2022 Philippine Elections

Leni-Isko for 2022? Vaccine project tests the waters

Mara Cepeda

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Leni-Isko for 2022? Vaccine project tests the waters

ROBREDO-MORENO? Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno pose for a photo with some of the beneficiaries of the OVP's Vaccine Express for drivers in the city on June 22, 2021.


While Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno say Vaccine Express has ‘no political color,’ the project fuels 2022 election scenarios
Leni-Isko for 2022? Vaccine project tests the waters

Isko Moreno, the wildly popular mayor of the nation’s capital, bowed his head before approaching the circle of close-in aides surrounding Vice President Leni Robredo. Robredo’s staff gave way to Moreno, who was then greeted by the Philippine opposition leader with a bump on the elbow.

It was midday of June 22, one Tuesday at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – and the first time for Robredo and Moreno to be seen publicly together ever since their names have been floated as a possible tandem for president and vice president in the 2022 elections. 

The two officials met on Tuesday for the pilot run of the Vaccine Express, a drive-through vaccination effort for tricycle, pedicab, and delivery drivers.

Robredo had long planned to partner with local government units, such as Manila, to help augment their COVID-19 vaccination drives. 

But according to a source privy to backroom talks, it was shooting two birds with one stone: Choosing Manila as pilot site for the Vice President’s drive-through COVID-19 vaccination project became an impromptu test run of a Leni-Isko team-up.

“The immediate objective really was to at least float the possibility and remind the people of the possibility that they can team up for the elections,” the source told Rappler.

Several social media users have since expressed their openness to support a possible Robredo-Moreno or even a Moreno-Robredo tandem in 2022. 


Robredo, however, maintained Moreno’s city became the pilot area for Vaccine Express not because of the 2022 elections, but due to the mayor’s willingness to partner with the OVP for the immunization effort. She then thanked Moreno and his staff for being “all out” in assisting the OVP in setting up the drive-thru vaccination site.

Leni-Isko for 2022? Vaccine project tests the waters
Succeeding Duterte

Robredo and Moreno are two of the possible candidates in the most high-stakes presidential election since Corazon Aquino challenged Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986.

Robredo, though lagging behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in terms of popularity, is the most viable opposition candidate based on the latest surveys. The popular Moreno is not explicitly allied with the administration or the opposition, but is part of Duterte’s short list of potential successors.

Robredo herself is open to gun for the presidency, but she has not finalized her decision yet. Moreno already said he would run in 2022, though he has so far been coy about the exact position he would run for.

Both were part of the 1Sambayan opposition coalition’s initial choices for its presidential and vice presidential nominees. Robredo would later be among the six nominees officially named by the group on June 12, while Moreno begged off to be included in 1Sambayan’s list for now.

Robredo believes the only way to defeat Duterte’s chosen successor is for the opposition to field only one standard-bearer in 2022.

Robredo insisted politics was not at play during the launch of the vaccination drive. But observers said Moreno – a celebrity long before his first foray into politics – can certainly help bring in crowds for her should she ultimately decide to gun for the highest post in the land.

At the Vaccine Express site, delivery riders waiting to get their COVID-19 jabs whipped out their mobile phones and tried to approach Moreno for a selfie.

The media-savvy politician would then grab their phones then call Robredo’s attention to make sure she’s in the shot, too.

At one point, it was even the Vice President who called out to Moreno since another driver was gesturing to have a photo taken with both of them. 

Strategic partnership?

Though Moreno would be a neophyte in national politics if he runs in 2022, the Manila mayor has so far been performing better than Robredo in pre-election surveys. 

A Pulse Asia report released in April showed Moreno (12%) in a four-way statistical tie for second place in the presidential race along with senators Grace Poe (12%) and Manny Pacquiao  (11%) as well as ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (13%), whom Robredo defeated in 2016. 

Robredo, the underdog who eventually became Vice President, once again found herself at the bottom half of respondents’ preferred presidential bets at 7%.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the feisty daughter of the President, is still in the top spot with 27%.

In the same survey, Moreno was also the most preferred vice presidential candidate with 16%.

Pressed by a reporter on Tuesday if the Robredo-Moreno partnership would possibly extend to 2022, both politicians laughed before answering.

“Marami pa kaming gagawin (We still have much to do),” said the Vice President. 

Moreno then jumped in and said yes, the partnership with Robredo is until 2022 – but only because their terms in office expires in June of that year.

“Oo, kasi ang mandato naman namin dalawa hanggang 2022 eh, said Moreno. “Natutuwa lang ako kasi anybody na tutulong sa mga taga-Maynila, bilang ama ng lungsod, tinatanaw namin ‘yun ng utang na loob.” (Yes, because our mandate is until 2022… I am happy because anyone who would help Manileños, I am grateful for them as the father of the city.)

Robredo and Moreno echoed each other in saying Vaccine Express in Manila was an initiative devoid of politics – for now. 

“Napakahalaga na ‘yung nilalapitan na LGU hindi yung 2022 yung tinitignan. Kasi ‘yung pandemic naman, walang political color ito, ‘di ba? ‘Yung trabaho namin, hindi kami dapat tumitingin sa preparation ba to for 2022,” said Robredo. 

(It’s important that when we approach LGUs for our projects, we do not factor in 2022. Because the pandemic doesn’t know any political color, right? Our approach when we do our jobs should not be if this is in preparation for 2022.)

The filing of candidacies for the 2022 elections will be in October. The Vice President said she would decide on her possible presidential bid by then. – 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.