MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has been named chairperson of the Liberal Party and has challenged her colleagues to rebuild the party in the face of dwindling membership following the 2016 elections.
“‘Pag inisip natin na gaano pa katagal, at inisip natin kung anong kahirapan iyong dinaanan, parang siguro panlulumo iyong nararamdaman. Pero ‘pag binalikan natin iyong kasaysayan ng (When we think of how long we have to go, and we think of the trials we went through, perhaps we may feel depressed. But when we look back on the history of the) Liberal Party, parang (it’s like) we were made for these times, for times such as this,” she said Thursday at the LP’s national executive council meeting where she was formally declared party chair.
According to a press release by the Office of the Vice President, Robredo will sit at the helm of the LP alongside its president, Senator Francis Pangilinan. These posts were previously held by former President Benigno Aquino III and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, respectively.
“It’s time to rebuild the party,” Robredo said, stressing that the foundation for this would be their shared values, aspirations, and history.
She also reminded LP members of one of the party’s core principles — to represent the people, ordinary Filipinos who she called the “true voice of democracy.”
“(S)a gitna ng kadiliman, sa gitna ng maraming pagsubok — iyong pagmamahal sa bayan, iyon iyong magbibigay sa atin ng lakas (In the midst of darkness, in the midst of trials, our love for our country will give us strength),” she said.
“Kaya kaunti man tayo o marami, marami pa ding kailangang ipagpasalamat … Tayong mga nandito ngayon, pinili pa ding lumaban, pinili pa din na hindi bumitaw. Maraming temptations, maraming dahilan — kung hahanap ng dahilan — maraming dahilan kung bakit hindi na dapat manatili. Pero titingnan natin iyong mukha ng bawat isa sa atin ngayon, ito iyong mga taong nanindigan. Ito iyong mga taong nagdesisyon na makipaglaban pa din,” she said.
(So whether there are many of us or few, there are still many things to be thankful for … The people who are here decided to continue the fight, decided to hold on. There are many temptations, many reasons — if you look for reasons — many reasons why we should not stay. But when we look at the faces of each of us here, these are the people who stayed true to what they believed in. These are the people who decided to continue the fight.)
As of May, the LP had only 27 members in the House of Representatives, 22 of them with the majority bloc, the remaining five opting to join the independent minority.
Many LP members defected to PDP-Laban a year after President Rodrigo Duterte’s victory, helping the new ruling party’s numbers soar from three at the beginning of the 17th Congress to 121 members by May this year.
The past year also saw LP member Senator Leila De Lima, a vocal critic of Duterte’s human rights record, detained and ordered tried on drug charges and other party stalwarts, particularly senators, targeted by fake news.
Among others, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV was falsely accused of colluding with the Maute terrorist group to spark the continuing crisis in Marawi City. Among those who hurled false charges against him was Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who wrongly accused the senator and other personalities of meeting with prominent Marawi clans a couple of weeks before fighting broke out there on May 23.
The same month, a photo of Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros, maliciously chosen for its angle that made it appear as if they were holding hands as they emerged from a visit to De Lima at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, was circulated in social media.
Robredo herself had been falsely accused of meeting with then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Ecuador, supposedly to spread lies about Duterte and plotting to oust him.
Robredo was appointed by Duterte to chair the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council only to be informed later that she was no longer welcome at Cabinet meetings. This prompted her to resign the post.