Robredo not giving up on ‘unifying people’ after failed unity talks
MANILA— Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday revealed her camp has completed its Senate slate for the May 2022 polls but declined to announce its candidates for now.
The presidential aspirant, however, offered some assurance that various groups are well-represented in her slate. Robredo, the opposition leader, is running as an Independent candidate but is carried by the Liberal Party and coalition 1Sambayan.
“After we announce our senatorial slate, you will see that our slate is composed of different representatives from many different parties. At most, we would only have 3 from the Liberal Party,” she said during a weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Manila on Thursday, the first in a series of talks with presidential candidates.
“So if unity was not possible among the presidential contenders, I have not given up on unifying our people,” she said.
Robredo said she spent most of August and September trying to forge a unity ticket among presidential hopefuls.
She previously met with Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso — all of whom filed their own certificates of candidacy before Robredo declared her decision to run for the highest position in the land last week.
“I have been visiting many of the contenders. I have been visiting many people in an attempt to unite the opposition… In those conversations, there was an acceptance that a lot of my non-negotiables would not be answered,” she said without revealing more details.
At some point after the unity talks collapsed, Robredo said she was choosing who among the contenders would make the most sense to support but these non-negotiables, she said, forced her to run in the end.
“While unification was a very important objective of all those talks, there was a limit to what we can unify behind,” she said.
Robredo earlier said Domagoso’s position on the Marcos family prompted her to run for the presidency, drawing retort from the Manila mayor criticizing her supposed fake leadership and her shift of campaign color from yellow to pink.
Earlier in the day, Lacson, another presidential candidate, said he felt insulted that Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon supposedly gestured for Robredo and Lacson’s vice presidential running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, to run together during one of their supposed unity talks.
Lacson said he believes Robredo and Drilon were not after unification and that he was effectively being told to withdraw.
Drilon denied making the hand gesture.
But for Robredo, it is clear that efforts to unify the presidential candidates have failed and it is time to focus on something else.
“When I decided to run for the presidency, it was my signal to move on already from all attempts to unify the personalities and the parties,” she said.
Her decision to run as an independent candidate, Robredo reiterated, was to “send a very important message that we are open to those who want to join our cause, to share our vision of better governance for the country.”
“We have seen where hateful and divisive politics can lead our country especially during the pandemic. And my personal take on this was that now more than ever, we really need to put our people’s welfare first before politics,” she said.
“We have been pushing for inclusivity and we have already started doing this after I filed by reaching out and talking to those who are not members of the party. From the start, our goal has always been to forge the broadest unity possible but the 2022 elections is not just about me, or our party or between the personalities. It’s really the collective power of the people,” she added.
Robredo is unfazed by her low survey numbers and the lack of resources, which had initially hindered her from considering a presidential run.
“You know, the last five and a half years have been very difficult for me… Our party has been decimated. We have not had the opportunity to really deal with many different areas which can strengthen my political reach. I was very practical. I had wanted to go back to my province to run for a local post, so I was not really planning on running for the presidency,” she said.
“If you look at my numbers, they are not very encouraging, and we expected that. I have been at the receiving end of a lot of disinformation, a lot of fake news. Sabi ko nga, if I will describe the five and a half years that passed, sabi ko para akong na-hazing,” she explained.
But her uphill climb for the vice presidency in 2016 and the outpouring of support after she announced her decision to run for president have given her new hope.
Robredo placed 6th among six candidates with only a 1 percent rating when she began her VP campaign, eventually topping the surveys just before the 2016 polls.
She is hoping to achieve the same despite the lack of support from an administration party in 2016.
“We have seen from the response after the announcement and after the filing that we have been getting support from people who belong to different parties or who are apolitical at first [and] are now volunteering to help our cause. So we are still hopeful that unity is still possible but maybe not among the presidential contenders but definitely among many different kinds of people from different political affiliations,” she said.
She said she has been getting a “deluge of volunteers.”
“So even if my numbers are still low now, everything is upbeat. The momentum is there. There is absolutely no guarantee that we will make it during the elections. But if we fight smart, if we will be able to put up a really honest campaign, I am very hopeful about it,” she said.
Robredo is running against a field of nearly a hundred presidential candidates including the ruling party's Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who has expressed openness to give way to the president's daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte should she decide to run for president.