MANILA - From being the strong grieving widow of Jesse Robredo in 2012, Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Maria Leonor "Leni" Gerona Robredo has declared her plans to be the Vice-President to administration standard bearer Mar Roxas in the 2016 national election.
"Buong puso, buong pananampalataya at buong tapat kong tinatanggap ang hamon na tumakbo bilang pangalawang pangulo ni Mar Roxas," she said in her acceptance speech at Club Filipino.
"Ibinibigay ko po ang aking sarili ng buong-buo sa ating mga kababayan lalong-lalo na sa inyong mga nakatsinelas, na nasa labas, nasa ibaba at nasa laylayan ng lipunan," she added.
Robredo came with her three daughters who had initially opposed the invitation Roxas extended to Robredo after Senator Grace Poe declared her intention to run for President herself.
Robredo, was thrust into the limelight and into Jesse Robredo's political shoes after his untimely death in a plane crash in August 2012.
In her speech, the congresswoman compared her decision to the one made by President Aquino before he ran for president in 2010.
She noted that in her 25 years of marriage, it was always her husband who was in the political limelight.
However, she also noted that her own husband would not sleep until he had done everything he can to help those in need.
"Makakatulog ba ako sa gabi na alam ko may magagawa ako para sa bayan ngunit tinalikuran ko at di ko ginawa?" she asked.
The congresswoman said the last few weeks have been the most difficult for her family since Jesse's death. "Kantiyaw ng iba sa inyo: nagpapabebe na lang ako," she said.
She added: "Nagpapasalamat po ako sa aking pamilya sa pagbibigay ng kanilang basbas. Pamilya ko ang buod ng pagkatao namin ni Jesse bilang mga lingkod bayan."
In his own speech, Roxas also recognized the Robredo family's sacrifice. "Sakripisyo ng isang ordInaryong tao: isang ina, isang single mother na tinawag at pinipiling tumugon sa tawag ng Daang Matuwid. Sakripisyo ng 3 dalaga na nawala ng ama sa ngalan ng serbisyo publiko. At ngayon tinatawag na ialay ang kanilang pamilya sa mas mataas na adhikain. Sakripisyo ng isang pamilya na unahin ang bayan bago ang sarili," he said.
President Aquino, for his part, told Robredo's daughters: "Sana sa pagdating ng panahon mapatawad niyo ako."
In nominating Robredo, Roxas thanked the congresswoman for seeing the need to continue the Daang Matuwid reforms.
"Alam naming hindi mo inambisyong maging bise presidente, pero kailangan ka ng Daang Matuwid. Kailangan ka ng ating mga boss, naming lahat para pag-isahin pwersa ng reporma, ang nasimulan ay ipagpatuloy."
FRESH FACE, POWERFUL NARRATIVE
A professor from the University of the Philippines said Robredo brings a fresh face to the vice-presidential race that already has Senators Francis Escudero, Antonio Trillanes, Alan Peter Cayetano, Bongbong Marcos and possibly Gringo Honasan.
UP political science assistant Prof. Jan Robert Go said Robredo, compared to the others, is a newbie in national politics.
"While she has gained national attention, her VP bid is going to be challenging. The 'alternative' narrative may work for her, but people will also take note of her changing position re: VP bid. Definitely, Mar will use Leni's political capital to boost his. This declaration may change the trend since we will now have more VP aspirants. What would be interesting is their plan of action," Go said.
Go said Robredo is likely to split the Bicolano vote.
"What kind of VP is Leni going to be should she win? Another interesting angle is the Bicolano vote and why VPs for this time are coming from one vote-rich region."
UP Political Science Professor Jean Franco, for her part, said: "Leni has a powerful narrative as a political widow which can balance Poe's narrative of her father. She has her own credentials that can attract the middle class especially women. She is also meant to balance the Bicolano votes of Chiz Escudero since she is also from Bicol."
"However, Chiz is more popular nationwide because he has been a senator for mayy years. She is not going to be effective as an attack dog because her public persona so far is not consistent with that," Franco said.
Another UP political science professor, Ranjit Rye, described Robredo as an excellent legislator and a great citizen.
"But I am still uncertain at the moment of Robredo the VP candidate. I still believe it was a strategic blunder for LP not to get Cayetano as VP. But I hope Robredo can help Mar broaden and consolidate his vote. I hope she can run a positive campaign. While she is from vote-rich Bicol, it's not sure she can swing the Bicol votes for LP. Let's wait and see," Rye said.
"Robredo must be able to help Mar consolidate the greater Luzon votes for LP. I am uncertain at the moment that Robredo will have a great impact on the dynamics - presidential or the VP race. As far as the VP race is concerned, the candidates to beat will be Cayetano and Escudero."
Before the announcement, Robredo's Facebook page showed she visited her husband's grave last October 1.
On Sunday night, she marked the birthday of her brother.
Robredo has been more visible on media since confirming Roxas' offer to become his running-mate weeks ago.
Last Friday, Robredo condemned a raunchy dance number at a political gathering of one of their partymates, which drew flak and became a PR nightmare for the party that has been known for pursuing the righteous path.
In the last Pulse Asia survey on possible candidates for vice president, Robredo scored a mere 3% nationally, 1% in NCR, 5% in Luzon 1% in Visayas, 0 in Mindanao, 2 in class ABC 3 in class D and 3 in class E. She trails other possible candidates for vice president like topnotcher, fellow Bicolano Senator Francis Escudero; Ilocano Senator Bongbong Marcos who is reportedly going to be announced as Vice President Jejomar Binay's running mate; Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who is supposedly going to be the running mate of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte; and Senator Antonio Trillanes, who announced his vice presidential bid on Saturday. Trillanes is backing Poe for president as well.
Robredo has a degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines and a law degree from the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City.
She is a passionate advocate of transparency through the Freedom of Information bill, which continues to languish in Congress.
Robredo is a member of 13 committees: Good Government And Public Accountability Vice Chairperson, Revision Of Laws Vice Chairperson, Appropriations Member for the Majority, Bicol Recovery And Economic Development Member for the Majority, Climate Change Member for the Majority, Human Rights Member for the Majority, Land Use Member for the Majority, Local Government Member for the Majority, People's Participation Member for the Majority, Rural Development Member for the Majority, Suffrage And Electoral Reforms Member for the Majority, Welfare Of Children Member for the Majority Women And Gender Equality. She also authored 30 House measures and co-authored 119 other measures.