History in the making

The 2016 elections has turned quite interesting with  Rep. Leni  Robredo’s  acceptance of the administration’s invitation to run as vice president to Mar Roxas. 

Remember that if we go by the numbers, Senator Grace Poe remains as the leading presidential candidate.

The Philippines could possibly have two women occupying the two highest government positions—a first not only for the country, but as far as I know, for the world.  This could be history in the making.

There is no denying that Poe and Robredo can win the elections.  Poe’s popularity cannot be questioned despite everything, including the kitchen sink, being thrown at her. Lately, she is also doing the right thing by going directly to the people, whose votes can bring her to Malacañang.

Robredo’s numbers, on the other hand, are still low as of the last surveys. She, however, cannot be dismissed from the race because although a “latecomer”,  she is also very popular especially among advocates of new politics. Outside of the administration’s sphere of influence, Robredo has another “base”—that of “workers”, those who volunteer out of principles and because of their advocacies.  They will work hard for Robredo to win.

This is because when contrasted with other vice presidential candidates, Robredo’s simplicity, low-key demeanor, and track record as a non-government public servant make her a good choice. She is seen as clean, with the kind of integrity that voters look for, and, authentically pro-poor.

Both women are running with veteran politicians. Poe’s VP is Senator Chiz Escudero and Robredo is with Roxas. Going by the results of post-martial law elections, Filipino voters do not go for party slates. The Cory-Doy ticket was brought to the Palace via Edsa. Both former President Macapagal-Arroyo and her VP, Noli de Castro, won, but they were in an alliance, not under one party. All others came from different parties. Thus, it is very possible that the tandem that will emerge in 2016 will not come from the same slate.

Both Poe and Robredo are seen as clean. There are no corruption allegations against them. They are not traditional politicians or trapos.  Some pundits say they are “deodorizers” for the men they run with. Some expect their acceptability and popularity to rub off on Chiz and Mar.  Fat chance, I say.

Pro- Poe supporters  are significantly wary of  Escudero.  Some say that their ambivalence towards Poe is caused by the suspicion that Chiz is “controlling” her.

As regards Robredo,  as early as now, many of those I know who will vote for her have said that “Hanggang Robredo lang ako.”  Thus, I think that Roxas and Escudero’s people should not depend too much on these women candidates for votes.

While a Poe-Robredo win is possible, I have no illusion that achieving this will be easy.  In fact there are many major obstacles facing such a tandem but this requires a separate article. 

I would, however, posit that Poe’s and Robredo’s candidacies offer other golden opportunities for women and our political agenda.

In my dream, I see  Poe and Robredo veering away from the “ulila” and “kawawa” image.  I like Robredo’s statements  saying  that she is a different person from her late husband former DILG Secretary  Jesse Robredo, and that sympathy should not be enough basis to vote for her.  Only a strong, confident woman can say that.

I wish Senator Poe would stop using her  father in her campaign. As rightly pointed out by people, the late FPJ has not done anything yet for her to continue.  He just ran for president and did not have the chance to show his mettle as a public servant.  Grace Poe should now show the people what she herself is capable of doing and not live in the shadow of FPJ.

Poe and Robredo are both strong, empowered women. They should embrace this image and show the country that women are capable to occupy the highest offices of the land on their own merits.

What I also like about these two candidates is the fact that they are both non-traditional.  I see Poe, as someone who grew up in the United States, as exposed to more modern perspectives. I expect her to have progressive views on women’s rights. Robredo, on the other hand, as a lawyer,  has been for many years involved in working with marginalized sectors.  One cannot do as she did if she does not have solid rights-based principles. 

Poe and Robredo, albeit separately, should take pride in their being strong, modern Filipinas.

Their candidacies offer a rare opportunity for women’s issues to be part of the national electoral discourse. There has never been a national elections where women’s rights were at the core of presidential candidates’ platform. Women’s rights have always been at the margins.

In my dream I see Poe and Robredo engaging other candidates on women’s rights for a change. After all, we speak here of the rights of half of the population.

For women’s groups, the candidacies of these strong women is a golden opportunity to put forward solutions to women’s issues and problems.  Organizations, despite political, even ideological differences can perhaps come together and agree on crucial programs for women that can be brought to the attention of these women candidates.

Women’s groups should engage candidates armed with crucial agenda for women’s empowerment. An opportunity as rare as this may not come again in the next elections so we must grab this chance.

The 2016 elections is not only exciting. It gives women and our right the opportunity to shine.  It can make history for women’s political participation.


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