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Unsolicited advice to Leni Robredo

Dear Leni,

I am extremely happy that you won the election for the vice president of the Philippines. As a fellow Bikolano, I am proud of you. It’s good to see a Bikolana one step closer to the presidency. If I am not mistaken, this is a first in the history of the Philippines.

You must be equally filled with immense joy and proud of your victory. After all, you worked very hard for it. You need to savor the sweetness of your victory because you deserve it. But please remain magnanimous,

From the very start, I knew you were the perfect candidate for the vice presidency. You have always worked for the poor and the marginalized in various capacities without much fanfare. You have exhibited your brand of leadership that some people have characterized as servant-leadership. You have shown a simple life-style, devoid of any pretensions, that continues to capture the admiration of many. You have shown the ability to sacrifice, especially when it involves responding to the call of the people.

But, as you well know, it was not an easy journey. In fact, you were not given the chance to win. Many a times, you must have felt the desire to give up and just spend precious time with your three children. But you continued. You persevered. You patiently made your case before the people. And your dedication and commitment to serve the people paid off.

So, what happens next?

If I may offer an unsolicited advice, please continue with what you have started – providing solutions to the problems that confront many of our people, especially the poor and the marginalized. Poverty remains a perennial problem among our people. Any type of advocacy that will help ameliorate our people’s conditions is welcome.

Continue empowering the people. Remember the essay you wrote when you applied at the Bicol River Basin Development Project? You wrote about the role played by then Corazon Aquino in the 1986 EDSA revolution. The boss was so impressed with your essay that he offered you the job. He even offered you his heart.  As everybody knows, the EDSA revolution was a testament to what an empowered people can do. They can even kick the butt of a dictator. I hope you keep the spirit of EDSA in your life.

Now that you have risen to national prominence in the political sphere, you can probably promote the “tsinelas philosophy of governance” that was advocated by your late husband. I interpret this “tsinelas thing” as a way of bringing the government closer to the people, sensitive and responsive to their needs.

Our people feel that they have been abandoned by the government. They are angry. They are frustrated. They are looking for someone who will make them feel that the government is for and with them. It takes a particular kind of approach to assuage the people’s anger and frustration, and to give them hope.   The “tsinelas thing” is worth trying in the national level and who else can do it but you.

I want you to be a decisive leader. You have already reached a certain status not given to all women. Use that status to benefit others. Make good choices.  Do not be afraid to take bold steps on issues that matter most to the people.

Some opportunists, masquerading as political geniuses, might take you lightly. After all, you are relatively new in politics. But when I recall the time you challenged Luis Villafuerte in a congressional contest a few years back and won, I saw how tenacious and gutsy you could become. You need these qualities in a male-dominated political structure.

My letter is getting longer. There are many more things to say. But I will stop now because as I learned in our Latin class at the Ateneo de Naga many years ago: Verbum sapienti sat est (A word to the wise is enough).

Once again, congratulations on a great victory! Mabuhay ka!