuel and any further impositions; and re-assessing whether the unconditional cash transfers provided by law are enough and to ensure that all qualified beneficiaries get the assistance at the soonest possible time.”
“Instead of shutting down those who dare to point out its inefficiencies, may the administration finally rise to the challenge of putting forward coherent solutions to bring down rising prices,” Ms. Robredo also said in her statement.
Sought for comment, University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza said via e-mail, “Given the various attacks on her leadership capacity from the President and his supporters, she really needs to step up in her assertiveness and show that she has the potential to lead and to propose alternative policies and actions to resolve the current problems the country is facing.”
Ms. Robredo has been branded by Mr. Duterte as being unqualified and “incompetent” for the presidency. Mr. Duterte also claimed her hometown of Naga City is a “hotbed of shabu,” an accusation vehemently disputed by Ms. Robredo and political leaders of the city.
Ms. Atienza said Ms. Robredo “could have been more assertive even earlier when she was removed from the housing portfolio and disinvited to attend Cabinet meetings. But this growing assertiveness on her part may be a welcome development given the current political climate.”
“If the VP plays her cards right and she will not be removed from her position by the Supreme Court sitting as PET (Presidential Electoral Tribunal), she can unify the various opposition groups as well as capitalize on the growing dissatisfaction of the public currently facing rice shortage, rising prices of goods, deteriorating peace and order, and open persecution of opposition figures. The opposition can mount a credible challenge to the administration by 2019,” Ms. Atienza also said.
Also sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said in a phone interview, “I think what the Liberal Party or the opposition is doing right now is they are making…a strong and clear statement that in the midst of economic and political problems our country is confronting, they just want the Duterte administration to be more focused on resolving than making all this rhetorical statement concerning our country.”
“VP Leni wanted also to capitalize (on) the opportunity to make a statement that with all the issues confronting Trillanes, the opposition will not be intimidated or silenced,” Mr. Villarin also said.
“Also, to redirect people’s attention on how our country should respond to our pressing economic problem, which in effect gives the Duterte (administration the need) to be more responsible and focus on addressing economic problems,” he added.