In what could be a first in Philippine politics, multiple presidential candidates will hold a joint press conference about their candidacies on Sunday, April 17, in Makati.
Candidates expected to speak at the press conference are Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Manny Pacquiao, former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, and former presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, according to two sources in separate political camps.
Moreno’s campaign team had sent an advisory on Saturday, April 16, to the media, asking for coverage on Sunday at 10:30 am. Lacson’s camp also sent an invitation to a press conference in the same venue, but at around 11:30 am.
There has been no similar advisory from Pacquiao’s team, but two sources have said he plans to attend so far. (READ: Guide to the 2022 Philippine elections)
“Joint press [conference] is about unity to finish the course among those who are attending,” said a source from one candidate’s camp.
Lacson’s running mate and Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters on Saturday he was not aware of the purpose of the press conference but was invited by Lacson to attend.
“He said five presidential candidates are meeting and are inviting their running mates. That’s all I know,” said Sotto.
Vice President Leni Robredo was not invited to the press conference, while Partido Lakas ng Masa presidential candidate and labor leader Leody de Guzman was not expected to attend.
Organizers had finalized the date and venue since, at the latest, Wednesday, April 13, they told Rappler then. But steps initiating the event took place in late March.
Another source from a candidate’s team said the press conference was initiated by two of the presidential bets attending.
The press conference will be held at a time when multiple surveys show dictator’s son and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. consistently leading the presidential race. In the March Pulse Asia survey, where he garnered a dominant 56% rating, Robredo pulled away from the pack to come in second place with 24%. This has led many observers to say the elections will be down to these two candidates.
The conclusion was met with fierce opposition from Moreno’s camp, who insisted the Manila mayor was polling just as well as Robredo in an April mobile phone survey. They also said it is Moreno, not Robredo, who has better chances of beating Marcos because there is a significant chunk of voters who are hardcore anti-Robredo. They pointed to Pulse Asia surveys consistently showing Moreno is the top second choice presidential bet, which, they said, means he is the least objectionable candidates for a greater variety of voters.
All those expected to join the Easter Sunday press conference garnered single-digit voter-preference ratings in the March Pulse Asia poll. Some quarters have called on Moreno, Lacson, and Pacquiao to withdraw and support Robredo’s candidacy instead, in the hopes of beating Marcos. – with reports from Mara Cepeda and Aika Rey/Rappler.com