SURIGAO CITY - Criticizing the call for Vice President Leni Robredo to withdraw from the upcoming elections is a form of “social injustice,” Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Isko Moreno Domagoso said on Monday.
Domagoso's name trended on various social media platforms on Easter Sunday after he urged Robredo to drop her presidential bid during a joint press conference Sunday with Sen. Panfilo Lacson and former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, who are also vying for the country's top post.
“Kapag malaking tao ang nangbu-bully, okay lang. Kapag ang ordinaryong tao nangatwiran, bastos o masama na,” Domagoso told reporters here when asked about his "Withdraw, Leni" statement over the weekend.
(When an influential person bullies others, it's okay. When an ordinary person explains his point, he is either rude or evil.)
"Parang there is social injustice. Parang ang may karapatan lang na magsalita ay yung malalaking tao o matataas na katungkulan," he said.
(It seems that there is social injustice. It seems that only people in higher position are the only ones who have the right to speak.)
It was Robredo's supporters who first used the hashtag #WithdrawIsko in October 2021, the Manila Mayor said.
The hashtag grew traction online on the day Robredo announced that she would also run for president after unity talks with Domagoso and other potential opposition candidates failed.
Hours after Robredo's announcement of her candidacy, Domagoso slammed her in a press conference in the capital city, where he called her a "fake leader with a fake color."
Domagoso urged Robredo's supporters to quit egging him and other candidates to pull out of the presidential race three 3 weeks before voters troop to polling precincts to cast their ballots.
"Anong karapatan mo na hingin sa amin bilang ikaw kakumpitensya namin? Anong karapatan mo? Dahil ikaw ay mataas na tao at itong mga tao sa ibang kandidato ay hindi ganoon kalaki ang mga political alliances?" he asked.
(What right do you have to ask us to withdraw when you are our competitor? What is your right? Just because you are a high-ranking official while other candidates do not have big political alliances?)
"Kaya dumadaing yung mga ordinaryong Pilipino kasi nga masakit magsalita yung mga mapagmataas na tao na katulad nila, nung grupo nila," he said.
(Ordinary Filipinos are complaining because people with superiority complex like them spew hurtful words.)
The "elitist" behavior of Robredo's camp is driving away supporters, he alleged.
"They paid the price already in 2019," he said, referring to Otso Diretso, the senatorial slate which Robredo endorsed during the mid-term elections that year and which Samira Gutoc, one of his senatorial candidates this year, was a part of.
"Zinero sila kasi masyado talagang elitist."
(None of them were able to make it because they are too elitist.)
In Pulse Asia's March pre-election survey, Robredo gained 9 percentage points, while Domagoso lost 2 percentage points. The former remained in second place after former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., while the Manila mayor ranks 3rd.
Domagoso insisted that there is no irony between his call for Robredo to quit the presidential race, and him blasting those who are calling for his withdrawal.
"Hindi naman ironic," he said.
"Alam naman natin, Day 1 pa lang [sila ang behind #WithdrawIsko]," he added.
(It's not ironic. We all know that they were the ones behind #WithdrawIsko since Day 1.)
When asked if he had proof or if his claim is just based on speculation, Domagoso said: "We don’t speculate."
Aksyon Demokratiko chairman Ernest Ramel Jr. blamed journalists for allegedly "unfairly" framing the presidential elections as a "two-way race."
"That's why it went to that conversation na naging anti-Leni Robredo na is because it's the media who put those questions in, and of course eventually the sentiments ng candidates came out about her," Ramel told ANC's Headstart.
"It was that way because (of) the questions by the media. They keep on pounding on issues by VP Leni Robredo. That's why the gentlemen obliged them," he said.
Domagoso brushed off naysayers, saying these are mostly supporters of the Vice President.
"Alam naman natin pare-pareho na sila-sila lang yun," he said.
(We all know it's just the same people.)
"There is a universe that they created for their own consumption and for their own entertainment."
Instead of responding to Robredo's echo chamber who "will always believe what they want to believe," Domagoso said he would focus on actual people on the ground who chose to keep their political belief to themselves.
"Maraming silent majority na ayaw na lang ng toxic. Gusto na lang ng peace of mind, nananahimik na lang," he said.
(There are a lot of people who are part of the silent majority, who do not want anything toxic. They just want to keep quiet for their own peace of mind.)
Robredo dismissed the call for her withdrawal by stating Sunday night the need to focus on her campaign.
As she thanked those who came to her defense following the statements issued by her rivals, Robredo said the people's emotions should not get over them and any hurtful remarks should no longer be made.