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Leni accepts offer to run with Roxas

CAMARINES Sur Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said Monday she was joining the vice presidential race “wholeheartedly [and] full of faith” alongside the administration’s presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, but a women’s rights group said she was committing political suicide by running under a “macho party” that objectifies women.

At a Liberal Party proclamation at Club Filipino in San Juan attended by President Benigno Aquino III, Robredo ended weeks of speculation about her plans for 2016.

“After much deep thinking, extensive consultations, and fervent prayer—whole-heartedly, full of faith, and in all sincerity, I accept the challenge to run as the vice president of Mar Roxas. I will fully give myself to our countrymen, especially to all those on the margins of our society,” Robredo said before a cheering yellow-clad crowd.

Offer accepted. Rep. Leni Robredo delivers an address after accepting the Liberal Party’s offer to be its vice presidential candidate in next year’s elections. Lino Santos

Robredo, the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash in 2012, was thrown into the spotlight as a possible running mate for Roxas, after Aquino, the Liberal Party chairman, failed repeatedly to convince his first choice, Senator Grace Poe, to run under the administration banner.

Roxas, who was first to arrive at Club Filipino, announced to members of the Liberal Party and its coalition partners, the National Unity Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the Nationalista Party, the party-list group Akbayan and civil society groups that Robredo would be his running mate in 2016.

“We’re witnesses to another sacrifice. The sacrifice of an ordinary person, a single mother who was called and chose to respond to the call of the straight path,” Roxas said. “Sacrifice of a family to put the nation first before self.”

“To our colleagues on the straight path, to our bosses: it is my honor to introduce to you, the pride of the straight path for vice president: Leni Robredo,” he said.

Lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. welcomed Robredo’s decision, but the Gabriela women’s party-list group said running under the Liberal Party banner would damage her political career.

“Representative Robredo is committing political suicide,” said Joan Mae Salvador, Gabriela secretary general.

“She is running under the ‘macho’ party that objectifies women,” Salvador added, referring to a scandal  over a lewd performance at the birthday celebration of a Liberal Party congressman in Laguna last week.

Salvador challenged Robredo “to level up the quality of the campaign by addressing the serious issues of poverty, violence and abuse against women.”

“Let us talk woman to woman,” she said.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the Liberal Party had courted Robredo  “to no end to cleanse the party’s bad image.”

She added that if Robredo doesn’t win, that could be the end of her political career.

At Club Filipino, Robredo said committing to run for vice president was not an easy decision.

“The day came when we [Robredo and her daughters] tried to face these things with boldness. The journey to reach this day wasn’t very easy. The past few weeks have been the toughest since Jesse died,” said Robredo in her acceptance speech.

Robredo, a lawyer, said she thought of what her husband would have done.

“No matter how difficult, he would not turn his back on those who would ask for his help, would not sleep unless he had done all the things that he could for the country,” she said.

Robredo, after graduating with a degree on Economics from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, worked briefly for the Bicol River Basin Development Authority, where she met Jesse Robredo. She then pursued a law degree from the University of Nueva Caceres and passed the bar in 1990.

She then worked as a trial lawyer for the Public Attorney’s Office then joined the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, an NGO providing free legal services to the poor and marginalized sectors. 

After the death of Robredo in 2012, she ran and won a seat in Congress as the representative of Camarines Sur’s third district.

Robredo also thanked everyone who believed in her ability and expressed their support for her vice-presidential bid.

She also then thanked her daughters—Aika, Tricia and Jillian—who has been the most reluctant about her vice presidential bid, for giving their blessings.

“I would not push for this battle if they weren’t with me,” she said.

Aquino thanked Roxas and Robredo, reiterating the word “sacrifice” in his speech.

“I can’t help but recall the people who have sacrificed for us to be at this point,” Aquino said.

Aquino then highlighted Roxas’ sacrifice in 2009 when he gave way to Aquino to run for president despite his plans to run for the post.

Political analysts said Aquino and the Liberal Party are banking on Robredo to win the vote in Bicol as a way to weaken the vice presidential bid of Senator Francis Escudero, who comes from the same region.

Escudero on Monday said he wished Robredo well and looked forward to “exchanging views” with her to serve the best interest of the country.

“Rep. Leni Robredo is qualified and has every right to offer herself for higher office,” said Escudero, who is running with Poe.

Another vice presidential aspirant, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV  welcomed Robredo’s decision to join the  race.

“She is not only a highly qualified candidate but also a very gracious lady who has sacrificed a lot for our country,”  Trillanes said in a text message.

The Liberals did not announce their Senate slate for 2016 as expected, but several senatorial aspirants were at the Club Filipino event.

One senatorial aspirant, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino, who was said to have brought the women who performed the lewd show at last week’s Laguna party, was a no-show.

Aquino said at the end of his speech that the administration would announce its full senatorial ticket on Friday, Oct. 9.

In the House, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said Robredo’s earlier reluctance to run for vice president showed her “honesty and sincerity,” and that heeding the call of the people required “deep soul searching.”

In separate interviews, Reps. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabale, Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Bolet Banal of Quezon City also rallied behind Robredo’s decision.

“That is a very hard decision to make for her and her family,” Albano said.  “Joining the VP race is not an easy thing to do.  Congresswoman Robredo has everything to lose. We have to remember she is the only bread winner of her family,” Albano said. With Maricel V. Cruz

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