TAGUM CITY (2nd UPDATE) — Vice President Leni Robredo's bid for Malacañang secured on Thursday the backing of Partido Reporma, after its standard-bearer Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson quit from the party.
Party president Pantaleon Alvarez said while Lacson “is the most qualified to be President,” the electoral terrain “is far from ideal” and 2 other candidates “have pulled away from the pack.”
"We need a leader. And for the 2022 Presidential elections, given all these considerations and the crisis we have to overcome, that leader is a woman. Her name is Leni Robredo," Alvarez said in a joint press conference with the Vice President in Davao del Norte.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has topped latest surveys for the presidency, enjoying a wide lead over Robredo in the Feb. 18-23 poll of Pulse Asia. Lacson placed fifth in the same survey.
“While the candidate second in ranking still lags far behind from the frontrunner, it is evident that her campaign has gained, and continues to gain, significant traction,” Alvarez said, days after Robredo drew her biggest crowd of supporters yet at a sortie in Pasig City.
“We reasonably believe that the only realistic option at this point, with roughly a month and a half left, is to converge with Leni Robredo’s campaign,” added Alvarez, representative of Davao Del Norte's first district and former House Speaker.
The party's secretary general, Davao Del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib, said in the same press conference that Robredo was untainted with corruption allegations.
Alvarez said Reporma members see opportunity in helping strengthen Robredo’s campaign through representation from Mindanao, “which runs the risk of being neglected again when President Rodrigo Duterte steps down from office.”
Duterte is the first president from Mindanao. His daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is the running-mate of Marcos.
In the last Pulse Asia survey, Marcos enjoyed a lead across all geographic areas. Robredo meanwhile posted double-digit voter preferences, except in Mindanao, where she only scored 5 percent, said the pollster.
Robredo said the endorsement she received from Alvarez and Jubahib could spur support from other Mindanao officials.
"Ganoon naman ang laban, 'pag nag-uumpisa ka na medyo dehado, it takes a lot of courage to come out,” she reasoned.
(The fight is just like that, if you start out at a disadvantage, it takes a lot of courage to come out.)
Alvarez in the same press conference apologized to Robredo, saying, “Aminin ko nagki-critic rin ako kay Vice President, marami rin akong nasabi dito na hindi maganda, at humihingi ako ng tawad, ma’am.”
(I will admit I was a critic of the Vice President. I said many things which were not good, and I apologize, ma'am.)
Alvarez was an ally of the President, some policies of whom were criticized by Robredo, including his war on drugs, push for death penalty, and stance on the West Philippine Sea.
But Alvarez was ousted as House Speaker in 2018, a development which the President said was "maneuvered" by Duterte-Carpio.
Robredo said Alvarez did not need to apologize for his previous remarks. She said when she ran as an independent candidate, it signified her openness to uniting with other groups.
“Bukas ako sa lahat as long as nagkakaisa ang aming hangarin, para ayusin ang ating bansa. Ang Reporma pareho to fix this country through good governance and nagkakausndo kami sa aming pinaglalaban,” she said.
“Ang pinakamahalaga ay yung mga bagay na pinagkakasunduan niyo, at hindi yung mga bagay na hindi niyo pinagkakasunduan,” she added.
(I am open to all as long as our goals are the same, to fix our country. Reporma also aims to fix this country through good governance and we agree on what we fight for. What matter most are the things you agree on, not those that you disagree on.)
Lacson resigned as chairman of Partido Reporma earlier in the day. He said leaders of the party, including Alvarez, told him they were endorsing another presidential contender.
The senator said his resignation from his party "effectively makes me an independent candidate."
"No matter what, maski ano pang ang mangyari, harangan man ng sibat, hindi kami aatras," Lacson said in a press conference.
(No matter what happens, even if we're stopped by a spear, we will not withdraw.)
Pantaleon said he and Lacson were not able to meet in person and discuss Reporma's shift in support. But Alvarez said he communicated with the senator through text message.
Other officials present during Reporma's endorsement of Robredo included Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon and Davao De Oro Second District Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga.
Senatorial aspirant Monsour del Rosario, who was part of Lacson's slate, also gave his support to Robredo.
"Naniniwala ako na ang kanyang misyon upang baguhin at iangat ang bansa ay naaayon sa sarili kong kagustuhan para magkaroon ng tunay na pagbabago sa buhay ng ordinaryong Pilipino, lalo na ang mga napabayaan ng mga nakaraang administrasyon," he said.
(I believe her mission to change and uplift the country is aligned with my desire for true change in the lives of ordinary Filipinos, especially those neglected by the previous administration.)
Del Rosario said he respects Lacson's decision.
"Siya ay isang mabuting tao na may tapat na puso at taos-pusong hangarin na maglingkod sa sambayanang Pilipino. Naniniwala ako na marami pa siyang magagawang mabuti para sa ating bansa, at ang aking kahilingan para sa kanya ay pawang kabutihan lamang," he said.
(He is a good person with a loyal heart and deep desire to serve the Filipino people. I believe he can still do more good for our country and I wish all the best for him.)