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MANILA, Philippines – As the 2022 campaign period wraps up its third week, the Isko Moreno camp has amped up its criticism of presidential race front-runner Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
But two communication lines from the same team emerge. While presidential candidate Moreno declared he would run after Marcos estate tax debt, he has mostly refrained from naming his rival in public remarks, choosing to instead use the term “pulahan” (red is Marcos’ campaign color). Meanwhile, it’s the key people in his campaign who have gone all out in their offensive.
His campaign manager Lito Banayo called Marcos “duwag” (coward) during a press conference on Thursday, March 3. The chairman of Moreno’s party Aksyon Demokratiko, Ernest Ramel, called on Marcos to answer questions about his educational attainment and track record as a government official.
“Sa madaling salita, duwag si Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (In other words, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is a coward),” said Banayo.
“Kung hindi mo kayang harapin ang katotohanan, hindi mo kayang harapin ang mga isyu, pro or laban sa ‘yo, huwag ka nang tumakbong kandidato. Anong klase kang kandidato?” he added.
(If you cannot face the truth, if you can’t face the issues pro or against you, don’t run. What kind of candidate are you?)
Banayo and Ramel called the March 3 press conference specifically to let out a barrage of criticisms against Marcos.
Ramel began the briefing by reading out a statement in Filipino. He said the Marcoses’ failure to pay their late patriarch’s estate tax debt, now worth P200 billion, is a violation of the law and sign of disrespect to Filipinos who dutifully pay their taxes.
“Ang ganitong klaseng karakter at pag-uugali ay hindi dapat tinutularan at lalong hindi dapat inihahalal bilang pangulo,” said Ramel. (Someone with this kind of character and attitude must not be emulated, much less elected as president.)
Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez said on Thursday, March 3, that the tax debt has not yet been collected because of a Motion for Reconsideration filed by public prosecutors on forfeiture proceedings of the properties subject to the tax.
Ramel also asked Marcos to answer questions about what role he actually played in putting up the famous Bangui windmills being used prominently in his political ads to boost his profile. (READ: Hindi proyekto ni Marcos Jr. ang Bangui windmills)
Ramel also brought up Marcos’ misrepresentation of his educational attainment when, in 2015, his online resumé on the Senate website (he was senator at the time) said he had a “Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Political Science, Philosophy and Economics” from Oxford.
Oxford University itself clarified that Marcos got only a special diploma and “not a full graduate diploma.”
Back in October, Marcos’ spokesman Vic Rodriguez, claimed the candidate has “always been forthright” that he received only a special diploma.
Ramel contrasted Moreno and Marcos, saying the 47-year-old Aksyon standard-bearer has done more for Manila than Marcos has for Ilocos Norte in the nine years he was its governor. (READ: Isko Moreno’s infrastructure legacy in Manila: Fast, furious, and ambitious)
He also said Moreno would use the collected Marcos debt as aid for Filipinos.
Ramel said Marcos should just participate in debates so he can respond to such issues himself, not through spokespersons.
It was also Ramel who, back in October 2021, likened Marcos to a “Forbes Park kid stealing ideas from a Tondo boy” when Marcos’ camp released a proposal suspending oil excise tax hours after Moreno declared he would halve oil and electricity taxes.
Isko shows restraint
You won’t hear Banayo’s and Ramel’s same strong words from Isko Moreno, however.
Even when he promised to collect the P200-billion Marcos estate tax debt last Monday, Moreno did not name Marcos, saying merely that “one family had been asked to pay tax.”
In his campaign events, the Manila Mayor takes vague swipes at candidates who are always “absent” or who don’t back up their claims of unification.
“Sana, may naidulot kaming pagpapaalala sa inyo at makasama namin kayo na ‘wag ipagpariwara ang bansa natin sa palad ng mga taong baka sarili lang nila yung interest na ilalaban nila,” he told government workers in Dinalupihan, Bataan last Wednesday.
(We hope we were able to remind you and be one with you in ensuring our country does not land in the hands of people who are fighting for their own interests only.)
“Yung salita na magsama-sama tayo? O di ba may ganoon. Magsama-sama ang sagot eh hindi ka naman totoo na kaya mong isama-sama ang tao,” he said later that day in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
(The words, let’s unite? There’s such a thing. Unite but the truth is, you can’t really unify people.)
Marcos’ constant campaign refrain has been the claim that he and running mate Sara Duterte can “unite” the Philippines because he represents its northern regions while she represents its south.
Their campaign team is even called “UniTeam.”
But Moreno, asked by Rappler who he was referring to with these jabs, said, “Wala naman (No one in particular).”
“Sinasabi ko sa mga kababayan natin, the quality of leadership we need is true to their words when they say it’s real and they have done it already. Huwag sila magke-claim ng isang bagay, kung sino man ‘yun, lahat kami, that includes me, huwag ka magke-claim ng isang bagay and wala kang pruweba,” he said.
(I’m telling our countrymen that the quality of leadership we need is true to their words, when they say it’s real and they have done it already. They should not claim one thing – whoever they are, all of us, that includes me – don’t claim something you can’t prove.)
What does this mean?
It’s not unusual for a presidential candidate to refrain from directly hitting a rival. Such a strategy could stem from the belief that voters don’t like it when a candidate engages in negative campaigning.
The tandem of Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, for example, have a policy of not mentioning any other rival candidate by name in their public remarks.
In such scenarios, the stinging words are often left to spokespersons.
Banayo and Ramel both belong to Moreno’s “spokespersons bureau,” its stable of persons authorized to speak in behalf of the campaign team and the candidate.
Definitely, Moreno would have known how strong Banayo’s and Ramel’s statements would be.
As of Pulse Asia’s January survey, Moreno is still tied in third place with Senator Manny Pacquiao (both with 8%). They are far from second-placer Vice President Leni Robredo (16%) who herself is still leagues away from the 60% voter preference rating of Marcos. – Rappler.com