MANILA (UPDATE 3) — Using his life story as proof that he can uplift the quality of life in the Philippines, Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso launched his 2022 presidential bid on Wednesday in Baseco, a bayside community in the capital city where the mayor worked as a garbage collector.
"There is also another lesson I learned in early life: while poverty dehumanizes, it must not take the humanity out of you. Opo, lumaki akong busabos, ngunit hindi ako naging bastos (Yes I grew up poor, but I didn't become rude)," said Domagoso, wearing a white shirt over jeans and heeled in sneakers.
He spoke on a stage nestled in the middle of Basecommunity housing units for indigent families, which the mayor has been showcasing as one of his administration's primary infrastructure programs.
"Hindi lang pagkain ang kinakalkal mo, namamalimos ka rin ng respeto. Minamata ka. Hanggang ngayon, maaring ini-ismol ka," he said of his beginnings rummaging through trash for a living.
(You're digging not just for food but you're also begging for respect. Belittled until now.)
He put a spotlight on his achievements in his first term as Manila Mayor, speaking of his government's autonomy in addressing the COVID-19 crisis while pointing out the national government's shortcomings.
Sending the message that he does what he says, Domagoso said: "I do not run on promises. I run on prototypes."
His running mate Dr. Willie Ong was also formally introduced at the program and spoke of how the biggest enemy today is COVID-19.
DIGNITY FOR THE POOR
Since Domagoso cinched the capital city's mayoralty in 2019, the former actor has been vocal about his push to "restore dignity to the poor."
"I started working at the age of 10 bilang basurero," said the politician who will turn 47 on Oct. 24..
"Instead na kaawaan ko ang sarili ko, eh di pinagbuti ko ang sarili ko. A matter of mindset," he said.
In a minute-long video uploaded on his social media page on the eve of his campaign launch, the Manila Mayor recalled how he started earning from selling trash at a young age, and worked his way out of poverty by earning a college degree and entering public service.
Domagoso's presidential bid breaks Aksyon Demokratiko's 17-year drought for a presidential contender.
The party fielded its founder, former Sen. Raul Roco, as its last party-grown presidential bet in the 2004 national elections, where the late lawmaker lost to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The Manila mayor was part of the National Unity Party (NUP) before he joined Aksyon Demokratiko.
The NUP supported his failed senatorial bid in 2016 and elected Domagoso as the party's vice-chairman for political affairs after he won the capital city's mayoralty in 2019.
House Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, who was NUP's vice president for the Visayas, will be Domagoso's spokesperson for the Visayas, and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, for Mindanao, a source earlier told ABS-CBN News.
Domagoso was among politicians initially endorsed by opposition coalition 1Sambayan as possible presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2022 national elections, but he declined to be on the list.
In June, Domagoso wrote to the group, "saying that he wanted his name taken out of the list of nominees, possible candidates for president, and of course we respect that," 1Sambayan lead convenor and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had said.
TIES WITH OTHER CONTENDERS
Domagoso is expected to compete against former national police chief Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who had also confirmed he would run for president next year.
In 2019, the Manila mayor sought Lacson's advice on how to curb police extortion and corruption in the capital amid the local chief executive's push to restore good governance in the city.
Lacson told Moreno to create a "highly trained" police task force and to enforce intelligence and counter-intelligence operations in Manila, Moreno's chief of staff Cesar Chavez told ABS-CBN News in a 2019 interview.
Lacson earlier praised the Manila mayor for his practical decision-making in the city.
"Street smart si Isko. Ang ginagawa niya ngayon, very effective sa Manila," the senator had said of the mayor.
(Isko is street smart. What he's doing now in Manila is very effective.)
"Sabi ko, ang pinakamahirap lang diyan 'pag naligaw ka."
(I told him the hardest part is when you lose your way.)
Lacson is expected to run with Senate President Vicente Sotto III as his vice presidential bet.
Sotto III's nephew and godson, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, is the incumbent executive vice president of Aksyon Demokratilko.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who has also declared his presidential bid, was among high-profile politicians who paid a courtesy visit on Domagoso shortly after his 2019 victory against former president and reelectionist Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada.
Pacquiao praised Moreno at a flag-raising ceremony at the Manila City Hall, saying the hardworking mayor will go far.
