MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Presidential bet Grace Poe immediately rejected administration standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II's call for unity talks, saying there is no reason for her to withdraw her candidacy.
"Ano pa ba ang gusto niyang pag-usapan sa puntong ito? Pwede naman kaming mag-usap anytime. Pero pangungunahan ko na...kung iniisip nila ay pag-uusap sa pag atras, ako ay hindi aatras," Poe said in a chance interview in Laguna on Friday, May 6.
(What else does he want to talk about at this point? Anytime we can talk, but let me say this now...If they want to talk about my withdrawal, I will not back down.)
She added: "Ngayon, kung talagang maluwag sa kanyang puso at naniniwala siya na isa ang dapat umatras para naman lumakas ang aming puwersa, bakit hindi? Desisyon niya 'yun. Pero para sa akin, wala na kaming dapat pag-usapan, kung 'yun ang inaasahan niya sa akin."
(Now, if he's really willing and he believes that one of us should back out from the race to strengthen the chances of the other winning, why not? That's his decision. But for me, we have nothing to talk about if he expects that I'm the one who's going to withdraw.)
Poe said she has no reason to quit, as surveys show she is still ahead of Roxas. She added it would be a "betrayal" to just decide among themselves the choices of the people.
"Wala naman kasing dahilan para gawin ko 'yun, ano. Isang survey kung saan sinasabi nakalamang siya ng isa, pero dalawa naman ang lumabas at 'yung una sinasabing lamang na rin ako sa kanya. Parang wala naman yatang katuturan at dahilan 'yun. Para sa akin, medyo katraydoran din na bigla na lang kami-kami lang ang magdedesisyon," she said in an interview over radio dzMM.
(There is no reason for me to withdraw from the race. There's one survey which showed Roxas ahead of me, but there are also surveys which show I'm ahead of him. It's pointless to back out and there's no reason for that. For me, it's also a betrayal to suddenly just decide among ourselves.)
The senator also questioned why Roxas had to announce it through media, when he has Poe's number. For Poe, Roxas wanted to put her in an awkward or difficult situation.
"Oo, magkaalam naman kami ng cellphone (numbers), pero ipinarating niya mula sa media. Siguro gusto niya akong malagay sa posisyon kung saan baka mapa-oo ako pero alam mo hindi naman ganoon kadali," she said.
(Yes, we know each other's cellphone numbers, but he still chose to send his message through media. He probably wants to put me in a difficult situation, one where I would be forced to say yes. But you know, it's not that easy.)
Poe added that it is unlikely she would support Roxas. After all, the senator said it does not make sense to back him after she has repeatedly criticized the administration for "causing disillusionment" among Filipinos.
"May disillusionment sa gobyerno na kakulangan ng kanilang pakiramdam at pagbigay ng pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan, tapos bigla na lang susuportahan ko sila? Parang hindi naman yata 'yun naaayon sa aking mga sinasabi at ipinaglalaban nitong mga nakaraang buwan,” she added.
(There's disillusionment regarding the government because of the administration's lack of empathy and failure to provide adequate services for the people. Why would I suddenly support Roxas? That won't be aligned with what I have been saying and what I have been fighting for these past few months.)
Roxas earlier called on Poe to talk "for the unity of the country," in the hopes of thwarting a possible administration led by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The tough-talking mayor, alleged to have been involved in extrajudicial killings in Davao City, leads by a wide margin over Poe and Roxas, who are now statistically tied in 2nd place in voters' preference polls.
On Thursday, May 5, Poe denied rumors she is withdrawing from the presidential race to give way to Roxas. She also made a last-ditch appeal to the public not to vote for Duterte, calling him an "executioner."
In a statement issued Friday night in response to Poe, Roxas said it is "unfortunate that Senator Poe has rejected and ridiculed" his offer.
"I made this conversation public because the matter is not between the two of us. It involves our supporters, our constituencies. With just a few days before elections, it is important that the public is informed because at the end of all this, it is their interest at stake," Roxas said.
He added that democracy, the economy, jobs, and the welfare of the nation are at stake.
"For these and so many reasons, 'di tayo papatinag (we will not waver)... this is a fight worth fighting, this is the good fight! Tuloy ang laban! Ipanalo na natin ito! (Our fight continues! Let's win this fight!) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com