MANILA - The camp of Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Isko Moreno Domagoso on Tuesday denied that the Visayas chapter of his largest volunteer group has withdrawn its support for the Manila Mayor, saying the person who made the claim was not representing majority of the volunteers.
Domagoso and his slate will travel to Cebu later this week and will be hosted by volunteer groups there, said Lito Banayo, the Manila mayor's chief campaign strategist.
"May statement naman yung karamihan ng Visayas for Isko at iba pang mga grupo sa Cebu na dine-deny yung claim ni Mr. Malazarte na kumbaga siya ay nag-iisa lamang," he told reporters.
Banayo was referring to Nick Malazarte, head of the Visayas chapter of Ikaw Muna (IM) Pilipinas, who held a press conference in Cebu yesterday announcing his group's shift of support for the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo.
"Hindi namin alam kung ilan ang sinasabi ni Ginoong Malazarte na diumano ay lumipat kay Vice President Leni," Banayo said.
"We did not receive any letter. As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, wala namang natatanggap yung sekretarya ni Isko," he said.
IM Pilipinas as a whole did not say that they plan to withdraw support from the Manila Mayor, the strategist said.
"Ang sinasabi nila ay sana magkasama-sama ang mga kandidato liban kay Ferdinand Marcos Jr. para maging parang one-on-one ang contest," he said.
Calls to pull out from the presidential race will not deter the Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer from pursuing his bid, he said.
"We respect whatever opinions they have... pero sinasabi lagi ni Isko na ang laway niya nasasanla. Sinabi na niyang tatakbo siya, tuloy-tuloy na ito."
In a separate interview, Aksyon Demokratiko chairman Ernest Ramel also said they are keeping their "eyes on the prize" as many groups still back Domagoso's bid for the highest post in the land.
"One volunteer organization's chapter doesn’t make...andami pong volunteer organizations that are sticking it out. Kumbaga, eye on the ball kami ‘no, eye on the prize, that’s what we’re looking at," he said.
"Meron ako kaninang mga nareceive na messages na mga taga-IM Pilipinas din, different chapter, saying na they will not leave Mayor Isko," he added.
'NUMBERS ARE REALLY DOWN'
Malazarte, however, confirmed in a TeleRadyo interview that the Visayas chapter of IM Pilipinas is now backing Robredo's bid for Malacañang.
He added he is optimistic about more IM Pilipinas chapters backing Robredo in the coming days.
"Sa ngayon po, yung Visayas lang ang nag-decide lang, yung Visayas chapter ng Ikaw Muna. But I’m confident that a few days from now, the national convenor of IM Pilipinas will throw their support for VP Leni," he said.
"Sabihin ko lang ano mga dahilan: without prejudice to Yorme, magaling siya na tao ganyan, pero the numbers are really down," Malazarte noted.
He explained that as a group of Filipinos who were activists in the 1980s, they simply could not let the Marcoses return to power.
"So ang default for IM, kasi galing kami sa hanay ng mga aktibista back in the 80's and in the 90's so ang mangyari siya, kapag wala kaming gagawin, kasi we are down, so ang default dyan is to let (Bongbong Marcos) win. That’s precisely the farthest from our mind because we don’t want the resurgence of the Marcoses to come back to power," he said.
Malazarte said Robredo and Domagoso, were among those who proactively helped Filipinos at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Naniniwala kami kasi nung pandemic nga, sila lang dalawa ni Yorme yung talagang nag-iikot at tumutulong sa mga tao sa yung pandemic response no matter--iilan-ilan lang yung budget ni VP Leni pero nagawa pa rin niya yung mga significant moves for the pandemic response," he said.
"Si VP Leni naman, she’s a vice president worth [her] salt. And then she has a big chance of making it to the presidency. Nangyari na ito 2016, she was able to catch up. So in all likelihood she will repeat, she will have a repeat of the 2016.
'DON'T BASE DECISIONS ON SURVEYS'
In the past month, several groups have been shifting alliances citing the poor standing of the original candidates they endorse in surveys.
In the latest Pulse Asia survey - which was released in February - Domagoso settled on the third spot, trailing behind presidential front runner Marcos and second-placer Robredo.
"I think it is not right to base decisions on surveys," said Banayo, who previously handled the campaigns of former President Benigno Aquino III and President Rodrigo Duterte.
"How reliable are surveys in a toxic environment that we have where paid trolls proliferate? Kaya maraming hindi sumasagot ng tama sa surveys ay dahil sa bashing na ginagawa ng iba't ibang sides," he said.
"This has engendered a sense of fear on the part of a lot of people," he said.
Banayo underscored that pre-election surveys only serve as snapshots and do not necessarily reflect current developments that may affect a candidate's bid.
"Hindi pa naka-capture yung mga mabilis na nangyayaring events like yung P203-billion estate tax claim against Ferdinand Marcos Jr.," he said.
"How it impacts his numbers, we still do not know at this time," he said.
It was Domagoso's Aksyon Demokratiko who reminded the public early this year that the Marcos family has yet to pay it P23-billion estate tax, which has now ballooned to P203 billion due to penalties and surcharges incurred since 1997 or 25 years since the Supreme Court first ordered the former first family to settle its liabilities.