What Leni Robredo’s response to a Duterte ‘duro’ says about her | Global News
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What Leni Robredo’s response to a Duterte ‘duro’ says about her

/ 01:20 AM June 21, 2016

Leni Robredo just showed Rody Duterte and the nation the kind of leader she is: intelligent, patient, strong.

It happened after an unprecedented and surprising move: Duterte has told Robredo that he doesn’t want to hold a joint inauguration.

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It was a maneuver that smacks of disrespect, a Duterte-style ‘duro’ that says: “You may be the new vice president, but I have no interest in working with you. And I don’t have to.”

Now imagine a reversed situation where it was Robredo telling Duterte’s team that she would rather have separate inaugurations.

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Digong certainly would’ve gone ballistic.

Based on how he has reacted to other real and imagined slights, he would likely say something like this: ‘E pu–ng ina niya. I’ll show her not to f—- with me.”

That’s not how Robredo responded, of course.

Her team’s prepared statement painted a portrait of a leader who is able to respond to a potential crisis with calmness and clarity: “While we have been preparing for a joint inauguration, we respect their decision and will begin our own preparations for a simple and modest ceremony.”

No hint of bitterness. No sign of vindictiveness. Not even a subtle denunciation of the divisiveness of Duterte’s decision.

It was a smart move.

Robredo could have pointed out, as other analysts have, the troubling message that separate inaugurations send to the nation.

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But Robredo has wisely acknowledged an important point: This is Rody Duterte’s moment.

He’s just been elected president, undoubtedly the highest point of his political career and life. He has the right to set the terms of how to begin his term.

Besides, Team Robredo has wisely chosen to rise above so much bickering and pettiness that already have marred the post-election period.

Team Duterte issued a disingenuous explanation that having separate inaugurations was meant as a favor to Robredo: They just want her to be able to invite more people to her party.

There are bigger battles ahead. That’s where Robredo is focused.

She faces a rough journey as vice president to an unpredictable and unconventional chief executive, a man who many fear will turn into a tyrant — but who also is viewed by millions as a would-be agent of reform.

For Robredo, the next six years will be a tricky balancing act.

She must be prepared to affirm, support and even celebrate Duterte’s policies that point to the kind of leader many Filipinos believe he will be: a pro-poor chief executive determined to break the stranglehold of a corrupt political elite.

In other words, affirming her own commitment to the marginalized sectors of Philippine society, the “laylayan ng lipunan.”

Again, let me stress this: That’s what many Filipinos apparently believe about Duterte. Yes, it’s been harder to accept that image of Duterte given a president-elect who has openly said he has favors to repay and typically reacts to criticism or perceived slights with tantrums and mindboggling pettiness.

But the Duterte show is just about to start. And Robredo has wisely decided to just let it unfold for now, to wait and see.

And to pick her battles.

And it’s not as if there’s no reason to hope. After all, Duterte also has tapped a number of known progressive reformers.

Judy Taguiwalo is a respected academic and health care activist who can no doubt lead meaningful reforms as secretary of social welfare and development.

Incoming Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, the former rebel priest and mayor of a Bohol town, is a longtime progressive activist in Mindanao. I had the pleasure of interviewing him in the late 1980s for “U.G, An Underground Tale,” a biography of the hero Edgar Jopson, with whom Evasco worked in Mindanao during the Marcos regime.

Leni Robredo’s challenge is to find opportunities to advance and expand her own reformist agenda by working with the reformists on Duterte’s team.

On the other hand, she must be prepared to respond to what we could probably call the Duterte eruptions.

The insensitive remarks on women.

The dangerous attacks against media and his critics.

The penchant for coddling strange characters like Salvador Panelo and Ronald Bato dela Rosa, and his now obvious allegiance to the Marcoses.

And she must be able to speak out and take a stand if and when Duterte’s reformist agenda proves to be a hoax. And here’s the trickiest part for Leni Robredo: She must be able to do this even before the nation realizes that it has been hoodwinked.

Otherwise, she’ll come across as just another opportunist.

But here’s the good news: Leni Robredo has shown that she has the wisdom and guts to speak out when needed, even when doing so could hurt her politically.

I mentioned her reaction to the Kidapawan massacre in a previous column. Her running mate and the president who endorsed her suggested that it was the farmers, not the police, who were at fault in the deadly encounter.

But Robredo didn’t hesitate in raising the most important issue: that the Cotabato protesters were starving and suffering. And government must respond to the calamity that has devastated their communities.

It underscored Robredo’s courage and strength, qualities she’ll need in the difficult journey ahead.

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TAGS: DU30, Judy Taguiwalo, Jun Evasco, KIdapawan massacre, Leni Robredo, Rody Duterte, Ronald Bato dela Rosa, Salvador Panelo, separate inaugurations Duterte Robredo
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