|A.K.A.||Maria Leonor Robredo, Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona|
|Birth||23 April 1964, Naga, Philippines|
|Politics||Liberal Party of the Philippines|
Maria Leonor "Leni" Gerona Robredo (born Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona; April 23, 1965) is a Filipina lawyer and social activist who is the 14th and incumbent Vice President of the Philippines. Running under the Liberal Party, Robredo won the vice-presidency contest in the May 9, 2016 election, as confirmed and proclaimed by the official Congressional count of May 25–27, with 14,418,817 votes (35.11% of the votes), narrowly defeating Senator Bongbong Marcos by 263,473 votes. A report released by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal further widened her lead to 278,566 over Senator Marcos. She is the second woman to serve as Vice President after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the first Vice President from Bicol.
Robredo first came to public attention in 2012 after the death of her husband, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, in the 2012 Philippine Piper Seneca crash off the coast of Masbate Island. Prior to the accident, her involvement in public life was as a lawyer and social activist. After this, she ran in the 2013 general election and won as the representative of Camarines Sur's Third District to the Philippine House of Representatives for the 16th Congress, a post she held until her inauguration as Vice President on June 30, 2016.
Early life and education
Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona was born on April 23, 1965 in Naga, Camarines Sur, Philippines. She was the first of three children born to retired Naga City Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Gerona and Salvacion Santo Tomas.
Leni Gerona attended the basic education department of Universidad de Sta. Isabel in Naga, graduating from elementary school in 1978, and from high school in 1982. She then graduated with a degree in economics from the UP School of Economics at the University of the Philippines Diliman, in 1986. She then went to study law at University of Nueva Caceres, graduating in 1992. After studying law, she took up her master's degree at San Beda University (then San Beda College).
Inspired by the People Power Revolution after graduating from UP Diliman, Gerona chose to temporarily forego law studies and instead decided to work as a researcher for the Bicol River Basin Development Program (BRBDP), a government agency tasked with integrated area development planning in the three provinces of the Bicol region. Here she met then-Program Director Jesse Robredo, who would eventually become her husband.
Having passed the bar on her second attempt in 1996, Robredo served in the Public Attorney's Office, a role in which she often took up the defense for cases pursued by her husband, who by then had become Mayor of Naga.
From 1998 to 2008, Robredo became the coordinator of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligan (SALIGAN), a Naga-based alternative legal support group. SALIGAN's work aimed to encourage young legal professionals to take on leadership roles, and involved visiting distant rural communities to provide legal services to residents who would otherwise have little or no access to such services, as well as conducting legal advocacy by proposing amendments and new laws based on the needs of these marginalized communities. Later, the group's focus shifted to include helping rural women to acquire capital in order to participate in competitive markets.
In addition, Robredo founded the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga Federation, an organization that provides training and livelihood opportunities for women, in 1989.
In 2012, Robredo was named the chairperson of the Liberal Party in Camarines Sur.
Robredo ran in Camarines Sur's 3rd congressional district during the Philippine general elections of 2013. On May 16, 2013 she was proclaimed winner, beating Nelly Favis-Villafuerte (of Nationalist People's Coalition/United Nationalist Alliance), wife of former Congressman Luis Villafuerte and member of the politically powerful Villafuerte dynasty.
During her term in congress, Robredo was the vice chairman of the House committees on good governance, public accountability, and revision of laws, and a member of 11 other house panels. She was known for being a strong advocate of the Freedom of Information Act, and a strong supporter of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Participatory governance and transparency were major thrusts of Robredo's legislative agenda. The first law Robredo authored in congress was the Full Disclosure Policy Bill (HB 19), which would have mandated all government agencies and their sub-units and projects to disclose their budget and financial transactions in a conspicuous manner "without any requests from the public." Concerned that the marginalized sector should not be denied access to government frontline services and public meetings based on their attire, she sponsored the Open Door Policy Act (House Bill No. 6286), which prohibits government offices and agencies from implementing strict dress codes.
Robredo also authored the People Empowerment Bill (HB 4911), which sought to allow more participation from Filipinos in decision and policy-making, and the Participatory Budget Process Bill (HB 3905), which sought to increase participation in budget-related decisions in government projects by locals. She also wrote the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB 3432) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, language, disability, HIV status, etc.
To promote transparency in the taxation process, she sponsored the house version (House Bill 05831) of what would eventually become Republic Act RA10708, the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act of 2009 (TIMTA).
Concerned about corruption in agrarian reform, Robredo co-authored House Bill 5841, which would have created an Agrarian Reform Commission that will focus on investigating violations against the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Other major legislation co-authored by Robredo includes the Anti-Dynasty Bill and the Healthy Beverage Options Act (House Bill 4021).
