MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The camp of Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday said they are unfazed by former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s standing in surveys, noting that they are seeing a decline in the frontrunner's numbers supposedly due to his refusal to attend forums.
In Pulse Asia's December 2021 survey, Marcos led the presidential race with 53 percent of respondents backing his candidacy, while Domagoso shared the third spot with Sen. Manny Pacquiao getting 8 percent each.
"If you notice, the numbers are high because he was able to get [Davao City Mayor] Inday Sara [Duterte-Carpio] as his tandem. But that (number) is not something that will be permanent," Domagoso's campaign manager Lito Banayo told ANC's Headstart.
"Numbers fluctuate in every campaign," he said.
Banayo said that their team's internal survey showed that Marcos' numbers "are gradually going down" after the namesake son of the late dictator snubbed an interview with veteran journalist Jessica Soho and a presidential forum organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster (KBP) ng Pilipinas.
"He (Marcos) probably thinks - and to a certain extent he may be right at this time - which is insulate your candidate from media, from interviews and debates because baka magkamali (he might commit gaffes)," Banayo said.
"Prino-protect nila [si Marcos] (They are protecting Marcos). But on the other hand, I suppose why his numbers are gradually going down is precisely because people do not like candidates who do not face their oppositors," he said.
"Labanan 'yan eh. Kung takbuhin ka, little by little, mae-erode 'yan."
(This is a battle. If you keep on running, little by little, the support for you will erode.)
Banayo also criticized Marcos Jr.'s messaging, saying that the former senator has been spewing "motherhood statements" instead of detailing his concrete plans on how to aid the Philippines during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For 16-17 minutes, he (Marcos) did nothing but talk about unity, unity, unity. Puro (It's all) motherhood," Banayo said.
"Si Marcos kasi is a reincarnation of his father. He wants to picture himself as Duterte 2.0. But there are certain things we have to do beyond the pandemic and during the pandemic," he said.
Marcos Jr. is luring voters with the promise to bring back the alleged "golden age of the Philippines" during the decades-long administration of his father.
Activists and some historians said the Marcos dictatorship was an era where political dissenters where either killed, tortured or threatened.
"At a certain point in time, madi-discern din ng tao 'yan na unity ka ng unity, eh ikaw ang most polarizing candidate," said Banayo.
(At a certain point, the public will discern that while you have been talking about unity, you are actually the most polarizing candidate.)
Domagoso's edge against Marcos is his clear messaging and proof of efficiency, Banayo said.
"[Marcos' messaging is one. I thinks it's rather convoluted against our message which is clear cut," the campaign manager said.
"We have proof of our achievements in Manila. We can replicate it all over the country and we have the platforms, the programs to show that it can be done," he said.
While the Manila Mayor is trailing behind the former senator in recent pre-election surveys, Banayo said that their camp's "strength is gradually beginning."
"Ngayon lalong kailangan na energetic ang presidente. Hindi puwedeng nakakulong sa mansyon sa Forbes Park," he said.
(We need an energetic president now more than ever. He can't just stay locked up in a Forbes Park mansion.)
"Isko has done so much in the City of Manila and everybody recognizes that," he said.
Banayo said their camp is not eyeing to win votes from Robredo's camp, saying the vice president's voter share is capped at only 14 to 15 percent.
"We have a common enemy. It is the frontrunner right now which is Marcos Jr.," he said.
"If, by end of March, Isko gets 30 points or so at the expense of Marcos Jr., then it becomes a real fight."
In a statement, Marcos Jr.'s camp said what other presidential candidates should focus on is the unemployment and underemployment problems in the country, instead of being "hateful."
Vic Rodriguez, Marcos' spokesperson, said national unity is important because of its perceived importance to strengthen the government, public sector, and the labor sector.
"From where we sit, Lito Banayo is way off the mark. The common and biggest enemy is unemployment. Had he not been hateful, he could not have missed the site of the real enemies, which are unemployment at 6.5% and underemployment at 16.7% based on PSA November 2021 statistics," Rodriguez said.