Vice-President Leni Robredo spoke to a capacity crowd of The Philippine Bicol Association of B.C. at Burnaby’s Hilton Hotel. (All photos by PCN.com)
First update:..9:30 AM, October 17, 2018
Vice-President appeals to kababayans not to forget their motherland
By Ted Alcuitas
For those who expected a ‘lively’ event, the much-touted Gala Dinner for Philippine Vice-President Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Gerona Robredo last night (October 15) was a big disappointment.
Some eyebrows were raised when an associate of a known Duterte supporter appeared to be running the show. In fact, some of them were in the audience last night.
Questions were also raised as to why there were no media interviews for the vice-president. Yet, this Duterte supporter had his TV cameraman positioned to record the event.
Vancouver-based artist/musician Leo Cunanan Jr.(right) presents his portrait to Vice-President Robredo while officers of the association looks on. (Photo: Philippine Canadian News.com, PCN.Com)
“Are this recordings provided to the Duterte intelligence network? , a source asked PCN.com.
Only the Philippine Consul General was invited to the event and a strict “vetting’ of guests were implemented. Admited guests were mainly members of the Bicol Association.
Filipino member of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, MLA Mable Elmore was notably absent from the gathering although she had greetings in the souvenir program.
Although organizers say it was a full house with over 200 guests, a number of tables had empty seats. Sources told us some were not able to obtain tickets or were “banned” from attending.
As titular head of the opposition Liberal Party, Robredo has been on the crosshairs of the Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, who openly criticizes her ability to lead the country calling her a ‘weakling’. Duterte has expressed preference for Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. the defeated Vice-Presidential candidate. There is an on-going election protest against Robredo by Marcos.
As recently as last week the Philippine House of Representatives passed a resolution which tries to outstrip the office of Vice-President from succeeding as President.
The Vice-President (right) is welcomed by the reception committee while the Philippine Consul General Andrelita Austria looks on. (Photo: Philippine Canadian News.com (PCN.com)
There is a also a current fear-mongering of a ‘Red October’, an alleged plot to overthrow the government by the Communists in alliance with opposition parties.
That is why the concern for Robredo’s safety in the face of such scenario.
No visible security was present last night and she was only accompanied by two assistants.
We asked one of the association ‘security’ members how they were monitoring the situation.
The Vice-President was presented with a plaque by The Philippine Bicol Association off B.C. (Photo:Philippine Canadian News.com PCN.Com)
We were told that they were only concerned with any ‘trouble’ in the ballroom and not outside the hotel where a possible rally could happen.
Last night’s event at the Hilton Hotel in Metrotown did not seem to fizzle the Vice-President.
Instead, her close to an hour address to members of the Bicol Association dwelt on her Angat Buhay livelihood program.
Without ever mentioning Duterte’s name or the current political situation of the country especially regarding the extra judicial killings (EKJs) in pursuit if the drug war, Robredo bemoaned the ‘divisiveness’ that is gripping the country.
The Vice-President (right) seems enamoured as she is serenaded by Rosario Strings.To her right is Philippine Consul General Maria Andrelita Austria. (Photo: Philippine Canadian News.com)
“ How come we are so divided? she asks?
We are ripping each other apart..social media is fomenting divisions.
Hindi tayo ganito noon. Panahon na tayo ay magkakaisa. Hindi natin ugali yan,” she reminded her audience.
According to Robredo,the country’s inflation rate is 7.9 % with the Bicol region the highest at 10.1%.
“Since Day One, my mission is to uplift the poor, tohlp those in the fringes of society.”
She said that although the Office of the Vice-Vice-President has been crippled by the smallest budget in government, she continues her advocacy instead of focusing on ceremonial functions.
She claims that more than 150,000 families have been helped by her program which forges partnership between private enterprise.
“The agricultural sector- “taga Uma” is the poorest in the country,” emphasizing that “farmers mortgage their products even before they are harvested”.
“Fishermen don’t own their boats and rents them when they are not used by the owners, limiting their fishing time,” according to Robredo.
She reminded the audience of her late husband Jesse’s Bayanihan spirit: “We give, we love…- it brings us together – more powerful than what pulls us apart…”
“We are each other’s hope, the best hope in these extraordinary times we are facing…” I urge you to build partnerships in the spirit of cooperation. Let us build bridges not walls.”
Appealing to their sense of country, she says:
“You are now in a much better place. Remember your kababayans back home. Think of helping them strategically – sustainable and lasting for a lifetime to bring them out of poverty…”
Her visit is the first for a Philippine official. In 2015, President Benigno Aquino was in Vancouver on the last leg of a Canadian visit at the invitation of the Canadian government.
Robredo, a Bicolana, was the guest speaker at the 28th anniversary of The Philippine Bicol of B.C., a regional grouping of expatriates from Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.
According to a report by The Philippine Star Robredo was invited by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
She is to speak at a leadership summit and find more private partners for her office’s anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay.
Robredo’s youngest daughter, Jillian, is currently studying at New York University.
The Vice President said her trip to the US and Canada would also be a great opportunity for her to expand Angat Buhay.
Launched in October 2016, Angat Buhay focuses on six areas—public education, rural development, food security and nutrition, women empowerment, universal healthcare and housing and resettlement—as well as disaster response and rehabilitation.