4 presidential bets won’t withdraw, hit Leni camp for insisting they should unite behind her

PUSHBACK from third force? Asserting that continuing attempts to limit the race to two people – one tied to Marcos and one to Aquino – frustrates the Filipinos’ true will, four presidential candidates declared at Easter they will not quit the race and committed to close ranks against any effort to subvert the elections.

Senators Panfilo Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales – expected to be joined later by Senator Manny Pacquiao – said in a joint press conference at Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati that uniting behind Vice President Leni Robredo at this point was “out of the question” and unfair to the millions who would like to vote for someone other than Robredo in opposition to consistent survey frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Replying to a question from CNN Philippines, on “How confident are you, that this move will translate into concrete votes and support from the ground?” Lacson replied that, “hopefully, after this presscon, people will realize there are more choices, not just two.”

The presidential bets were joined by two vice presidential aspirants at the press conference: Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Dr. Willie Ong, the running mates of Lacson and Moreno, respectively.

Sotto summarized three core messages of the presidential bets into three: First, the joint presser is a  “call to please stop [saying] that they’re going to withdraw.  Two, they will support legitimate election results. Three, they will fight moves to subvert the results of the elections….It must be clean, honest, orderly elections.

For his part, Moreno said, “this is not a fight between the reds and the yellows, but about the future of Filipinos the next six years.” He added: “They just want to win to take revenge on each other, he added, referring to die-hard followers of the Marcoses and the Aquinos who may reduce this to a grudge match after Edsa 1986.”

Lacson and Moreno agreed with the analysis by Gonzales that the 50- to 60-percent-plus voter preference share garnered by former senator Marcos Jr. across all major surveys does not exactly mean that majority of Filipinos are “Marcos loyalists.” According to Gonzales, it’s very possible that those surveyed are simply so turned off, or disgusted by the behavior of the “yellows” and “pinks,” that they do not want to favor the candidate they are raising up in opposition to Marcos Jr.

Moreno said he “liked Bert’s analogy—baka lang, hindi dahil sa gusto nila yung number 1—with due respect to former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. —kaya nila ‘gusto’ kasi they hate so much ang dilawan [it might be that, with due respect to BBM, it’s not so much that they all like him, but because they hate so much the yellows].”.

To prove his point about the continuing dismay with the “yellows,” Moreno recalled the results of the 2019 Senate race, “I’ve never seen a party na zero sa race sa Senado,” when all candidates fielded by the Liberal Party did not make it.

To be fair, Moreno said, “meron ding may gusto sa kanya [there are people who like BBM]. . . but I don’t think 60 percent of our fellow Filipinos are loyalist.  Baka lang [It could be] they hate so much the person that they opted to go to Marcos.”

In turn, Moreno and Gonzales pitched the idea of having “No. 2 withdraw,” referring to Robredo, and giving people other alternatives to Marcos. “Parang ayaw ng tao na lumaban ang Number 2 sa Number 1.  . . .Hanap tayo ng bagong Number 2,” Gonzales said.

Emissaries

Lacson, Moreno and Gonzales also cited attempts by some candidates – a thinly veiled allusion to Robredo’s – to get them to withdraw from the race, but said the emissaries all sounded condescending.

Lacson said he was personally approached by Robredo herself, who called for unification talks. Robredo, he said, rejected his plan for all of them to file, and then, when the numbers clearly indicate who has the most support, everyone else but the apparent frontrunner will withdraw. Robredo reportedly told him that option is hard because, even if the others will withdraw, some people may still vote them and then these will be counted as stray votes.

Lacson added, Robredo contradicted herself in an interview and said she had really planned to run.

The senator noted that the attempts to crash the parties of Robredo’s rivals are backfiring.

“They ransacked Partido Reporma, but they failed to get everyone. They only got the president of our party,” Lacson said, referring to former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. We have 360 local candidates.  Most of them joined the party because they wanted to join me.”

Asked by CNN Philippines if there was ever any attempt by the BBM camp to get any of them to withdraw, the candidates said no. Moreno replied: “No attempt, in fairness to BBM. Ang talagang pinakamakulit, straightforward, pinklawan . . . Walang respecto sa pagkatao namin.”