SAN PABLO, Laguna - Some key officials of Ikaw Muna Pilipinas (IM Pilipinas) on Tuesday withdrew their support for Aksyon Demokratiko presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso, and shifted to the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo.
Some IM Pilipinas members said they would be using their resources to boost Robredo's presidential bid as they do not want to see the return of the Marcos family to power, underscoring that survey frontrunner former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has yet to acknowledge and apologize for his father's atrocities during martial law.
"Wala ho kaming sama ng loob kay Yorme. In a different time, in a different place, he could have been a good leader... I believe the future is open for him," said former Transportation Undersecretary Thomas Orbos, overall coordinator of the NaISKO volunteer movement.
"Ibigay na lang natin sa may pag-asa, baka sakali mangyari pa 'yung gusto natin," he said.
"Magalit man ho kayo sa akin, pero sorry na lang po... Boss, hindi masama na suportahan na lang natin ang may pag-asang manalo," he added.
In Pulse Asia's March 2022 pre-election survey, Robredo gained 9 percentage points from her previous rating. Her 24 percent rating, though, is still second to Marcos' 56 percent, which is 4 percentage points lower than his previous rating.
Domagoso settled at third place with 8 percent, followed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao with 6 percent, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson with 2 percent.
When IM Pilipinas first urged Domagoso to run for president, the son of the late dictator was not yet in the picture as the survey frontrunner among those eyeing the country's top post, said Orbos, who once vowed to deliver 1 million supporters for the Manila Mayor by December 2021.
IM Pilipinas Secretary General Elmer Argano said that he "has the consensus of [their] national leadership" but did not say how many members are joining the shift to Robredo.
"Parang konti kami dito, pero bawat isang boto mahalaga," he said.
"Kung ano 'yung kakayanan namin at ano 'yung natitira namin panahon, igugugol namin dito," he added.
Prior to the defection of Orbos and his group this week, IM Pilipinas chapters from the Visayas and Mindanao have announced their departure from Domagoso's camp earlier this month.
The Visayas chapter was first to confirm its shift to Robredo's camp, citing Domagoso's low survey numbers.
IM Pilipinas' Zamboanga chapter followed suit, noting that it would push for a Robredo presidency, and back Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for vice president.
Duterte-Carpio is the running mate of Marcos.
'TEST OF CHARACTER'
Domagoso said he is "unaffected" with the recent defection.
"Nothing. Sabi ko sa iyo, dati silang wala sa buhay ko," he told reporters on the sidelines of his campaign in San Pablo, Laguna.
"Wala. Sanay ako na may tibo sa kalsada. Sanay ako na may pako… What matters most is that sa bawat dapa, babangon ka," he said.
Despite this, the Manila Mayor underscored that Orbos' group did not bother to reach out to him before announcing their decision to support Robredo.
"Did they talk to me? No. Demokrasya ito eh. They can do whatever they want to do," said Domagoso.
"This [incident] separates the men from the boys... ... It's a test of character," he noted.
"I wish them good luck. I hope the other group will trust them."
'WE DID THE RIGHT THING'
Orbos said Domagoso's campaign team turned down their request to discuss their suggestion of reconsidering unification talks with Robredo and other candidates.
"Sumulat naman ako, kinausap ko sila," he said.
"Masakit din naman ho sa amin. Naiintindihan din ho namin 'yung sakit na aming nabigay sa aming mga nakasama doon," he said.
Orbos said his group acknowledges that they may "never get to speak" with Domagoso and his inner circle in the future, but thumbed down insinuations that they are mere political turncoats.
"Kung kami po ay oportunista at kung kami ay gustong manalo sa kampaniyang ito, bakit kami pupunta sa pangalawa?" he asked.
"Eh 'di dapat doon kami pumunta sa una. We could have gone there, but we are here [with Robredo]."
Argano and Orbos admitted that there were several IM Pilipinas members who were disgruntled after Domagoso's campaign team seemed to have cast them aside in several sorties, but added that this was not the main reason for their shift.
"We have been trying to reach out, give suggestions. As volunteers, we are out of the decision-making circle," Argano said.
"'Yung ibang volunteers, nakatunganga lang, naghihintay," he said.
Orbos declined to give more details about the dissatisfaction among several members, saying "past is past."
"Pagbigyan ninyo na kami na 'wag na naming sagutin kung ano ang nangyari doon," Orbos said.
"It’s a wake up call. There is something that needs to be done in your campaign. We have done already in our part," he said.
"We move on. We thank our friends there. We wish them the best."