Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has been regularly going to far-flung communities in rural areas to listen to residents’ woes and facilitate assistance in collaboration with local government units and private organizations, but on Friday, she made her first “Metro Laylayan Visit” in Brgy. 28, Caloocan City, to an urban poor community called PAMASAWATA or Pagkakaisa ng Mamamayan ng Samahang Walang Tahanan.
As the name suggests, the Metro Laylayan Visits are interactions between Robredo and oft-neglected communities – those living in the fringes of society or “laylayan” – in the nation’s capital.
On Thursday, meanwhile, she conducted the first “Babaenihan Community Talk” before students and youth leaders, in partnership with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in Pampanga.
“We want to focus on 10- to 19-year-old girls,” Robredo explained. “We want them to maximize their potential, so we want to hear from them about the challenges they’re facing. For example, we were able to identify one of the challenges, which is teenage pregnancy. We don’t want to create programs where we dictate upon them. We want to create programs with them, where they are the ones who tell us what they think is the assistance they need.”
The Office of the Vice President and the UNFPA intends to bring Babaenihan to high school students all over the country.
On Friday, through the help of Caloocan 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice – a fellow member of the Liberal Party – the Office of the Vice President conducted a dental and medical mission during the Metro Laylayan Visit in Caloocan City.
Robredo observed that the residents faced a problem with housing, and vowed to coordinate with the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council – which she briefly headed at the beginning of the Duterte administration – and the National Housing Authority, to seek a sustainable solution to the issue.
Their next focus would be livelihood, and Robredo said she would link the community with microfinance institutions that could help provide capital for small businesses, and with groups that could train the residents in massage therapy, bag-making, and meat processing.
According to the Office of the Vice President, each Metro Laylayan Visit is meant to bring Robredo “closer to the people, to hear their stories of how they survive in the daily struggles, and to uplift their families’ lives”. The community will then sit down with the Vice President in a “simple salu-salo” as she and donor-partners turn over livelihood assistance.
Meanwhile, Robredo was also asked on Thursday for comment on the camp of political rival and former senator Bongbong Marcos saying she was “discharging fake public service based on a pretentious program of governance” with her real objective being to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
Robredo replied, “It’s possible that he doesn’t understand the program. Everyone is invited to join here. Maybe he wants to look at what we’re doing. Because I’m sure that whoever it is that sees what we’re doing will know that there’s no politics here. We listen to everyone. We give as much help as we can, and to all who are in need.”
She added, “My suggestion is, this is the time for us to unite. Instead of fighting with one another, instead of clashing with each other, instead of making everything tinged with politics, let’s just help one another.”