VP Leni and the War Against Drugs

“Courage, competence, commitment, and compassion.”

The second part of the book “Servant Leader: Leni Robredo” by Ed Garcia revolves around Vice President Leni Robredo’s engagement with the government’s flagship program – the fight against illegal drugs.

Against expectations, VP Leni accepted President Duterte’s dare to lead the campaign. In this essay, Ed Garcia says that VP Leni accepted a daunting task, and in a sense “re-imagined resistance from within.” She also did so during an “opportune time,” seizing what Professor Ed Garcia called a “moment of grace” by trying to tackle the task in a studied and systematic manner. She considered the baseline idea, looked for evidence-based metrics, and explored a more comprehensive and humane way to deal as well as other experiences. It seemed that the country was on the cusp, Garcia says, of doing something different with a festering problem that had been tackled in the old way without progress.

In the essay “Reimagining Resistance,” Garcia says that in different parts of the world, protests in their thousands have re-invented resistance from Hong Kong to Chile, Lebanon, Sudan to Catalonia. This includes the “Extinction Rebellion” that is happening in cities across the globe. Here at home, according to Garcia, we are also witness to one woman’s resolve to re-imagine resistance, to take a stand against the senseless killings spawned by an unending war that cannot be won. VP Leni stunned foes and friends alike by accepting the President’s dare to lead the government’s so-called “war on drugs.” In doing so she has re-imagined resistance by pledging to “work from within,” proposing to change the metrics of a deeply-flawed campaign, and laying down the pillars of a principled position she brings to the task.

The task taken by VP Leni cannot be accomplished without the help of citizens in the barangays in different parts of the country. In her short stint as lead person in the “war against drugs” she tried to involve the citizens, as the first line of defense in a democracy, for what is at stake is the future of the country. In a sense, her acceptance is a challenge at the same time an invitation to a “conspiracy of hope” and a call to every citizen’s courage, Garcia concludes. In accepting the daunting task, VP Leni declares: “If all I can accomplish is to save one human life, then it will be worth all the effort.”

“To Turn the Other Cheek” is a short essay by Dean Mel Sta. Maria, Institute of Law, Far Eastern University. He reflects on how the Vice President has been the subject of assaults by her very own government and how she has responded to these assaults.

Criminal charges were filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for not only one crime but multiple crimes against the Vice President and other opposition personalities. Notwithstanding all the assaults on her, VP Leni remains unflappable. She focuses on her job even with numerous constraints, conscious that what is at stake is not who she is but, more fundamentally, what she represents: The critical Office of the Vice President, indispensable in a democracy.

She is the classic example of the biblical verse: “if someone strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.” This is not martyrdom, the author cautions. It simply means strength, fortitude, and resiliency. When VP Leni Robredo is hit, she stands up again and again and again to show to her detractors that no matter how she is bombarded by unfounded and unjust attacks, she will go on and on, performing her sacred covenant, with the people. She will always serve.

Finally, the essay “Seizing a Moment of Grace” reflects on VP Leni’s acceptance of the task to undertake the campaign against illegal drugs as an “opportune time.” It also shares insights into the development of Leni’s resolve from her days at the university campus into the field of public service that she has embraced.

This also includes some recollections by VP Leni’s daughters, Aika and Tricia, and how her daughters regard their mother. To Aika, her mother is everything they aspire for – even-tempered, level-headed, unaffected but focused. Aika recalls that when she was growing up, she did not understand why her mother was not as indulgent as the mothers of her friends. Early on, she remembers, her mother established the value of responsibility. She had always emphasized to her daughters the importance of owning up to their own mistakes. But she was encouraging, not overly generous with praises and also kept her children grounded, Aika insists. To her daughter Tricia, between her parents, her mother was always the stern parent. Her father was more indulgent and sentimental, while her mother was more structured and stoic.

The picture of VP Robredo that emerges from these essays is one of courage, competence, commitment, and compassion. These are qualities of a servant leader as the book is accurately entitled.

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