By Juan Escandor Jr.
NAGA CITY—To fight against political dynasty was her battle cry and in the end of her campaign she triumphs to start a new beginning in politics guided by the ideals of her husband.
Preparing to send off her daughters to the airport after a grueling night, Leni Robredo, 48, still feels the campaign fever a day after the elections but her victory is over political dynasty when she won landslide against a well-entrenched family in Camarines Sur.
Leni is yet to be proclaimed by the Commission on Election Tuesday morning but unofficial results showed she won in 181 barangays out of the 186 barangays in the third district of Camarines Sur represented in Congress by Luis Robredo Villafuerte, who fielded his wife Nelly to replace him after nine years in service as congressman.
She did not expect to win with a very big margin while in her mind is how to personally thank her army of volunteers who rolled out her campaign to victory with very limited resources coming from donations. She estimated she won about 80 percent of the votes cast in the third district of Camarines Sur and she is happy with it.
Leni was grateful she is surrounded by young, idealistic and creative volunteers who have sacrificed and took leave from their work to campaign for her.
“In my view, it (her victory) is a big message that the people rejected political dynasty. In the
beginning, it was a very difficult fight because I am against a well-entrenched family who had been in power since 1978. I know many people have debt of gratitude to them while the majority of barangay officials are with them. But the people have decided,” she said.
Leni said her late husband, Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo who died in a plane crash last year, contributed so much to her victory which was powered by volunteerism.
“Napakalaking bagay yong kanyang (Jesse’s) role sa akin panalo, palagay ko the goodwill he left behind was really my political capital. People trusted me more, mas open ako tinanggap ng maraming tao, because of him. Palagay ko they see me as an extension of who he was as a public servant,” shereveals.
Leni recalls that her political allies were worried they could not gather people because they have nothing to give to the people like what her rival did giving away treats. “I always remind them that we can gather people even without giving anything to them because we did it in Naga, but after the campaign, they (political allies) were grateful because we have practiced what we preached. There is an expectation of change,” she said.
She also sees her victory as rejection of patronage politics.
Leni, 48, who studied law at the University of Nueva Caceres in 1992 and took the bar exam and became a lawyer in 1997, was a hesitant politician after spending most of her married life behind her popular husband Jesse.
It was when her husband died unexpectedly in the plane crash that she was thrust into the public eye with her quiet dignity and demeanor while in grief.
A daughter of a long-time regional trial court judge in Naga City, Antonio Gerona, Leni works quietly with civil society serving women and children in distress and farmers struggling to own their farms.
With the death of her husband, she became the figure head of Jesse’s allies and supporters in Naga City even as she vowed then that she will not enter politics for the sake of her children, Aika, 25, a government employee, Patricia, 18, a college student, and Jillian, 13, a high school student.
Despite her previous pronouncements that she will not run for elective position in government but the judiciary, Leni was forced to accept the demand of Jesse’s supporters and allies on the brink of fragmentation when Jose Anselmo Cadiz filed his certificate of candidacy for congressman in the third district.
On Oct. 5, the last day of filing of COC and the day the Liberal Party (LP) here officially announced the candidate for congressman in the third district in the person of Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado, her supporters marched to their house to ask her to run in order to preserve the unity of Jesse’s political supporters and allies.
Indeed, Leni’s decision to take on the challenge, amid jeers from Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte who said it was scripted, has reunited the LP here with Cadiz withdrawing his COC for congressman and refiling for the gubernatorial race.
Incidentally, when she joined the congressional race the political rivalry between Jesse and Luis continues even beyond the death of her husband.
Jesse, who was groomed by his uncle Luis to become mayor of Naga City in 1988 after he was recruited to serve the administration of Cory Aquino as project director of the Bicol River Basin Development Project, charted his political career after falling out with his uncle in 1992.
Luis fielded Pura Villafuerte Magtuto, his sister and a whole slate for local elective positions but Jesse and his candidates prevailed. Since then, Jesse and all of his chosen candidates for local positions in Naga City continued to prevail until the 2010 elections.
Leni was decidedly taking on where her husband left as she battles the Villafuertes in the polls by seriously pushing new politics in Camarines Sur based on volunteerism, good governance principles, and transparency.
On May 10, she filed a disqualification case against Luis and her opponent Nelly at the Commission on Elections provincial office on allegations of vote buying.
With her victory, Leni said she will pursue the cases against the Villafuertes to its resolution.
She said she was advised by some of her supporters not to pursue the vote buying cases against the Villafuertes because she will be bombarded with cases in return and her husband would definitely be dragged out from his grave.
“But I think it serves the fight (against political dynasty and patronage),” Leni said.
Countering the allegations of vote buying, Luis also accused Leni of vote buying allegedly using government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Welfare Development and fund from international sources given to her by Fil-Am millionaire Loida Lewis.
On Election Day, Nelly told the local media here that she also filed vote-buying rap against Leni.