As a member of the 16th Congress, Robredo was one of the principal authors of the house version of “The Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA)” (Republic Act RA10708, House Bill 05831), which was enacted on December 9, 2015. She also co-authored the house version of the following laws: the “National Children’s Month Act,” Republic Act RA10661 (HB01641) enacted on May 29, 2015, declaring the celebration of the national children's month on November of every year; the “Charter of the Quezon City Development Authority,” Republic Act RA10646 (HB03899), lapsed into law on November 8, 2014; the “Open High School System Act,” Republic Act RA10665 (HB04085) enacted on July 9, 2015, establishing and appropriating funds for the open high school system; Republic Act RA10638 (HB04089), extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways for another 50 years, enacted on June 16, 2014; Republic Act RA10707 (HB04147), amending the “Probation Law of 1976” enacted on November 26, 2015, rationalizing and strengthening the probation system; the “Graphic Health Warnings Law,” Republic Act RA10643 (HB04590), enacted on November 15, 2014, prescribing the printing of graphic health warnings on tobacco products; Republic Act RA10655 (HB05280), decriminalizing premature remarriages, enacted on March 13, 2015; and the “Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act.of 2015,” Republic Act RA10742 (HB06043), enacted on January 15, 2016.
In addition, Robredo was one of many co-authors of the National Budgets for the years 2014 (RA10633, HB02630, enacted on December 20, 2013), 2015 (RA10651, HB04968, enacted on December 23, 2014), and 2016 (RA10717, HB06132, enacted on December 22, 2015).
Robredo was also a key supporter of: HB 4911: People Empowerment Bill to create a partnership between local governments and civil society through the establishment of a people's council in every local government unit. This act also prescribes the powers and functions of said council; HB 3432: Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, language, disability, HIV status, and other status, and provide penalties for these; HB 4021: Healthy Beverage Options to regulate the availability of beverages to children in schools and for other purposes; HB 19: Full Disclosure Policy to require the full disclosure of all information on fiscal management from all national government departments, bureaus, agencies, and other instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries and local governments. This act will also provide penalties for violations of said requirements; HB 3905: Participatory Budget Process to institutionalize citizens’ participation in the budget process and for other processes; and HB 3237: Freedom of Information to strengthen the right of citizens to information held by the government.
On October 5, 2015, after her three daughters set aside their initial objections, Robredo announced that she would run for the post of Vice President of the Philippines under the Liberal Party in the 2016 election, as the running mate of presidential candidate Mar Roxas. Robredo won the election with 14,418,817 votes, or 35.11 percent of cast ballots, narrowly defeating her closest rival, Senator Bongbong Marcos, by 263,473 votes or by 0.64 percent.
Robredo was sworn in as Vice President of the Philippines on June 30, 2016 at the Quezon City Reception House, which she had since used as her office.
Robredo first met President Rodrigo Duterte personally at the Armed Forces of the Philippines change-of-command ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo on July 1, 2016, a day after their inauguration. She later paid a courtesy call on him at Malacañang Palace on July 4, their first formal meeting. On July 7, Duterte called Robredo during a press conference to offer her the cabinet position of head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, which Robredo accepted.
Robredo is the third Vice President to head the government agency focused on housing programs, following her immediate predecessors Noli de Castro and Jejomar Binay. Duterte earlier said that he did not want to appoint a cabinet position to Robredo due to his unfamiliarity with her and his friendship with Bongbong Marcos. On August 2, the government of Thailand bestowed upon Robredo the 'Honorary Outstanding Women Award' of Southeast Asia. On August 23, non-governmental organization Filipina Women's Network bestowed on Robredo the 'Most Influential Filipina Woman of the World Award'.
In September 2016, after the onslaught of Typhoon Ferdie in Batanes, Robredo visited the island and brought emergency shelter assistance to the people. In the same month, Robredo met with Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas to discuss drug rehabilitation programs.
In October 2016, international aid agencies threw their full support behind the antipoverty program of Vice President Leni Robredo, joining a summit scheduled for the same month, where they partnered with the country's poorest local government units. The summit, known as Partnerships Against Poverty Summit, held on October 10, is a product of Robredo's twice-weekly visits to the poorest local government units (LGUs) in her first 100 days as Vice President. Some of the participants of the summit, such as the UN Children's Fund, World Food Program, the UN Development Program, the EU, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, promised to help in “research, knowledge sharing, technical assistance, small grants for capacity building and the like,” according to Georgina Hernandez, head of the OVP's Anti-Poverty and Advocacies Programs. Following the effects of Super Typhoon Lawin, Robredo visited Cagayan and met with Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and local disaster officials to inquire about the damage, in order to ascertain the kind of assistance her office could provide. Robredo's anti-poverty program, also known Angat Buhay Program, has benefited 83,707 families across the country in its first year of implementation. On November 17, Robredo was bestowed the TOWN's Tanglaw Award for 'championing women's rights' and 'empowering the marginalized'.
