2022 Philippine Elections

Drilon counters Trillanes: Opposition needs ‘big tent’ to win in 2022

Mara Cepeda

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Drilon counters Trillanes: Opposition needs ‘big tent’ to win in 2022

LP VICE CHAIRMAN. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon delivers a speech during the plenary session on July 27, 2021.

Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

'It is difficult enough to present yourself as an alternative to this administration if we are not united,' says the Liberal Party vice chairman

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday, August 3, backed the decision of Vice President Leni Robredo’s decision to pursue talks for a “broader coalition” to represent the opposition in the 2022 elections.

Drilon, vice chairman of the Liberal Party (LP) told this to reporters when asked to comment on the position taken by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Robredo should not engage in possible coalition talks with other potential presidential bets like senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon. 

Drilon stressed that Robredo’s actions do not mean she has already given up on a presidential bid. 

“It is difficult enough to present yourself as an alternative to this administration if we are not united. And that is why the big tent…must be able to have a bigger base so that we can effectively present an alternative to our people,” Drilon said. 

“I don’t agree with senator Trillanes that we should not talk to other prospective candidates. I think we should have a big tent, wherein we can attract all people, all sectors who believe that the next administration should not be identified with the present administration. And therefore, a broader coalition is necessary,” he added. 

Robredo, who has low survey ratings so far, is still discerning whether to mount a presidential bid in 2022. She wants at least a fighting chance that she would win because otherwise, she might split the votes of the already-fragmented opposition.

Trillanes, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, recently railed on social media after reports surfaced about Robredo’s meetings with Lacson and Gordon.

While Robredo already said these talks were focused only on finding “commonalities” with the other candidates for now, Trillanes was quick to assume that the Vice President has already decided to give way to someone else in 2022.

To this,Drilon said: “That is not a fair assessment and that is not a correct assessment of the intention of the Vice President. At this point, the Vice President is still looking at a possible run next year.”

Trillanes’ Magdalo party has long been allied with Robredo and the LP, but he warned he would drop the alliance if the Vice President endorses Lacson instead.

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For Drilon, however, the opposition cannot afford to box out politicians in the face of a tremendous foe like Duterte, who has spent the past five years discrediting Robredo and her allies. 

“Maybe in another time…the ideal situation could be pushed, that…we should not talk to certain people. But I do not agree at this time that that is a good strategy,” said Drilon.

Trillanes: I’m not being a ‘purist’

In an open letter to the opposition posted on Facebook on Monday, August 2, Trillanes denied he was being a “purist” in rejecting Lacson and Gordon.

He argued that he only wanted Robredo to run for president and insisted that he was not harboring his own 2022 elections ambition. In May, Trillanes said he would run for president only if Robredo would opt out of the race.

In his post, Trillanes pointed out that Lacson had primarily authored the anti-terror law, while Gordon had led a Senate investigation on the bloody drug war that later concluded that neither Duterte nor the state were responsible for the extrajudicial killings.

“Hindi niya kailangan sina Lacson at Gordon. Madi-dilute lang ang message of change ng opposition, which is our biggest campaign weapon in 2022. As regards conducting exploratory talks, hindi kami purists pero let us not sacrifice naman our core principles at the altar of ‘winnability,’” Trillanes said. 

(She doesn’t need Lacson and Gordon. They would only dilute the message of change of the opposition, which is our biggest campaign weapon in 2022. As regards conducting exploratory talks, we’re enot being purists here but let us not sacrifice our core principles at the altar of “winnability.”

Gordon is unfazed by his former colleagues’ comments, saying Trillanes is entitled to his own opinion. 

“In response to media queries regarding a former senator’s comments on the meeting between VP Leni Robredo and myself – [the] former senator is entitled to his own opinion. It was a private meeting and it was an honor for me to have an open, honest, and meaningful discussion with the VP, for whom I have great respect,” Gordon tweeted. 

Trillanes said he would be open to either Manila Mayor Isko Moreno or Senator Grace Poe as the running mate of Robredo. 

Moreno, however, has been performing way better than the Vice President in the polls. The Manila mayor is neither an administration or opposition-allied politician, and has been presenting himself as a unifying candidate. 

The filing of candidacies for the 2022 elections is in October. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.