“I am not bothered by the case filed against me because my biggest weapon is the truth. The people know that I don’t have the capability to buy votes or give groceries in exchange of votes,” she quipped.
In the rundown of the campaign, Leni did not buy airtime except for eight spots in television donated by a supporter.
As representative, she vowed to continue the legacy of Jesse by legislating the systems her husband started when he was mayor of Naga City and then, secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Leni wants to legislate the efforts done by her husband in which for now are still department orders that lessen corruption in government, promote transparency and accountability like the Seal of Good Governance and Performance Incentive.
By Analiza S. Macatangay
NAGA CITY — Inching forward to encourage the youth to venture to agriculture and be the next producers of our staple food, the Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCIP) and the Universal Harvester, Incorporated launched Friday the Search for The Outstanding Farmers of the Philippines (TOFARM) at the Naga Regent Hotel here.
TOFARM national chairman Rommel Cunanan said the awards program endeavors to institutionalize this initiative and achieve private and public sector participation in the annual search and award and establish a much wide scope and reach.
This is to also safeguard the interest and welfare of the agriculture sector, according to Cunanan.
“It is ironic that while they are dubbed as the producers of our food yet they remain to be among the poorest sectors in the country.
JCIP encourages the family of every farmer to follow their forefathers’ steps and be among the most innovative farmers in our generation. We are also enjoining other private sectors to join us in this advocacy,” Cunanan said in an interview with the members of the local media.
The awards program for farmers has been an initiative of the said organization since 1970s that recognizes the resiliency, ingenuity and the strength of our hardworking Filipino farmers.
“The program is anchored in promoting farming in the youth sectors in all regions, including here in Camarines Sur. Everybody is invited, from the public to the private stakeholders in agriculture, fisheries and livestock,” Cunanan added.
Cunanan also said that they are going to focus on two major activities once everything is already in place: one, is the direct intervention training for the farmers which would include seminars on transforming their attitude and financial management and two, lakbay aral activities. This, he said will be a tripartite collaboration amongst the agriculture sector, government and the private sector.
The program includes the following categories: Farmers who are engaged in the planting and production of rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, organic and high value crops; fisherfolks, livestock, agri-entrepreneurs including private entrepreneur, trader and businessmen; woman farmer, young farmer with age ranging from 18 to 40 years old and agriculture innovator which includes educator or inventor, scientists, public employees and the like.
Other categories include Urban/City farmers (farms should be located in cities only), agriculture cooperatives, family farmer, local government unit (programs and projects and facilities are operated by the LGU) and agriculture initiatives (private organizations, non-government organizations, institutions).
A People’s Choice category was also added where the winner will be determined via an online poll. The winner shall be solely based on the number of votes garnered through the TOFARM Website.
Lucky winners for the individual category will receive P50,000.00 cash while the Group Category winners will take home P100,000.00 each. Aside from the cash prize, the winners will also receive the iconic 18’ TOFARM plate.
JCIP is now accepting nomination and entries. Submission will be until July 31. Tentative awarding is slated in September 2013.
The Department of Trade and Industry is holding a simultaneous nationwide “Diskwento Caravan: Balik-Eskwela Edition” this May 2013. The discount fair aims to address the clamor from consumers to have greater access to lower-priced basic and prime commodities in preparation for the start of school-year 2013-14.
The local government of Naga City, through its Local Price Coordinating Council, the Naga City Social Welfare and Development Office (NCSWDO) and the Arts Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO), worked with DTI-Camarines Sur in organizing the “Tabang Pamilya” Diskwento Fair which was held at the Naga City Peoples’ Hall, Naga City Hall Compound, last May 9 to 10, 2013.
DTI has invited local distributors to sell products which are of interest to households and students, including school supplies, shoes, bags and uniforms, personal grooming products, and food products (“pambaon” and household use). Products will be sold at prices with 15% to 75% discount as compared with prevailing retail prices.
In Camarines Sur, the provincial office has identified two areas where the Diskwento Caravan will be held – the first one at the Naga City Hall Compound, and a second one at the ABS-CBN Naga Compound, Panganiban Drive, Naga City.
The “Tabang Pamilya” Diskwento Fair intends to benefit families with solo parents, and households within and below the poverty line in Naga City and neighboring towns. These are the target beneficiaries of the city social welfare and development office, to lighten the burdens of families with schoolchildren.
‘Diskwento’ sidelights or added bonus include discounted rates for massage and reflexology services, courtesy of the graduates of the training of the Naga City Spa Center, which is a project of the Naga City government. There will also be discounted cosmetology (manicure, haircut) services courtesy of the beneficiaries of trainings of the Naga City Council for Women.
The Diskwento Caravan in separate venues are to be held on the following dates: (a) the “Tabang Pamilya” Diskwento Fair at the Naga City Peoples’Hall, Naga City Hall Compound, on May 9 to 10, 2013; and (b) the “Summer Diskwento Caravan:
“Balik Eskwela Edition” at the ABS-CBN Compound in Panganiban Avenue, Naga City on May 20 to 21, 2013.