Jojo A. Robles

Leni’s long wait

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Leni Robredo is seeking an audience with President-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte, whom she intends to ask a Cabinet position from. In particular, Robredo wants to become secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development - a sure sign that she covets a high-profile position that will catapult her to higher office.

Initial talks and furious text messages through intermediaries in both political camps for a face-to-face meeting fell through, I’m told, because Duterte has sent word that he is swamped with meetings in Davao City and doesn’t have the time. But I think the real reason is that Duterte doesn’t want to appear like he is prejudging the hotly contested vice presidential contest, which will soon be settled by Congress sitting as a National Board of Canvassers.

Of course, Robredo cannot just hop on a plane (or a bus, her supposed favorite means of transport) to Davao like any other office-seeker. That would be unseemly for a “presumptive” vice president -and Lord knows how bad it would look if, like Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, she isn’t able to wangle an appointment with Digong.

The waiting is reportedly causing Robredo a lot of anxiety because she fears that the DSWD position may be filled soon by yet another Duterte nominee, leaving her out in the cold. Robredo is also concerned that Duterte’s pronouncement that the late President Ferdinand Marcos will be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani could mean that the incoming chief executive is leaning towards her rival, who has maintained good ties with the Davao City mayor throughout the campaign.

(The appointment of Silvestre Bello III as labor secretary only made matters worse for Leni. The labor portfolio, like the DSWD job, after all, had originally been promised by Duterte to the Communists.)

So far, Duterte has been studiously non-committal about the VP contest. The incoming president has not even mentioned the Marcos-Robredo controversy in his nightly meetings with the members of the so-called Nocturnal Press Club, the gang of local and Manila-based reporters who have camped out in his city and whom he regales with his nightly talks at his favorite hangouts.

Because he is a lot wilier than the folksy, provinciano persona that he wants to portray, Duterte understands that he cannot take a position in the electoral controversy until a clear winner emerges. And he knows that any meeting with Robredo could be misconstrued as favoring one of the two bitter rivals, so that tete-a-tete is unlikely to happen soon.

And so Robredo is caught between her need to seek a meeting with Duterte before the DSWD position is given to someone else and her desire to appear as if she is not trying too hard to claim the vice presidency, which is still not hers until she is safely proclaimed.

Of course, for Robredo to even become DSWD secretary, she has to be vice president first. And that is why she’s on pins and needles in Naga City.

* * *

Speaking of Leni, I was amused to see Senator Bam Aquino stand up to interpellate Senate Marcos after the latter delivered his privilege speech in the Senate. I was waiting for Aquino to announce that he was questioning Marcos not only out of a genuine desire to ferret out the truth but as Robredo’s campaign manager, to no avail.

See, Senator Aquino had been assigned as early as October last year by Malacanang and the Liberal Party to run Robredo’s campaign. That Aquino failed to point this out when he tried to make Marcos admit that he had no call to protest the actions of the Commission on Elections and its private automated system provider Smartmatic during the May 9 elections and afterwards, to me, smacks of misrepresentation.

Of course, Aquino would act like Robredo’s lawyer in the Senate, though he would be cut down to size by Marcos in his responses to Bam’s thinly-disguised leading questions. I especially liked the way Marcos cut off Aquino when the latter said that most academicians were of the opinion that no cheating had been perpetrated: “Is this now a question of who has more academicians on their side?” Marcos retorted.

But I guess I can’t expect this or any Aquino to grow some shame. Bam Aquino, if he had any sense of propriety, should even inhibit himself from being a part of the National Board of Canvassers that will declare both the new president and the new vice president.

But if Bam cannot even declare his loyalties in a simple interpellation at the Senate, how can anyone ask him not to join the canvassing because of a conflict of interest? After all, Bam could have made a real difference when he called that high-profile investigation of the country’s two telecommunications companies for charging sky-high prices for super-slow Internet service - and was never heard again after a couple of hearings on the matter.

But I guess Bam is just living up to the Aquino name that he carries and which carried him, another nobody, all the way to Senate. I can’t believe we have to suffer three more years until this last Aquino standing is finally thrown out of office.

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