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DURING the post-war period, five Philippine Vice Presidents have been elected President, three of whom initially succeeded to the presidency before they won in their own right as president:

  • When President Manuel Roxas died of a heart attack on April 15, 1948, Vice President Elpidio Quirino succeeded him. Quirino then won as president in the 1949 elections.
  • When President Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash in Cebu on March 17, 1957, Vice President Carlos P. Garcia succeeded him. Garcia won as president in the Nov. 12, 1957 elections. Rep. Diosdado Macapagal of the opposition Liberal party was elected as vice president.
  • Vice President Macapagal won for president over the re-electionist Garcia in the 1961 elections.
  • Senator Joseph Estrada, representing the opposition, won as vice president when President Fidel V. Ramos was elected President in the 1992 elections.
  • Opposition candidate Vice President Estrada won the presidency in the 1998 elections. Administration bet Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was elected vice president
  • Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency on Jan. 20, 2021 when Estrada formally admitted that he was “unable to exercise the powers and duties of [his] office.” He subsequently left Malacañang, which was deemed an abandonment. Macapagal-Arroyo eventually won re-election.

In sum, Quirino, Garcia, Macapagal, Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo were vice presidents first before their respective elections as president. This gives credence to the aphorism that the vice president is a heartbeat away from Malacañang. Verily, a presidential run of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and her eventual victory have historical anchorage.

Among the perceived or declared presidential aspirants, only Vice President Leni Robredo has the enviable track record of winning a nationwide campaign for a single contested position – the vice presidency. She shattered the initial prediction of pollsters that she was not a factor. She started from a lowly 1% placement in the Pulse Asia survey on May 30 – June 5, 2015, less than a year before the 2016 elections. In the SWS survey of around the same time, she was scoreless. But on the SWS Dec. 12-14, 2015 survey after the filing of certificates of candidacy, she scored 14% against Sen. Francis Escudero who led the surveys at 30%, followed by Sen. Bongbong Marcos at 19%.

After the start of the campaign period, in the SWS March 4-7, 2016 survey, Leni’s rating shot up to 24%, compared to Escudero’s falling to 28% and Marcos’ score of 26%. The two vice presidential debates saw Leni Robredo outscoring her rivals in percentage increase.

Days before the May 2016 elections, Leni Robredo was already second at 28% in the May 1-3, 2016 SWS survey with Marcos one percentage point higher at 29%. She eventually won, with the SWS exit polls recording a first-place finish with 35.11% over the second placer Marcos with 34.47%.

Note that Leni Robredo scored the highest percentage increase among the candidates after each of the vice-presidential debates. This is a testament to the superiority of her agenda, her mastery in articulating the issues, and her sincerity in communicating responses to the electorate.

Leni Robredo’s qualifications also include her being a pro bono lawyer, a former Representative of the third district of Camarines Sur, and having a service record unblemished by any whiff of corruption.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to anoint his presidential bet, making his conduct and failures election issues, a comparison between Duterte and Leni is inevitable.

Vice President Robredo’s compassionate demeanor is in direct contrast to the callous manner of Duterte, in the same way that her sincerity is the antithesis to Duterte’s duplicity. Moreover, voters know how Duterte derogates and disrespects women with his misogyny and sexism.

The contrasting responses of Duterte and Robredo to the Covid-19 pandemic are revealing and instructive. Despite the measly budget of the Office of the Vice President, Robredo’s effective and singular performance during the pandemic exposes Duterte’s errant and failed response to the contagion. From Day 1 of the pandemic up to now, she has ceaselessly and seriously devoted her efforts to alleviate the predicament of poor and disadvantaged Filipinos, while Duterte confronted the menace with futile and ridiculous jokes, like slapping the virus and disinfecting face masks with gasoline even as his funding response to the staggering health and economic problems is pitifully anemic and inadequate.

Robredo’s enduring adherence to constitutionalism and the rule of law is the direct opposite to Duterte’s serial violations of the Constitution, like derogation of due process, human rights, justice, press freedom, people’s right to life and health, and the nation’s sovereignty, among other transgressions.

Clean and honest elections are the bedrock of democracy. The essence of elections is positive change. In totalitarian regimes, the change is realized by violently purging both the hierarchy and the cadre. However, in democracies the purging process is achieved when the electoral will peacefully topples the delinquent and decadent administration.

The voters must have learned a costly and tragic lesson when they heedlessly allowed themselves to be taken for a ride in 2016. There will be attempts again to dupe the voters. They should not be swayed by populist rhetoric which hollers like a hollow drum. Electing the right candidates is a cerebral decision, not an emotional choice.

In every election the people place their lives and future on the line. If they blunder in their judgement, they and the country inevitably suffer.

Every election is a time for redemption. We redeem ourselves from past electoral mistakes. We redeem ourselves from the cruel clutches of pseudo leaders. We redeem our children’s futures from a destitute destiny.

The 2022 election is another opportunity for national redemption. Let us pursue and realize this singular opportunity by foreclosing the perpetuation of a faltering, inept, repressive, and unresponsive leadership.