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MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Isko Moreno doubled down on his criticisms of Vice President Leni Robredo, challenging her to deny her camp and supporters’ attempts to get him and others to withdraw and calling her the “godmother of bullies.”
“I challenge the honorable Vice President Leni Robredo, deny. Deny niyo na hindi niyo kami pinaatras, na hindi niyo pinaatras si Norberto Gonzales, hindi niyo pinaatras si Senator Ping. Ang tanong ko, bakit, kayo lang ba ang may karapatan tumtakbo?” said Moreno on Wednesday, April 20, during a media interview in Bohol.
(Deny that you didn’t ask us to withdraw, you didn’t ask Norberto Gonzales to withdraw, you didn’t ask Senator Ping to withdraw. My question is, are you the only ones with the right to run for president?)
Three days have passed since the headline-grabbing joint press conference led by Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales – three candidates who have garnered single-digit voter preference ratings in the March Pulse Asia survey. All three candidates said they had been asked to back out of the presidential race by supporters or allies of Robredo and her party, the Liberal Party.
Responding to Moreno’s challenge, Robredo spokesman Barry Gutierrez told Rappler: “There are no active efforts from anybody in the campaign officially… I think what’s happening here is that there are third parties talking to them, encouraging them to join forces.”
Moreno, however, wants Robredo to make the denial herself, even taking the chance to criticize her for sometimes using a teleprompter in her speeches: “Barry, tabi ka na sa gedli (gilid or “side”). Pasalitain mo amo mo… O baka hindi niya mabasa, kailangan niya teleprompter.” (Barry, stand aside. Let your boss speak… Or maybe she can’t read her response, she needs a teleprompter.)
Moreno has dismissed observations by some that the joint press conference turned off potential voters, saying “sila-sila lang ‘yon” (it’s just them saying that amongst themselves).
Moreno played the underdog card to the hilt on Wednesday, calling Robredo and her supporters “bullies” and saying he has faced bullying in every chapter in his life – from the time he was a garbage collector, to the time he became an actor, to his entry into Manila politics.
“When you allow bully, you’re also the biggest bully. You’re the godfather of bully, in this case, godmother,” said the 47-year-old Aksyon Demokratiko presidential bet.
“Lahat ng masakit na salita – bobo, artista lang, walang alam, pampogi lang, cute lang, lahat ng masakit na salita, linunok ko na, nakain ko na, natae ko na. Araw-araw na lang,” said Moreno.
(All the hurtful words – stupid, just an actor, knows nothing, just good-looking, just cute – all the harsh words, I’ve swallowed, digested, and pooped out. It’s a daily occurence.)
Various sources across political camps have said there are indeed backchannel talks between Robredo allies and emissaries and camps of Moreno, Lacson, and Pacquiao, to get them to back out and join forces with the Vice President. But Robredo herself has never publicly called on any of her rivals to withdraw.
Moreno took exception to the criticism that he and two other male candidates are ganging up on Robredo because she is a woman.
“‘Pag kayo nagsasalita, masakit sa damdamin namin, okay lang. ‘Pag kami nangangatwiran, aba, bastos na, inaapi namin ang babae. Kaya lang nagiging issue ang babae, it is an issue of character, character of a person na gusto maging lider ng bansa,” said Moreno.
(When you speak in a way that hurts our feelings, it’s okay. When we make the same argument, it’s rude, we are bullying a woman. That’s the only reason why it became an issue about women. It is an issue of character, character of a person who wants to be a leader of the country.)
Rallying anti-Robredo forces
While Moreno’s remarks will definitely turn off and anger Robredo’s supporters, it is gaining traction among Moreno supporters who are either rabidly anti-Leni or anti-Liberal Party.
Online, the Mayor is egged on with comments like “laban Yorme!” (fight back Yorme!) or “no retreat, no surrender.” Some call Robredo a “female bully” or her supporters “bitter.”
In Moreno’s Butuan City rally, supporters even shouted “withdraw Leni!” multiple times during his speech.
Moreno is amplifying a common sentiment among Duterte supporters or anti-Leni groups that she and her camp are “elitist” and “cancel” everyone who supports a candidate other than Robredo.
Based on his Wednesday jabs and past remarks (starting with his infamous “yellowtard” and “fake leader” comments), it is clear the Manila Mayor is trying to get Robredo haters to his side and away from Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
He is banking on the thinking that there is a chunk of Marcos supporters who are only voting the late dictator’s son just because they don’t want Robredo to be president.
By attacking the Vice President, Moreno is portraying himself as the other anti-Robredo candidate, albeit, the one without baggage from the father and a history of being in the political elite. – With reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com