Robredo stresses unity amid history of bad blood among candidates in Senate slate

Job Manahan and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2021 03:40 PM

Former senator Antonio Trillanes, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Senators Richard Gordon and Leila de Lima. ABS-CBN News/File
Former senator Antonio Trillanes, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Senators Richard Gordon and Leila de Lima. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday bared the "difficulty" of assembling their Senate slate amid the candidates' differences in the past but said the fight is now bigger than them. 

Explaining the selection process, Robredo said the slate was based on nominations from various groups. The roster is still missing one more candidate as the camp continues the process of listening, she said. 

The presidential aspirant also credited the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for vetting them. 

“This is just consistent with what we have been pushing for a very long time already… Matagal na natin itong pinaghihirapan (we have long been working for this), to unify as many people as possible coming from diverse backgrounds. 'Di lang sa pulitika pero paminsan kahit sa paniniwala (not just in politics but sometimes, also in beliefs),” she said.

But some of the people in her senatorial lineup has a history of feuds, such as Trillanes, who was known to have accused Binay of corruption

In 2015, Trillanes said former Vice President Jejomar Binay, a presidential frontrunner then, was not deserving of the presidency. 

He also accused Binay of lying in his political campaigns on corruption. That time, the former vice president was accused of pocketing kickbacks after allegedly awarding projects and service contracts to preferred companies.

Binay lost in the 2016 presidential race.

In 2017, Gordon, meanwhile, filed an ethics complaint against Trillanes, who he described as someone who does not belong in the Senate and should be "expelled."

In his complaint, Gordon accused the former Navy officer, who led a 2003 mutiny, of committing "continuous, unabated, unparliamentary acts, language and conduct," which "is causing damage to the Senate and to the people."

In 2016, Gordon and De Lima also clashed during a Senate hearing, with the former accusing the female lawmaker of “material concealment” when she failed to bring up the information on self-confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato. 

In a separate hearing, Gordon also blocked De Lima's motion to have Commission on Human Rights witnesses testify before the Senate, after he was supposedly insulted by a commissioner's comments. 

She also told De Lima not to "control" the committee hearing.

“You cannot control this the way you controlled it last time. I don’t want to fight with you. But let me just point out, I will not veer from the purpose of this investigation,” Gordon had said. 

ALLEGATIONS

There were also some corruption and cheating allegations that some officials faced. 

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri previously resigned as senator in August 2011 out of delicadeza after several witnesses came forward to prove cheating in Maguindanao in the 2007 polls. 

He acknowledged he benefited from the poll rigging but denied any knowledge. 

In 2014, Binay faced a plunder complaint in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.

De Lima led the Senate probe on the matter. 

She even directed the NBI to investigate Binay, his family, his alleged dummies, contractors of Makati City projects, and their alleged cohorts in a scheme of allegedly plundering the city's coffers. 

The accusations were made public by Binay's former ally, ex-Makati Vice-Mayor Ernesto Mercado, and several other individuals.

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But for Robredo, the key to choosing their candidates and guest candidates was their readiness to come together, forget about the past and share a common aspiration.

“Iba-iba ‘yung pinagdaanan, iba-iba ‘yung kasaysayan. Pero ‘yung pinakamahalaga, ‘nung nakiusap tayo na magkaisa, ‘yung kahandaan na makiisa, ‘yung kahandaan na isantabi ang dating pinagdaanan at paniniwala, nandun,” she said.

(They have different experiences and histories. But the most important thing is, when we asked them to unite, there was readiness to cooperate and to set aside past incidents and beliefs.) 

“At ‘yung paniniwala, nagko-commit sa ating aspiration na linisin natin ‘yung bureaucracy, nagko-commit sa ating aspiration na hintuin na ‘yung bulok na klase ng pulitika, na marami tayong kailangang asikasuhin as far as governance is concerned,” added Robredo, who is running as an independent candidate but is carried by the opposition Liberal Party and coalition 1Sambayan.

(And the belief, they commit to our aspiration to clean up the bureaucracy, they commit to our aspiration to stop the rotten system of politics and that we have a lot to deal with as far as governance is concerned).

Drilon also admitted that assembling the Senate lineup was "not an easy process."

"We are confident that with these 11 people that VP Leni has named, and they get elected to the senate, they will follow the same principles that Vice President Leni is espousing today," he explained.

THE PROBLEM IS COVID-19

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Robredo's runningmate, emphasized that the biggest problem right now is COVID-19, which is why more people need to come together to defeat it. 

While he admitted differences and previous clashes within the slate, democracy, he said, is about "learning to work with people you dislike up to a certain extent."

"The main objective is, ang kalaban natin ay COVID, hindi isa't isa, kaya kailangan ng malawak na pagkakaisa," he said. 

"Mas mahalaga 'yung pangunahing layuning magkaroon ng pagkakaisa sa hanay natin para mas malakas tayo, para maharap natin nang maayos 'yung pagsugpo sa COVID," Pangilinan said. 

Binay, on the other hand, thanked Robredo's camp for including him in their senatorial lineup, saying that the task right now is to "rebuild our country and restore the dignity of every Filipino."

The problem in the pandemic should also be prioritized, so it is important that officials be united in solving it. 

"Iba’t-iba man ang kulay, nagkakaisa naman tayo sa hangarin," he said. 

"Maraming paraan para umahon sa pandemya, muling ibangon ang ekonomiya ng bansa, at pagandahin ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino. Ngunit hindi natin ito magagawa kung tayo ay magkakahiwalay. Kailangan nating magsama-sama."


On Thursday, the Vice President told members of the Rotary Club that elected officials must have a system in place to prevent corruption, and harbor transparency and accountability. 

"It is not enough for public servants to be clean. It is not enough to say that this particular… this particular public servant is not corrupt," according to Robredo. 

Robredo will face Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno in next year's elections.