SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (UPDATE) - Reiterating his opinion that Vice President Leni Robredo should pull out of the May presidential race, Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Isko Moreno Domagoso on Tuesday also accused the former's camp of being bullies.
Domagoso claimed that Robredo's campaign team and her supporters have been "rude" or "evil" just because he urged the Vice President to withdraw from the presidential race, a call which the Manila Mayor describes as an "honest" opinion.
"Uulitin ko ulit: Withdraw, Leni; don't be a bully. Opinyon ko yun," Domagoso told reporters when sought for comment on statements of other presidential candidates distancing themselves from his "unplanned" statement.
Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and former Defense Sec. Norberto Gonzales, who joined Domagoso in the Easter Sunday presser, disowned the Manila Mayor's call for Robredo to quit, with Gonzales apologizing and admitting he was uncomfortable with the remark.
"Bakit ko nasabing bully sila? Talaga namang bully sila. 'Yung mga negosyante, naalala ninyo yung nangyari sa Iloilo? Kumain lang 'yung kalaban ng pink sa restaurant, ano ginawa nila? Cancel nature. Di ba pangbubully yun?" Domagoso said.
He also accused entrepreneurs supporting Robredo of threatening their employees of dismissal from their jobs should they choose not to vote for her.
ABS-CBN News could not independently confirm Domagoso's allegations.
'DOSE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE'
The rhetoric against Robredo's candidacy is a way of giving the Vice President's camp a "dose of their own medicine," Domagoso said, noting that it was the "Kakampinks" who first urged him to withdraw his presidential candidacy after she changed her mind about vying for the country's highest elected post.
"Kapag sila nagsasalita, puwede. Kapag kami magsasalita, hindi?
Eh, talagang bully," he said.
"Ugaling-ugali talaga 'yan ng mga mapagmataas. 'Yung mga mapagmataas, binubully yung mababa. Kapag yung mababa sumasagot, nangangatwiran, bastos. Bakit ganun?" he said.
"It's high time na matikman din nila 'yung lasa ng sarili nilang gamot... Walang mali doon, na sabihin ko rin 'yung opinyon ko."
When asked why he blames Robredo for the virality of #WithdrawIsko in October 2021 even though she never issued such a call, Domagoso said: "That is the difference between a tiger and a cat."
"Hindi kita kailangang gamitin o ang mga kasamahan ko para sila ang magsalita na #WithdrawLeni," he said.
"Ako, papanindigan ko ang paniwala ko at sasabihin ko ang paniwala ko. Hindi ko na kailangan iutos sa mga troll, sa campaign team," he added.
"Kapag may nararamdaman akong mali at kailangan kong sabihin yung tama, ako mismo ang magsasabi. Ang tawag doon, paninindigan."
Voters should note how several candidates have been using troll farms and other people supposedly to express their sentiments and stand on certain issues, the Manila Mayor said.
"Kung ngayon pa lang wala ka nang paninindigan, kuwentong barbero pa lang ito, opi-opinyon pa lang ito, kampaniya pa lang ito, paano pa kapag binigyan ka na ng pagkakataon ng mga Pilipino na pamunuan?" he asked.
"So kapag may gulo, troll ang sasagot? Kapag may gyera, troll ang sasagot? Mananahimik yung leader nila? Hindi ako 'yun," he said.
'STAND UP TO BULLIES'
Domagoso positioned himself as the presidential contender who can stand up to bullies, saying he has been tormented by oppressive people since he was a child.
"Bata pa lamang ako at buong buhay ko, marami na ang nang-bully sa akin. At hanggang ngayon, bully pa din ang mga elitistang Yellow-Pink," he said.
"Kung walang lalaban sa bully na Yellow-Pink, kung walang lalaban sa kanila, paano lalaban yung ordinaryong tao?" he added.
"I will not let go. Bully kayo and it has to stop."
Robredo, for her part, dismissed the call for her to back out by stating the need for her to focus on the remaining days of the campaign period. She also said hurtful remarks should come to an end.
Robredo's running mate, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan had said that their camp earned the support of people and groups, especially those previously allied with their rivals, because "the momentum and the people are on our side."
Domagoso ranks third in the latest pre-election survey on presidential preference, conducted by Pulse Asia last March, trailing former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. and Robredo, who are in first and second place, respectively.
In the same survey, the Manila City mayor emerged though as the top second-presidential choice.