As she continues to grapple with her husband's death, Leni Robredo has taken upon herself the added burden of trying to reform Camarines Sur by challenging the Villafuerte dynasty for the province's 3rd district Congressional seat.
"Kung hindi sila [the Villafuerte clan] ang kalaban, siguro hindi ako tumakbo," said Robredo in an interview with Solita Monsod on GMA News TV's "Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie."
The widow of former interior secretary Jesse Robredo sees the irony in running a campaign against political dynasties, given that people know her best for her husband.
"They say I'm running based on the popularity of my husband's name," she said. "To an extent, this is true." But Robredo hopes she can use it to spread her husband's values of good governance and transparency in the district.
Robredo said she is playing a wider role for the Liberal Party than just being its chairperson. After Jesse died, Leni agreed to become take the position. But rather than being a party administrator, she became a rallying point for the LP's members.
The outpouring of goodwill has been so overwhelming that Gabby Bordado Jr., Naga City's current vice mayor, waived his own congressional bid to rally support for Robredo's campaign.
Luis Villafuerte Sr., the incumbent representative of Camarines Sur's 3rd district, has had jueteng involvement rumors wafting about him. When Monsod asked about these rumors of jueteng and corruption, Villafuerte responded with indignation. "Nobody has ever accused me of that in all these years!" he said.
Villafuerte said he was not disturbed by Robredo's intent to run and her cresting popularity. Villafuerte has his eyes on the gubernatorial seat, while his wife, Nelly, is running as Robredo's main opponent.
"In the last elections, I won by more than 90,000 votes and led in all the precincts," reminded Villafuerte. He also said those votes would be difficult to sway and that in comparison, Robredo's camp was starting from scratch. He also said the election should be won by "solid and valid reasons," pointing out that his wife was also an experienced professional.
Robredo concedes an initial disadvantage: Jesse had never established political networks outside Naga City, which only comprises about a third of the electorate. But at the very least she has the backing of three very important people: her daughters Aika, Tricia and Jillian.
Initially, the daughters told Monsod that they were against their mother’s candidacy, but decided to support her in the end. Aika, the eldest, sees herself in a coordinating role for her mother's campaign headquarters, while Tricia told Monsod that she's trying to get different youth networks to support her mother.
"Ma's not doing this for herself. She's doing this for the third district," said Tricia in a public Facebook post. "Mama said from the very start she'd run for office only when necessary. Guess what? It is."
"Kung mayroong susuporta sa kanya," said Aika, "dapat kami ang mauuna." — Job de Leon/DVM, GMA News The current affairs commentary program "Bawal ang Pasaway" hosted by Prof. Winnie Monsod airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM on GMA News TV Channel 11. Follow the show on Twitter (@BawalPasaway) or like them on Facebook (facebook.com/bawalangpasaway).