On December 4, 2016, Robredo was informed by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. "to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings starting December 5", which prompted her to release a statement tendering her resignation as the chairwoman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, effective the following day. Duterte supporters have tried to impeach her as Vice President for criticizing his bloody anti-drug crackdown and other policies.
During the Marawi crisis, Robredo called for unity as government troops engaged in a firefight against the Maute group in Marawi, and she organized donations and directed relief operations for the victims. She then visited wounded soldiers in Iligan to give support and contributions. Robredo respects President Duterte's implementation of martial law in the whole of Mindanao as a way to combat terrorism, but has requested measures to ensure that the implementation would not resemble the "abuses and violations" during Ferdinand Marcos' implementation of Proclamation No. 1081. She also questioned the coverage and prolongation of the implementation and called on members of the Congress to review and validate the implementation as a "constitutional duty".
President Rodrigo Duterte skipped participation in what would have been his first Independence Day rites due to exhaustion. Vice President Robredo, as the second highest-ranking official of the country, led the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies during the 119th anniversary of Philippine independence. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stood beside her as Duterte's representative. On July 6, the Philippine Quill Award was awarded to Lifestyle Asia for the Leni Robredo Cover Story of “Rise of a Stateswoman”.
In October 2017, the Senate increased the 2018 budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) by ₱20 million, which was allotted for the Vice President's Angat Buhay program. In the same month, Robredo called on fellow Filipinos to remember the 165 soldiers and police who gave their lives for the liberation of Marawi City. Robredo said her office was already preparing to help in the rehabilitation of Marawi City, primarily through its flagship anti-poverty program.
On May 6, 2018, Robredo slammed China for establishing missiles in the west Philippine Sea. The missiles were aimed directly at the Philippines. On June 19, Robredo condemned the formal ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom Duterte declared as his 'enemy'.
In July 2018, Robredo formally accepted the role as leader of the opposition, unifying numerous parties in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. On July 10, President Duterte called Robredo 'incompetent' because she was a 'woman', sparking a feminist backlash against Duterte. On the same day, Robredo revealed that defeated candidate Marcos 'lied' about the PET-revisor outing. On July 26, the PET sided with Robredo and held a ballot shading threshold of the vice presidential electoral protest at 25 percent. On July 31, Robredo voiced her support for the people of Basilan after a deadly terrorist attack.
On August 5, Robredo voiced her support for the proposed anti-turncoat law in the House. On August 13, President Duterte said that he would initiate a 'military junta' if ever Robredo becomes president. On August 20, former President Noynoy Aquino expressed his confidence on Rodredo's leadership. On August 28, Robredo said that the martial law in Mindanao has failed to address threats in the region. On August 29, she urged the House to increase funding for the Office of the Vice President after Duterte House allies voted to slash her office's budget by 100 million pesos. On August 30, after President Duterte linked Robredo's blind relative to the drug trade in Naga city, she rebuffed Duterte's claims and presented evidence of innocence. Duterte also called Naga city a 'hotbed of shabu' (methamphetamines). Duterte apologized afterwards for his mistake and wrong information. On August 31, Robredo rejected the idea of a dictatorship in a modern Philippines.
On September 1, senator Leila de Lima revealed that President Duterte planned to oust Vice President Robredo and replace her with Bongbong Marcos, who lost the vice presidential election in 2016. On September 2, Robredo pushed for measures to aid government during the high inflation crisis. On the same day, after rape remarks were made by Duterte, leading to a feminist backlash, Robredo stated that 'rape exists because of rapists' and supported the victims harassed by Duterte's speech. On September 6, Robredo called Duterte's voiding of the amnesty of senator Antonio Trillanes a 'clear harassment' meant to silence critics. On September 24, President Duterte apologized for falsely linking Robredo to an alleged ouster plot against him. On September 28, Robredo visited the victims of a major landslide in Itogon, Benguet.
