A Conversation with Former Vice President of the Philippines Leni Robredo: Confronting Disinformation in the Digital Age
Join the Tufts Philippine Student Union, the Hitachi Center at The Fletcher School and Tisch College for a lecture and conversation with former Vice President of the Philippines, Leni Robredo. Robredo served as the 14th vice president of the Republic of the Philippines from 2016-2022. During her tenure, she spearheaded multiple initiatives including COVID-19 relief and her flagship anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay (Uplifting Lives). The de facto leader of the opposition and a staunch critic of the former administration’s policies, Robredo continues to frequently be the target of disinformation.
After leaving office, she established an NGO called Angat Buhay, taking the name and template of the anti-poverty program that she established during her vice presidency. She currently serves as one of the five Hauser leaders at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center of Public Leadership.
This event is currently limited to the Tufts community. It is closed to the press.
About Leni Gerona Robredo
Leni Robredo is the 14th Vice President of the Philippines, serving as such from 2016 to 2022.
During her term, Robredo reinvented the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines, transforming it from its traditional role of performing purely ceremonial functions to an advocacy centered office. At OVP’s helm, she launched the poverty alleviation program called Angat Buhay (“uplifting lives”), energizing private sector partners and providing a space for them to help some of the poorest, farthest, and smallest parts around the country. Through such collaboration, Angat Buhay reached out to hundreds of communities — from rural areas to the urban poor — and brought much-needed interventions on health, education, nutrition and food security, rural development, women empowerment, and housing. Under Robredo’s leadership, the Office of the Vice President also set the standard of swift, efficient response during disasters and calamities, assisting affected communities from relief to rehabilitation.
As Vice President, Robredo also took on the challenge of leading government efforts in addressing the country’s massive problems in housing and illegal drugs. Early in her term in 2016, she was appointed chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, which oversaw the work of several offices meant to address the long-standing housing woes in the country. She held the post for only six months, but introduced meaningful reforms to properly assess the country’s backlog and streamline the process of accessing government support for socialized housing.
In 2019, she surprised allies and adversaries alike when she accepted the dare to co-chair the government’s Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. Robredo got right into work: She harnessed the expertise and cooperation of concerned government agencies and organizations who shared in the advocacy, visited communities that struggled with the proliferation of drugs, and pushed for a holistic and health-based approach. While her stint was cut short after just 18 days, such resulted in the most comprehensive assessment of the Philippines’ massive drug problem, which she made readily available to the administration and the general public.
When COVID-19 hit the Philippines, Robredo led a multipronged response operations to address the complex problems brought by the pandemic. This included the immediate provision of personal protective equipment and medical supplies, free dormitories and shuttle services, and other forms of support for medical frontliners; food and other relief supplies to poor communities on lockdown; jobs and livelihood assistance to affected sectors; and interventions for students, their families, and teachers when schools were suddenly closed down. Robredo’s office also launched a free teleconsultation platform that served thousands of both COVID and non-COVID cases, and worked with local government units and the private sector to help ramp up vaccination both in urban centers and provinces.
Prior to her colorful stint as Vice President, Robredo first entered the Philippines’ political scene in 2013, when she was elected Member of the House of Representatives, representing the Third District of her home province, Camarines Sur. While a neophyte in politics, she was an active member of the 16th Congress, pushing for transparency, accountability, and people empowerment in governance. This was reflected in legislation she authored, which included the Full Disclosure Policy Bill, which sought to mandate government agencies to disclose their budget and financial transactions to the public; the People Empowerment Bill, which aimed to allow more space for citizens to take part in government decision and policy-making; and the Participatory Budget Process Bill. She was also a staunch advocate for equality, filing the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill, and supported the peace process for Mindanao by taking an active part in crafting the law that established the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
A lawyer by profession, Robredo has been working with the poor and marginalized for over three decades, both in private sector and in government. Her work as an elected official was heavily inspired by her years as a public interest lawyer. She began her legal career in the Philippine government’s Public Attorney’s Office, where she represented indigent clients who were unable to afford legal services. Her work for the underserved then found roots in the alternative lawyers’ group Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN), whose primary advocacy is to empower the marginalized by educating them about their rights under the law. For 10 years, she fought alongside farmers and fisherfolk, abused women and children, laborers, indigenous peoples, informal settlers, among others—translating the law in a manner that would be easier to understand, training community paralegals, and offering free legal services.
Robredo returns to private life after nearly a decade as an elected official. Soon after her term as Vice President, she set up Angat Pinas, Inc., a non-government organization that now carries the Angat Buhay Program. The program now focuses on education, health, disaster relief and response, and community engagement. It aims to build the largest network of volunteers in the Philippines, as it continues with the mission to uplift more Filipino lives.