Presidentiables Isko Moreno, Norberto Gonzales (with microphone) and Sen. Ping Lacson during their joint Eastern Sunday press conference Manila Peninsula Hotel
The political guns from three presidential candidates – at the lower rungs of the different pre-election surveys after the first and second placers – are still with dancing smoke in the fast and furious atmosphere in this Land of the Morning.
One of the three, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso called on the second placer VP Leni Robredo to withdraw and “be a hero,” apparently stung by reports, quickly denied by her camp, that people close to her had approached him to himself withdraw.
And, he claimed, the other presidential candidates, were also approached to withdraw and unite with Robredo against the surveys front-runner former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
As quick as rumors fly in this country, some have picked up the traveler’s tale, after it was forwarded for comment from one or all of the three, clearly irresponsible if the one who asked for the reaction had no basis: notes in a face-to-face news conference or interview or recorded videotape.
And the issue was, as woven by the Journal’s reporter Marlon Purificacion, Robredo had spoken of chaos should she lose in the May 9 national elections, where there are 10 presidential candidates with the 64-year-old Marcos hundreds of kilometers away from his closest rival, the 58-year-old Robredo.
Fast like a thunderbolt, Rappler’s Maria Cepeda, who has been covering Robredo’s campaign since she declared her candidacy, said Robredo, who beat Marcos in the fraud-marred and contested vice presidential race in 2016, never ever said there would be chaos.
In fairness to Lacson, he asked, for clarification, if it was Robredo herself or her supporters who said what was quoted – the reporter insisting it was Robredo herself who made the statement.
Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s lawyer-spokesperson, has not been read as contesting the statement on chaos attributed to his principal but rejected calls for her to withdraw.
As a chaser of an afterthought, he asked who really benefited from the Easter press conference held by – let’s face it – sure lose losers in the May 9 polls.
At a time of malevolent fake news and disinformation, depending on which side of the fence a person is in, politicians in their rink are described as victims of fake news and disinformation if the news and information are not favorable, pointing to the other rink as the beneficiary or beneficiaries of such, in their view, malicious news and disinformation.
Domagoso, who called for the Easter news conference and invited media to cover the event, trails Robredo by 16 percentage points in Pulse Asia’s March survey.
He claimed Robredo’s campaign strategies were not working against Marcos, who has been steady in the high 56 percentage rung against Robredo’s 24 percentage points.
And then he called on Robredo to withdraw and join them while offering themselves, those at the news conference at the Manila Peninsula, as alternatives in the fight against Marcos.
But Lacson clarified that he and his running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III were not calling on Robredo to resign, which followed unconfirmed reports that Robredo’s camp had asked Lacson to withdraw in her favor and have Sotto replace Francisco Pangilinan, seen on social media screens as in tears during a Robredo political rally in Pampanga attended by his wife Sharon Cuneta.
Lacson’s words: “Ayaw din namin na mananawagan sila na mag-withdraw kami (We also don’t want them to call for us to withdraw).”
Pangilinan came to Robredo’s defense after the Easter news conference, saying it’s only the vice president who is suitable for Filipinos.
“Si VP Leni lang ang deserb ng mga Pilipino’t Pilipina uhaw sa pamunuang tapat (Only VP Leni is deserved by Filipinos thirsty for honest leadership),” Pangilinan said.
But Robredo’s spokesperson rejected calls for her to withdraw.
“With three weeks to go before election day, we are at a time of great momentum for our People’s Campaign, and increasing clarity as regards which candidates can count on the people’s support when they enter voting booths on May 9,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
He said all the candidates have the right to pursue their candidacy up to the finish line.
“From the start, it has been the prerogative of every candidate to continue till the end, the same as it is the choice of a candidate to disregard surveys, rally attendance, endorsements, or any other conventional measure of support. We wish every candidate who decides to push through to the end, only the best,” he said.
The many faces of Philippine politics, really. (ai/mtvn)