On October 10, she blasted the House federal charter draft which sought to remove Robredo from the presidential line of succession. On October 18, she lamented that 'democracy is facing challenges due to populist leaders.' On October 24, 2018, Robredo officially launched the opposition senatorial slate for the 2019 senatorial elections, declaring that 'the opposition is alive.' The opposition candidates ran under the "Otso Diretso" slate, which included former senator Mar Roxas, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, Mindanao peace advocate Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, former congressman Erin Tañada, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, senator Bam Aquino, and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
On November 4, Robredo supported Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox. The Bureau of Immigration had ordered Fox to be deported from the country as Fox was opposed to the deadly drug war. On November 8, Robredo's team, which sought to aid the people of Boracay, was barred from entering by government forces. On November 17, Robredo lashed out at the 'special treatment' the government was providing for convicted criminal Imelda Marcos. On November 21, Robredo called for transparency in government-sponsored deals with China. On November 26, Robredo called on the government to assure that troop deployments in Samar, Negros, and Bicol would not lead to martial law.
On December 5, she hit out at the House for prioritizing the controversial federal charter that benefits political dynasties over economic bills that would benefit the poor. On December 10, Defense chief Lorenzana cleared Robredo of accusations of an alleged ouster plot against Duterte, stating that the accusations against Robredo were 'fake news again'. On December 21, Robredo condemned the assassination of Ako Bicol Partylist representative Rodel Batocabe, a fellow Bicolano. On December 30, she led the Rizal Day rites after President Duterte did not attend.
On January 1, 2019, New Year's Day, Robredo visited landslide-hit towns in Camarines Sur. On January 15, 2019, she urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to take action amid the national data breach crisis. On January 26, she condemned the deadly Sulu blast at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo.
Prior to the May 2019 elections, news circulated on multiple social media platforms, mainly on Facebook, claiming that Vice President Robredo would resign as Vice President should the opposition slate Otso Diretso lose the election; Robredo later debunked the news as fake.
On July 19, 2019, the PNP–Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed charges against Robredo and other members of the opposition for "sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice".
On October 18, 2019, the PET released the results of the initial recount, widening her lead over Sen. Marcos by 15,093 votes.
On October 23, 2019, Vice President Leni Robredo made a statement, saying that Duterte should allow the UN to investigate the war on drugs, and she added that a campaign has been "a failure and a dent on the country's international image." Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo slammed Robredo's remark, saying that her claim "lacked factual basis." However, on October 27, 2019, Robredo clarified that she suggested for "tweaks" to the campaign and denied that she called to stop the war on drugs.
On November 4, 2019, Duterte assigned Robredo to be co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) until the end of his term in 2022, said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.
On February 10, 2020, she was cleared of charges filed by the CIDG.
Numerous fake news stories have been manufactured on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other blog sites against Robredo after she won the vice presidency in 2016. The instances of slander against her multiplied further after she expressed her dissent against the deadly Philippine Drug War of President Rodrigo Duterte, which has killed at least 20,000 Filipinos. Robredo has demonstrated the falsehood of these statements against her. The majority of the fake news stories were fabricated by pro-Duterte bloggers, including those working under the Duterte government.
Robredo has been a constant victim of memes and "fake news" articles since taking office in 2016, some of which she claims emanate from a Senate source. Dealing with these, she said, was a "test of character".
Leni was married to Jesse Robredo, whom she met while working at the Bicol River Basin Development Program, from 1987 until his death from a plane crash in 2012. The couple had three daughters: Jessica Marie "Aika" Robredo, Janine Patricia "Tricia" Robredo, and Jillian Therese Robredo. Their eldest daughter, Aika, was an executive assistant at the Office of Civil Defense, while their second eldest, Tricia, is a medical student and was a UAAP basketball sideline reporter for National University. Their youngest, Jilian, is currently studying biomolecular science.
Since May 14, 2017, Robredo hosts her own public service radio program entitled BISErbisyong LENI, aired on DZXL.
Honors and recognition
Robredo was featured in an episode of ABS-CBN's drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya on February 6, 2016, three days before the official campaign period for national candidates in the 2016 elections. Dimples Romana played the role of Robredo, but Kaye Abad portrayed her in 2013.
On August 1, 2016, Robredo was awarded the Honorary Outstanding Woman Award of the Year 2016 by the Thai government, coinciding with Thailand's Women's Day. The recognition was given to Robredo, citing her work and advocacy for women's empowerment and pushing for gender equality.
On August 23, 2016, Robredo was awarded the Most Influential Filipina Woman of the World award by Filipina Women's Network (FWN), a non-government organization.
Three universities have conferred Robredo with honorary doctorates:
- Polytechnic University of the Philippines (2015, Doctor in Public Administration),
- University of Saint Anthony in Iriga, Camarines Sur, her home province (2017, Doctor of Humanities),
- University of the Cordilleras (2017, Doctor of Laws).