2022 PH vice presidential race

Pangilinan on becoming Robredo’s running mate: ‘Call of duty’

Mara Cepeda

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Pangilinan on becoming Robredo’s running mate: ‘Call of duty’

OPPOSITION TANDEM. Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Kiko Pangilinan hold their first press conference as a tandem in the 2022 elections, October 8, 2021.

Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Before accepting the offer to be Vice President Leni Robredo's running mate in the 2022 elections, Senator Kiko Pangilinan spent the past months preparing for his reelection bid

Senator Kiko Pangilinan struggled to hold back his tears he faced the nation for the first time as the running mate of Vice President Leni Robredo in the 2022 elections on Friday, October 8. 

He did not plan to gun for the second highest position in the land. In fact, Pangilinan had been spending the past months preparing for his reelection bid in the Senate, where he was supposed to run on a pro-agriculture platform. 

He even started vlogging on YouTube together with his celebrity wife Sharon Cuneta and their kids Kakie, Yellie, and Miguel, with Pangilinan showing off his more relaxed, funny persona often just seen by those close to him. 

But everything changed mere days before the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) started on October 1. When Robredo finally decided she would seek the presidency in 2022, she turned to Pangilinan in her search for a vice presidential bet. 

Unity talks with other presidential contenders had bogged down, and Pangilinan was emerging to be the most logical choice as running mate for Robredo.

Pangilinan on becoming Robredo’s running mate: ‘Call of duty’

Standing on the podium set up at the facade of Robredo’s office on Friday, Pangilinan said he cried while listening to the Vice President tell the country that she is accepting the calls for her to run for president. 

Since he was also among those who had pushed Robredo to aim for Malacañang, Pangilinan knew he had a responsibility to fulfill when the Vice President asked him to step up, too.

“Sa ganitong sitwasyon, naisip ko na dahil isa ako sa mga nag-udyok sa kanya na tumakbo, at isantabi ang kanyang sariling kagustuhan, ngayon siya naman ang humihingi ng tulong, isantabi ko rin ang aking kagustuhan,” Pangilinan said. 

(In this kind of situation, I figured that because I was one of the people who asked her to run and to set aside her personal wishes, I should also set aside my own aspirations since she was already the one asking for help.)

“Eh sabi ko nga, wala akong kawala. No choice, ika nga. Pero sa totoo lang, tinawag tayo ng tungkulin. Call of duty – hindi lang kay Ma’am Leni, hindi lang sa partido, koalisyon, o sa hanay ng mga supporters, pero sagradong tungkulin sa buong bansa,” Pangilinan said. 

(I said there’s no escaping now. No choice, as they say. But the truth is, this is a call of duty. A call of duty – not just for Ma’am Leni, not just for the party, coalition, or our supporters, but our sacred duty to the entire country.)

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Though it was a last-minute offer given to Pangilinan, Robredo said it made the most sense for her to tap him as her vice presidential bet. 

Robredo, who is an independent candidate, said it was only late last week when she started to “seriously” consider running for president.

“So talagang belated…. Siyempre ‘yung sunod na iisipin, sino ‘yung aking magiging kasangga. Maraming mga pangalan ‘yung fino-float, pero sa discussions with many different groups, lumalabas na siya talaga ‘yung choice who makes the most sense,” said the Vice President.

(So it was really a belated decision. Of course, the next thing on my mind was who was going to be my partner. There were many names being floated, but in the discussions with many different groups, he was the choice who makes the most sense.)

She trusts that if Pangilinan wins the vice presidential race in 2022, he would continue and build on the well-praised anti-poverty and pandemic programs she started at the Office of the Vice President.

“Siya talaga ‘yung kasama na kampante ako na pareho ‘yung aming patutunguhan (I’m confident he’s really the person who shares my vision),” Robredo said.

Pangilinan said it was also a tough decision to make since he was considering his family. But he said his wife, Sharon Cuneta, knew what had to be done.

Pangilinan is president of the once-ruling Liberal Party, the subject of attacks from President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters. Cuneta, however, is known to be close to the Dutertes.

“Siguro dahil mahal na mahal ni Sharon si Ma’am Leni…nakita niya ‘yung kahalagahan na tulungan at magtulungan para nga mahanapan ng solusyon ‘yung problema ng bansa,” said Pangilinan.

(Maybe because Sharon really loves Ma’am Leni, she saw how crucial it was for us to work together and look for solutions to address the problems of the country.)

Pangilinan filed his COC as LP’s vice presidential candidate. Though Robredo is running as an independent candidate, Pangilinan said LP will still be supporting her presidential bid. – 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.