The name Leni and word “line” happen to be anagrams. But what do I mean exactly by the “Leni line?”

Leni, of course, is the nickname of our Vice-President, Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo.

The explanation for “line” is more complex, for it has many dictionary meanings. In this particular discourse, the noun “line” refers to “a general method, manner or course of procedure.” Hence it can be used in a sentence like: “Take a hard line on fascism.” Or: “Follow Leni’s line of compassionate thought.”

Similarly, “line” means “a manner or course of procedure determined by a specified factor.” Thus, we can say that “Leni is pursuing a cause along a progressively reformist line.”

Or the “line” can be “prescribed policy” like the “Leni line” for the forthcoming elections.

I was a youth activist when I was introduced to the term “political line.” In gist, the political line is the expression of a program and objective whose attainment is based on coherent strategy and tactics. The political line is drawn from an analysis of the objective conditions and an assessment of the strength and weakness of different forces — our enemies, our allies, and ourselves.

The political line, I was told then, decides everything. Much later, I would realize that the certitude of the political line predicting success is an exaggeration. For in doing analysis and assessment, we face unknowns and changing conditions. And some conditions we just cannot change.

In the words of Machiavelli, “Fortune is the arbiter of half of our actions, but that she leaves the other half of them, more or less, to be governed by us.” It is this delicate interaction of fortuna and virtù (or leadership qualities) that will determine the outcome of the elections.

Leni definitely has the virtù. But the fortuna remains elusive for the opposition.

Consider the following:

1) The opposition was badly beaten in the mid-term elections. Not a single senatorial candidate from the Otso Diretso slate won.

2) The net satisfaction rating for President Rodrigo Duterte has been consistently high, even during the pandemic despite his administration’s many blunders. The Social Weather Stations’ last survey in June 2021 showed Duterte having a score of +62 net satisfaction (75% satisfied versus 13% dissatisfied, and the rest, undecided).

3) In the last pre-elections survey conducted by Pulse Asia in June, the frontrunner with a wide margin of 14 percentage points was the President’s daughter, Sara Duterte. Statistically tied at second place were Isko Moreno and Bongbong Marcos (whose obsession is to rehabilitate his father, the dictator and plunderer).

This is the dim backdrop that Leni and the forces of change face. Perhaps the situation has significantly changed in the wake of the explosive corruption scandal amid a pandemic. Still, the plausibility of a Duterte retreat has to be backed by data-driven evidence.

Regardless of how the situation unfolds, Leni has to tap her virtù and bend fortuna. How she goes about this is the “Leni line.”

The “Leni line” is not about self. It is not about political ambition. She honestly admits her inclination to follow her daughters’ plea for their mom to return to a calmer life.

But there is a call to duty. There is a struggle for the nation that has to be won.

She has correctly framed the political line. It is a struggle against the Duterte regime. Duterte himself is the face of failure in containing the pandemic. Duterte is the expression of impunity for corruption and violence. Duterte and his anointed candidate for President must be defeated.

So, her call is not “vote Leni.” Her bold call is to end Duterte’s rule and by extension beat the Marcos revenge.

Leni the leader is thus exploring and pursuing the most effective way to attain this objective. Remember that successful struggles necessitate broad and solid coalitions. Politics is about addition. That’s how one can isolate and beat the most dangerous enemy.

But there’s objection from those who claim that principles must come first. They question: Why deal with former Duterte supporters? Why compromise with political opportunists?

But can’t we be kind and grant the possibility that Pinoy Sauls exist in the 21st century? Politicians like Manny Pacquiao, Isko Moreno, and Panfilo Lacson can be accused of supporting Duterte’s murderous campaign against drug users. This is similar to Saul’s participation in the persecution of Jesus’ followers. What matters though is that Pacquiao et al. (and Saul) eventually saw the light.

What about the question of co-habiting with opportunists or trapos? The answer: Nothing wrong with that in terms of tactics. We should not conflate principle and tactics.

The principle is to serve the greater good. To achieve the greater good, we have to employ a variety of tactics including creating temporary alliances to vanquish the common enemy. The inability to distinguish between principle and tactics is what Lenin describes as “an infantile disorder.”

The alliance of Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino with the treacherous Juan Ponce Enrile and Gringo Honasan was instrumental in the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

Recently in Israel, a hodgepodge of political parties consisting of archrivals — from independent Arabs to ultra-conservative Orthodox Jews — succeeded in removing Benjamin Netanyahu from power. These parties have little in common but their hostility towards a despicable Netanyahu.

The lesson here is that strategy and tactics, including the building of coalitions, follow the political line and objective. In this conjuncture, the main objective is to have the broadest front against the principal enemy — the forces of Duterte (and Marcos).

Undoubtedly, Leni is the unifying figure. She has the political leverage and the moral ascendancy to unite the opposition of different stripes. This stems precisely from her credibility that she does not harbor any selfish political ambition.

If ever she would run, it is because her being the candidate has become the remaining viable option. This line of action requires courage. This is what virtù is all about.

In the meantime, we await fortuna. And here I quote Rapa Lopa who in turn cites the late Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez:

“[I]f our rulers think they are all powerful, they must remember that our God of History always makes it a point to intervene when men and women need to be humbled and saved from themselves.”