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Robredo is politically dead

Social media reports so, but traditional media is oblivious
IF the Yellow Cult still believes that Vice President Leni Robredo is their great hope for recapturing power, they should squarely face the facts. When they do so, the inescapable conclusion is that she is politically dead, and what we see now is a mere ghost who cannot accept her demise.

Look, the rally which drew a sizeable crowd Sunday of at least 5,000 patriots, billed as “Palit-Bise” is the first ever in our history undertaken to demand that a vice president—for chrissake, a vice president who is supposed to be just an idle spare-tire—give up her post. This is unprecedented and historic.

The fact that the rally was organized through social media makes it even more groundbreaking. (“Palit-bise” which means “Change the Vice President” was to mock Robredo’s false claim in her message to a United Nations gathering that police had a ruthless “palit-ulo” scheme by which police arrested an illegal drug suspect’s relatives if he couldn’t be found.)

One reason for such a demand is that she allegedly cheated to win the elections last year. The more important reason though is that she is just hated so much, perhaps for her unending tirades against a popular President.

But what triggered the Sunday demonstration was her video sent to the UN gathering that was full of lies and falsehoods, intended to denigrate President Duterte but which painted the country—of which she is Vice President—as a land ruled by killers where corpses litter the streets.

In politics, one episode that triggers so much outrage against a political leader is irreparable. And Robredo isn’t in a government post which she can use to repair that damage.

If she hadn’t angered Duterte so much that she wasn’t fired as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, perhaps she could have portrayed herself one day as having given hundreds of thousands of poor Filipinos decent housing. That would have salvaged her from her UN boo-boo, and her reputation as too eager to be President that she bad-mouthed him, and in the process painted the country black.

Only the Manila Times out of five broadsheets put this historic event in its front page.

In politics, out of sight is out of mind. Robredo doesn’t have any government position she could use to keep her face appearing in the newspapers. People have already gone tired of her bad-mouthing the President. She isn’t even fiery and passionate enough to do so—as demonstrated in her UN video in which she had that what-me-worry smile as she spoke that thousands of Filipinos were being killed in the streets.

Only if jailed
The only way she could become a high-profile figure would be if she were jailed, but I don’t think Duterte would give her that opportunity.

The gradual disappearance from the public mind of Senator Leila de Lima (and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla as well, whom many thought would have a shot at the presidency before they were jailed) also doesn’t make that kind of jail-me-plan too attractive.

What is very interesting in Robredo’s political demise is that in this case, her ruination as a political force is so crystal-clear in social media, but of which traditional media is oblivious.

The last time social media’s political assessment contrasted with that of traditional media was in the months before the last elections, when the former reported the groundswell of support for Duterte, which the latter didn’t. The pro-Roxas Philippine Daily Inquirer for instance portrayed Duterte as a candidate so corrupt (his alleged secret bank accounts) and so much a killer (through his Davao Death Squad) it was impossible for him to win. It consequently focused its fire on candidate Jojo Binay, who had been the frontrunner in 2016.

Four of the five broadsheets reported Sunday’s “Palit-Bise” rally only as minor news stories and in their inside pages. Only the Manila Times reported such a major historic event in its front page, with an accompanying photo.

In the biggest social media platform Facebook, Robredo has been cut up with a hundred thousand blades, and a favorite topic by netizens ever since her message to the UN. Even with the Yellow Cult’s deployment of trolls, she has been buried in thousands of critical posts, with only very few, mainly the internet-only website Rappler, defending her.

By social media, I just don’t mean Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or similar platforms. I consider as social media the internet versions of newspapers, whose articles are now mostly spread and read though posts in Facebook et al.

Because of this, newspapers’ reach—especially as the price of their printed version has become beyond ordinary people’s capacity—is now determined mainly not by the number of copies of their print versions sold.

Instead, their reach is now mainly through the ‘viewership” of their internet versions’ articles. This are spread mainly through Facebook and other social media platforms. This has occurred in this country only in the past several years, when smartphones became cheaper because of Chinese-made phones and consequently ubiquitous, allowing people, even without computers to log in into their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Outrage against Robredo
Our newspaper’s analytics of its internet version conclusively show the outrage against Robredo.

“Views” (readers) of my column “Robredo lies to the world, shames the nation” broke all of Manila Times records, having 200,000 views (and 49,000 “likes”, as of yesterday), larger than my two other “best-selling” columns which were during President Aquino’s term that each had 180,000 views. News articles, “VP Robredo sidesteps #Nagaleaks revelations” and “Leni’s Fil-Am backers plotting vs Duterte,” had 65,000 and 92,000 views, respectively. My colleague Antonio Contreras’ column “The tragedy of Leni Robredo” so far is his most-read piece, viewed by 65,000 readers.

If that were “converted” into mainstream media format, Robredo’s political destruction—by her own hands, or rather mouth—would have been front-page news, even newspaper’s banner headlines for days.

Another indication of Robredo’s political demise is out of 50 regular opinion writers in broadsheets, only one went to her defense over her UN tirade: Philippine Daily Inquirer Rina Jimenez David. Even David wasn’t really sure of her convictions, and merely quoted a statement by “Pilipina,” which she claims is a women’s group, but which you can’t even find any information on through Google. David also merely played the woman card, writing in her column that “our tough-talking macho officials have trained their guns so far on women.” What?

With the outrage against her, if Duterte for some reason has to vacate his post before 2022, I’m afraid Robredo’s assumption to power would probably be blocked by some form of uprising. That would lead our country to a very explosive episode. She should find in her heart the patriotism to resign now, to relieve the country of the worry over such a nightmare scenario. In her heart of hearts, anyway, she doesn’t believe she really won the elections for vice president.