"Baka hindi lang sa Maynila ang pagseserbisyuhan mo," the boxer-senator said then.
(Maybe your service will go beyond Manila.)
Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had also said he is he is considering a presidential bid in next year's elections.
Domagoso's decision to form a tandem with Ong is a "stroke of genius," Tony La Viña, former dean of the Manila-based Ateneo School of Government, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
"Parang perfect choice for the pandemic. Doktor ka. He's a serious doctor. Parang Dr. (Juan) Flavier siya, 'yung ganoong klase na doktor. For sure 'yan, ang advantage niyan, nandoon kay Isko at Ong."
(He's like the perfect choice for the pandemic. He's a doctor, he's a serious doctor, like Dr. Flavier, that kind of doctor. I'm sure Isko and Dr. Ong have the advantage.)
While Domagoso has 5.4 million followers on Facebook, and 933,000 others on Twitter, Ong has his own social media clout: 16 million on Facebook and over 16,000 on Twitter.
But Ong's social media backing did not translate into votes in 2019 when he ran for the Senate.
Ong - who rose to fame for answering health-related questions on social media - failed to clinch a seat in the upper chamber of Congress, landing on the 18th slot, with about 7.4 million votes.
Despite the loss, several analysts said Ong's 18th-place finish was a feat for a political neophyte who had limited connections in the industry.
ABS-CBN FRANCHISE ISSUE
Meanwhile, Domagoso said he would abide by the rule of law, and vowed to give "equal opportunity" among businesses, when asked if he would approve a broadcast franchise application of ABS-CBN, should he win the presidency.
"I made it clear in my speech: Rule of law," Domagoso said in a press conference after the official launch of his presidential bid.
"If Congress gives you such privilege, approve it, I will sign it," he said.
The House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises denied last year the new franchise application of ABS-CBN despite relevant government agencies belying allegations of irregularities. President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened to shut down the network.
The closure of ABS-CBN's broadcast operations, affecting the livelihood of thousands of workers at a time of a pandemic and the public's access to information, was seen by some groups as part of a worsening crackdown on press freedom in the country.
Domagoso said franchise applicants would not be given this kind of treatment should he win the presidency.
"'Yung may mga kasalanan, papapanagutin. 'Yung mga may obligasyon, dapat tupdin," he said.
(Those who have violated the law will be held liable. Those with obligations will have to made accountable.)
"Pero gagamitin ang kapangyarihan upang manggipit, umasa kayo, hindi mangyayari yun sa panahon ko," said Domagoso.
(But expect that the use of power to trample others will not happen under my administration.)
"You will be given equal opportunity. We will level the playing field. We are going to be certain with our rules," he added.
ALLIES OF DUTERTE?
The Manila mayor's said that he would be a "healing president" who would not dwell on "rear-view mirror politics," but his speech was still punctuated with several veiled criticisms against the current national administration.
"We have used our people as guinea pigs in the useless experiment of unli-quarantines," Domagoso said.
"Instead of flattening our curve, we have flattened our economy… Maiintindihan sana natin kung walang pondo ang DOH. Pero ang pera para sa COVID-19 binuro," he said.
(We would have understood it if the DOH had no funds, but the money was left in coffers.)
When asked if he would campaign as an opposition candidate, the mayor said he is "ready to work with anybody."
"We may disagree on political beliefs, on personal ideas but I do believe there is commonality," he said.
"Dilaw, pula kung ano man ang kulay mo balewala yun sakin dahil Moreno naman ang kulay ng Pilipino."
(Yellow, red, whatever their color is, it doesn't matter because Filipinos are brown-skinned.)
Both Domagoso and Ong worked under the Duterte administration in previous years.
A year after losing his 2016 Senate bid, Domagoso was appointed as chairman of the North Luzon Railways Corp. He was eventually included in the government's peace panel before he was named Social Welfare undersecretary.
Ong was a former consultant for the Department of Health.
"I did not vote for Duterte. I voted for Grace Poe but I was given a chance to work for Duterte," the mayor said.
"Ibig sabihin, it is not about the person alone. It is about the opportunity to serve."
(This means that it's not about the person alone. It is about the opportunity to serve.)
The filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 9, 2022 elections opens on Oct. 1.
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