Vice President Maria Leni Robredo last week did not directly answer the local media’s query on her possible endorsement of any local candidate, preferring to dwell on her good relationship with local politicians.
“Sa akin naman, ang relationship namin sa mga local na mga politicians dito beyond politics. Kahit iba yung partido, we worked well together,” she said.
“’Yung karamihan naman sa mga local officials dito, kaibigan natin nang personal. ‘Yung ating relationship with them hindi naman pang-election, may election o wala maganda yung relations natin with them,” she added.
“So, sa akin, lagi akong thankful na hindi kami hirap pumunta dito kahit nung nakaraan na five-and-a-half years. Syempre ako nasa oposisyon, never na pinaramdam sa akin ng mga local officials dito na hindi ako welcome so sa akin isang malaking bagay for us na nakakatrabaho kami ng bwelo,” the vice president stressed.
Robredo made a brief visit to Virac last Dec. 1, 2021 to join the OVP Vaccine Express team assisting the provincial government during the National Vaccination Days.
Arriving at Virac airport abroad a plane that sported pink paint on its engines, the nation’s second-highest official was met at the airport by former Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, instead of Governor Joseph Cua as protocol would have demanded.
According to informed sources, the Capitol had prepared an itinerary for the VIP visit that had the chief executive receiving Robredo at the airport and included a press conference with the local media at the governor’s office.
But the plans were scrapped when the OVP’s advance party on Nov. 30 and indicated that it would be in charge with their own itinerary.
The provincial government decided to keep their hands off the arrival preparations, with Cua staying at the Virac Town Center vaccination center to wait for the visitor.
From the airport, VP Robredo boarded a black van allegedly rented by the advance party and, with the vehicle’s door open, greeted supporters from the Solid Leni Bicol (SLB) lined up along the airport road in what the advance party described as a “stationary caravan.”
The line of supporters and parked cars, however, only stretched a few meters at the side of the national highway leading to VTC, prompting one OVP cameraman to ask where the crowds were.
The vice president detoured to a radio station for a brief interview before heading back to the Virac Town Center.
Ex-Cong. Sarmiento, who followed aboard a green bus, did not join Robredo at the VTC visit and at the Catanduanes State University where she and Cua met with President Patrick Alaine Azanza at the vaccination center.
The vice president later proceeded to the Fiat Village where she had a meeting with Bishop Manolo delos Santos and some members of the Diocese of Virac clergy.
At the octagon hall, Robredo stood and addressed provincial and municipal coordinators of SLB, thanking them for the support during the motorcade held shortly after she filed her candidacy for president.
She also acknowledged Sarmiento as her former mentor in Congress when she used to represent the 3rd district of Camarines Sur from 2013 to 2016.
As soon as the vice president mentioned his name, the former solon moved in front and sat in the seat to her right.
It may be recalled that sometime after Robredo filed her bid for the nation’s highest post, she and her aides visited Sarmiento at his Metro Manila residence.
In a brief interview at the capitol the following morning, Gov. Cua told the Tribune that he believes that the vice president would not endorse anyone in the local races.
He said that his administration has always assisted Robredo and OVP staff whenever they went to Catanduanes on official business and even shouldered the staff’s lodging every time.
“Gatarabang man baga gabos,” Cua shared, noting that local politicians have always been supportive of any initiative intended on helping Catandunganons.
The former congressman used to be a diehard Liberal Party (LP) member and was with Robredo when she won as vice president in 2016 along with Rodrigo Duterte as president. But Sarmiento immediately left the LP and went over to the PDP-Laban and the House Duterte supermajority.
His move to President Duterte’s party, however, apparently did not help his cause in the 2019 elections as he crashed to a humbling, 15,000-vote defeat to Gov. Cua while his brother also lost by the same margin to Engr. Hector Sanchez.
In the run-up to the filing of the COCs for the 2022 national and local elections, he was expected to join Sen. Manny Pacquiao as he had joined the latter’s party convention.
He later used a COC from the National Unity Party (NUP) in his 2022 bid to wrest the House seat from incumbent Cong. Sanchez, who presents a formidable opponent in his alliance with Gov. Cua and San Andres Mayor Peter Cua who is running for vice governor.
Also running for the same post are former Bato Mayor Leo Rodriguez (Ind.) and retired DPWH legal counsel Atty. Oliver Rodulfo (LP).
Despite being LP’s only bet for provincial posts, Atty. Rodulfo was not officially informed of the Robredo visit and was not invited to any of the events.
Higher LP officials reportedly told the lawyer that the VP’s visit was for the Vaccine Express participation in the province’s vaccination campaign and did not involve politics.