Our search for new leaders

Published October 9, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

Vice President Leni Robredo reached a stunning 136 million people online on Thursday, the day she filed her certificate of candidacy for president, according to initial digital monitoring reports.

Vast swaths of the Philippine internet turned pink as 277,000 unique users carried and promoted the call #LetLeniLead2022. The women-led effort resulted in 2.2 billion impressions and 951,000 mentions.

Making this possible are the many artists, celebrities, thought-leaders and influencers who lent their star power to welcome her speech declaring her intention to run and also support her filing. Credit should also go to a lot of new organizations: Robredocs; Lawyers for Leni; LGBTQIA+ for Leni; Leni for You; and many others.

Robredo’s decision to run not as a Liberal Party standard-bearer but as an independent candidate, and her adoption of a new color, are important signals to voters who are tired of the prevailing (or festering) partisan divisions. It could also signify how serious she is in her quest to form a broad opposition alliance with other non-administration or anti-administration candidates, parties and personalities.

Supporters could strengthen Robredo’s hand in the alliance talks by turning her fabulous entry to the race into a considerable bump in the surveys. More importantly, help build a powerful online-offline hybrid organization capable of contesting and winning the presidency. How these would happen depends on the leadership, vision and skill of Robredo’s key leaders, and the readiness of supporters to take on tasks.

It is easy to cite and list down the differences among Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Robredo. But that’s not how coalition-building works. Coalition-building is about common ground, cooperation, respect, goodwill, confidence-building, and common goals. Differences could also be bridged.

As things stand, their survey numbers and their organizations are all considerable. But if they come together, they might be more powerful and unbeatable. This is especially if we consider that more than 18,000 positions are actually at stake in May, 2022. Working together means having just one common slate of 18,000 candidates. Closing the door to a coalition means each of them would have to find 18,000 candidates.

But could they agree on guaranteeing a regime change in 2022? Could they agree to unite on a competent, scientific and humane response to the pandemic? Could they agree on human rights, due process and freedom of expression? Could they agree on a common platform?

Talks among Robredo, Moreno and Pacquiao would tell us the answers to these and other questions.

Let’s make sure they listen to the majority of workers and farmers whose lives have turned from bad to worse since 2016. Besides, no ordinary Filipino today could credibly say that his or her life is better now, compared to five years ago. The pandemic cannot be an excuse for the administration’s incompetence; most other nations have fared a lot better under more competent leaders.

We could let health workers, doctors and scientists speak, and offer counsel on how to properly manage the pandemic. If the present administration intimidates them, let us make sure the next administration would put them at front and center of the pandemic response.

Then, there are the families orphaned by the death squads and by the deadly virus. The killings must stop, as well as the incompetence and corruption that have marked the disastrous handling of the pandemic.

Let’s also hear from the professionals and entrepreneurs who have been largely ignored in favor of the inept. Many overseas Filipinos cannot wait to express disappointment and shame over the ineptitude, cruelty, poverty and corruption they see here at home.

Because the truth of the matter is: The workers, farmers, healthcare workers, orphans, professionals, entrepreneurs and overseas Filipinos have already reached some level of agreement — an informal coalition! — that change is desperately needed. They have weighed a Marcos and a Duterte, but they were found wanting.

Our people are now searching for new leadership that could join, honor, inspire, lead, unite, fight and sacrifice their own ambitions for them. What would Moreno, Pacquiao, and Robredo say or do now?