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(Updated 9:05 p.m.) The wife of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has followed the footsteps of her husband into the world of politics. Attorney Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo filed her certificate of candidacy for the third district of Camarines Sur on Friday, the last day of filing of COCs for those seeking elective posts in the May 2013 elections. Reticent and hardly known outside Naga before her husband's death, Leni Robredo had been active in NGO activities in her hometown. But the public took notice of her calm and dignified presence during the tense days in August when her husband was still missing. By running for office, she becomes part of a Philippine tradition of wives being catapulted into politics by the deaths of their husbands. The most famous wife of all was Cory Aquino, who reluctantly agreed to run against Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 after the murder of her husband in 1983. According to the provincial election supervisor's office of Camarines Sur, Mrs. Robredo filed her COC around 3:30 p.m. accompanied by Naga City Mayor John Bongat. Leni vs Villafuertes Harvey Keh, lead convenor of Kaya Natin! Movement, a civil society group co-founded by Jesse Robredo in 2008, said Leni’s candidacy would counter the political dynasty led by the Villafuertes in Camarines Sur. “Apparently, there’s a clamor for her to really try to defeat the political dynasty in the province… to give people a viable choice. And that convinced her to run,” Keh told GMA News Online in a phone interview. He said Leni would “continue the great work that secretary Jesse Robredo has done.” The other Kaya Natin founders were newly appointed Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca and former Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio. No ordinary housewife Asked if Leni is banking on her husband’s death to catapult her political career, Keh said Leni is no “ordinary housewife.” “Many people know Jesse Robredo. But not everybody knows that Leni is as equally accomplished as her husband,” he said. Leni was recently appointed chairperson of the ruling Liberal Party in Camarines Sur.
Among her opponents are Nelly Villafuerte, the wife of outgoing Rep. Luis Villafuerte Sr., and Oscar Arcilla from Sta. Cruz, Naga. Mom's not doing this for herself In a statement posted on her Facebook account, Tricia Robredo, one of Leni and Jesse's daughters, admitted being surprised by her mother's decision to run in next year's elections. "[I] did not see this coming, but it is what it is," she said. "It wasn't an easy decision to make, but we can't just say no at a time like this. Someone had to step in and save the group from falling apart," she added. She also said that her mother is not doing this for herself. "She's doing this for the third district. Mama said from the very start she'd run for office only when necessary. Guess what? It is." Tricia also said they would just ignore the critics of her mother's decision. "I don't expect everyone to understand the circumstance. People are people, and they will always have something to say. Maturn-off na ang maturn-off, but we're (pretty much) going to do this." "We've got your back no matter what Ma Leni! I'm sure Papa will be there every step of the way, too," she concluded. Difficult decision
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: "The decision of Leni Robredo to run for Congress was a difficult one for her to make but now that she has decided, we wish her all the best.""We are confident that if elected she will capably bear the torch of good governance in the name of her late husband, Jesse Robredo," he added. Mrs. Robredo has also been shortlisted for the post of regional trial court judge in three different court salas in Bicol. — Marc Cayabyab and Patricia Denise Chiu/RSJ/KG/HS/KBK, GMA News