MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo's opponents in the May presidential elections could have done away with the "theatrics" of a presser in their attempt to make her withdraw from the race for the country's top position, her spokesman said Sunday.
"Who benefits from such theatrics? What is best for the Filipino people? Perhaps, silence would have had more depth; at the very least, it would exhibit less self-entitlement, fragility, and toxicity," Barry Gutierrez said in a statement hours after three presidential aspirants held a press conference at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, and former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales issued statements against Robredo after they asserted their decision to seek the country's highest post amid calls from them to withdraw.
“Kami ay nagsasanib-puwersa upang labanan ang anumang pagtatangka na baluktutin ang totoong pasya ng taumbayan sa pamamagitan ng mga galaw ng ‘di kanais-nais sa malayang pagpili ng ating mga kababayan,” the candidates said in a joint statement which Domagoso read.
(We are joining forces against any attempt to influence the people’s freedom to choose who they will vote for.)
“Hinding-hindi kami magbibitiw sa kampanya. Bawat isa sa amin ay magpapatuloy ng aming kandidatura,” he continued.
(We will not withdraw, and we will carry on with our candidacy.)
Gutierrez said the camp of Robredo wishes "every candidate who decides to push through to the end, only the best."
"From the start, it has been the prerogative of every candidate to continue till the end, the same as it is the choice of a candidate to disregard surveys, rally attendance, endorsements, or any other conventional measure of support," he added.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Robredo led pre-election surveys with double-digit voter preference ratings, while the eight other candidates consistently trailed behind.
Accusing the camp of Robredo of asking him to give up his presidential bid, Domagoso said, "I am calling for Leni to withdraw, kasi whatever you're doing is not effective against the Marcos. Withhdraw. Come and join us."
Lacson, for his part, issued a reminder that there are more than two candidates for president in this year’s elections.
Gonzales said there can be other options to beat Marcos, which he does not favor as well to win due to issues involving his family. “Siguro dapat isantabi natin ang number 2 at tignan natin ang numbers 3, 4, 5, 6.”
(Maybe we should look past the second-placer in pre-election surveys and to consider those in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th positions.)
"The call for... Robredo to withdraw is not only based on flawed assumptions but outright lacking in logic," noted Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun.
"She is the strongest opposition candidate whose numbers have continued to rise while those of others continue to dwindle," he added.
With the statements issued by Robredo's rivals at their press conference, Gutierrez said, "We are thankful that the alignments have been made even clearer."
Robredo’s candidacy gained traction in the past weeks, as suggested by the rise of her number in the Pulse Asia survey, with the support of various governors, local officials, and groups dropping their initial bets and turning against obvious alliance endorsements.
Her rallies have also been drawing massive crowds, even in her opponents’ bailiwicks, while volunteers of her campaign scaled up house-to-house visits.
"We remain focused on showing our people that a Robredo presidency will mean a victory for all Filipinos," said Gutierrez.
Robredo, who spent the Holy Week in her hometown Naga, is set to tour Quezon and Marinduque on Monday.