MANILA - Aksyon Demokratiko vice presidential bet Willie Ong on Wednesday said he does not share his running mate Isko Moreno Domagoso's call for Vice President Leni Robredo to withdraw from the presidential race, and said the two contenders should "resolve" their issue in private.
"Hindi ko pinapa-withdraw si VP Leni. Bakit ko naman siya ipapa-withdraw?" Ong said in a Facebook live video.
"Tingin ko, maayos si VP Leni. Tingin ko, matalino siya... Pero ang suporta ko kay Mayor Isko, 100 percent. Tuloy-tuloy ito hanggang May."
(I am not asking VP Leni to withdraw. Why would I ask her to withdraw? I think VP Leni is a straight and a smart person... But my support remains with Mayor Isko, 100 percent. We will continue all the way until May.)
"Ang suggestion ko, para mabawasan 'yung bangayan ng group ni Mayor Isko, ni VP Leni at iba, tingin ko mas maganda mag-usap kayo kahit close door," Ong said.
"Ang feeling ko, kapag tuloy-tuloy ito, tingin ko lang, parehong may damage ang dalawa," he added.
(My suggestion is for the groups of Mayor Isko and Vice President Leni to talk in a closed-door meeting to deescalate the bickering. I get the feeling that if this goes on, there will be negative impacts on both sides.)
While it was Domagoso who scouted him to run for vice president, Ong underscored that he is not trapped in their party's echo chamber.
"Balanced akong tao... Hindi lang ako kakampi sa isang side. Ayoko ng echo chamber. Papakinggan mo lang yung isang side, eh di kaaway mo na yung kabila," he said.
"Kailangan open tayo kasi kung hindi, lagi na lang mag-aaway," he added.
"Tingin ko lang, magandang mag-usap kayo para mas maliwanagan at hindi yung mga supporters ang nagpapalitan ng salita."
(I am a balanced person... I don't just listen to one side. I don't like echo chambers, wherein you will just listen to one side and automatically treat the other side as enemies. We have to be open, otherwise, we will only keep on fighting. I think it will be better for them to talk to iron things out, and not leave their supporters bickering.)
ONG OFFERS TO 'BROKER' TALKS
In a separate Facebook video posted on April 19, Ong said he is willing to "broker" talks between Domagoso and Robredo, noting that he has no bad blood against any candidate.
"Tingin ko, maganda ceasefire muna para kumalma din ng konti 'yung mga tao," the cardiologist said.
"Puwede ako mag-broker. I volunteer, kung gusto ninyo," he said.
(I think it will be better to have a ceasefire so that their supporters will also calm down. I can broker it. I volunteer if they are willing.)
His remarks were made two days after Domagoso asked Robredo to withdraw from the May elections, just as her camp supposedly did to the Manila mayor and a few of their other rivals.
Domagoso also accused Robredo of fooling him by saying last year she will not run for President.
The call for Robredo to quit was made during a press conference of Domagoso, Ong, presidential aspirants Sen. Panfilo Lacson and former Defense Sec. Norberto Gonzales, and vice presidential candidate Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.
Lacson and Sotto, who are running mates, as well as Gonzales distanced themselves from the said call, with the latter apologizing to Robredo for the turn of events at their presser.
The aim of that press conference was to unite the presidential candidates and to assert that none of them are backing out, Gonzales said.
Ong was unable to hide his exasperation over the issue, saying that candidates should keep their cool with the national elections happening in less than 3 weeks.
"Naguguluhan ako sa kanila. Ang init-init... Wag [dapat] magagalit, wag mainitin ang ulo. Bawas stress. Focus," he said.
(I find it chaotic. The issue is too hot... They should not be angry, they should not be ill-tempered. Reduce the stress. Focus.)
"Walang masama makinig sa iba para luminaw at lumawak. Kaya siguro malawak yung pang-unawa ko kasi nakikinig ako sa lahat."
(There is nothing wrong in listening to others so that we have a clear and wide perspective. I think I am an understanding person because I listen to all sides.)
Ong said he understands Domagoso and would not bolt out from his camp.
But he also noted that there is no reason for Robredo to withdraw from the presidential race.
'HINDI KO SILA TATANTANAN'
Ong's perspective on the issue is a stark contrast from that of Domagoso who continues to snark at Robredo's camp, even calling the Vice President the "godmother of bullies" in a chance interview in Bohol.
"They crossed the line. Hindi ko sila tatantanan. Sinunog na nila yung tulay," Domagoso told reporters on the sidelines of his campaign.
"Bastos sila. Wala silang paggalang sa pagkatao mo. Mababa ang tingin nila sa iyo. Mataas ang tingin nila sa sarili nila," he said.
(They crossed the line. I will not stop from hitting them. They burned the bridge. They are rude. They do not respect you as a person. They look down on you. They think highly of themselves.)
In the said interview, Ong was visibly seen in the video asking their media relations officers to wrap up the discussion as Domagoso continued to lambast Robredo and members of her campaign team.
Despite cues from his team, Domagoso did not hold back, even taking a jab at Robredo's practice of reading from teleprompters during her campaign rallies.
"Ang bawat tao, may dignidad. Wag mong kukunin sa kaniya yun," Domagoso said.
(Every person has a dignity. Don't take that away from the person.)
"Kapag yun ang kinuha mo sa amin, inihulog mo kami sa bangin, sisiguraduhin naming hawak namin ang paa ninyo."
(If you take that away from us, and you throw us down the ravine, we'll make sure we're clutching your feet.)
While he disagrees with Domagoso, Ong said he understands the root cause of the Manila Mayor's sentiments against the vice president.
He was insulted with the call of Robredo's camp for him to withdraw the presidential race in October 2021 after the Vice President said she would also vie for the Philippines' highest-elected post, Ong said.
"Napuno na yung tao," he said.
(He's fed up.)
Robredo had advised not to issue hurtful remarks anymore following Sunday's press conference of her rivals and stated the need to focus on the campaign as the elections near.