2022 PH presidential race

Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

Mara Cepeda

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Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

SWEET BIRTHDAY GIFT. Presidential candidate VP Leni Robredo waves to the 412,000-strong crowd that showed up during her birthday rally along Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City on April 23, 2022.

VP Leni Media Bureau

Presidential candidate VP Leni Robredo mounts another show of force in NCR, securing the endorsement of Vice Ganda and other A-list stars
Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo issued her marching orders for the crucial homestretch of the campaign before hundreds of thousands of supporters, in a behemoth show of force meant to boost her numbers in the Philippines’ most vote-rich region Metro Manila. 

Local organizers said some 412,000 “Kakampink” supporters of Robredo occupied the entire stretch of Macapagal Boulevard on Saturday, April 23, the same day the lone female presidential candidate celebrated her 57th birthday and secured the coveted endorsement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its United Bangsamoro Justice Party.

Over 50 of some of the biggest names in the Philippine entertainment industry appeared onstage and endorsed Robredo, but she was still brightest start of the night. 

Many of those in the crowd had waited for close to 12 hours under the scorching heat. They did not leave Macapagal Avenue until after Robredo finished speaking at 11 pm. 

Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

Robredo slightly veered away from her stump campaign speech to lay down the game plan to help her catch up to the frontrunner, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. He was holding his own rally a few kilometers away in Sampaloc, Manila

Robredo wished for three things from her supporters on her birthday: Actively fight the lies being spread about her online, continue knocking on people’s doors in their house-to-house campaign, and humbly open their hearts so they could convert more the unconvinced to join the so-called “pink revolution.”

“Pag ito pong eleksyon na ito ang magpapanalo sa mga kandidato kasinungalingan, kawawa ‘yung bayan natin. Kaya po ‘yung hinihiling ko sa inyo, sabay-sabay po tayo sa laban na ito. Sa ‘pag bukas po natin ng ating mga puso, sa pagpahaba natin ng ating mga pasensya, siguraduhin din nating pinapalitan natin ang mga kasinungalingan ng katotohanan,” said Robredo.

(If this elections would be won by candidates based on lies, then it would be sad for our country. That’s why I am asking all of you to join me in this fight. In opening your hearts, in becoming more patient, we are making sure that we would be able to replace the lies with the truth.)

She acknowledged the intensified black propaganda that her enemies have been hatching against her since her rallies started attracting thousands upon thousands of Filipinos. 

Robredo is the primary target of disinformation networks, whose lies range from Robredo’s alleged affairs with several men to the false accusation that her campaign has been infiltrated by communists. 

In turn, Robredo’s fierce rival Marcos benefits from this disinformation infrastructure, built by his clan over the years in an attempt to revise Filipinos’ memories of the atrocities committed during the 21-year rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. 

But Robredo once again made a call for “radical love.” She told her most ardent supporters to turn the other cheek if their critics resort to foul, below-the belt-language. Rise above the dirt, said the Vice President, because they have a bigger fight to win on May 9. 

“’Yung ayaw po nating ginagawa nila sa akin, huwag na po natin sa kanilang gawin, ‘di ba?… Ang mga kabataan ngayon, mas tumitino tayo, mas sumusunod tayo sa mga magulang natin, pag pinaparamdam sa atin ang kanilang pagmamahal. Ganoon din po sana ‘yung gawin ng bawat isa sa inyo,” said Robredo.

(The things we don’t like that they are doing to us, let’s not do the same thing to them, okay?… The youth these days, they become more upright, they follow their parents when they are shown love. May each of you do the same thing.)

SHOW OF FORCE. Thousands of supporters pack the Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City for the “Araw Na10 ‘To!” street party for presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo, who is celebrating her birthday on April 23, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

It is crucial for Robredo to be issuing these marching orders in the National Capital Region (NCR), home to over 7.3 million voters. This is already her fourth show of force in an NCR city: At the start of the campaign period in February, over 20,000 “Kakampinks” joined her “Pink Sunday” rally in Quezon City. That number rose to 37,000 during her Camanava rally, which further ballooned to over 137,000 during her rally in Pasig City in March.

She is facing a tough battle against Marcos in NCR, which had delivered a landslide victory to him over Robredo in the 2016 vice-presidential race. The dictator’s son continues to enjoy majority support in NCR, based on the latest Pulse Asia Research Incorporated survey done in end-March.

That Robredo was able to pull off a 412,000-strong crowd in Pasay City on Saturday is also significant because two presidential contenders were also holding their own rallies in NCR that night: Marcos in Manila and Senator Manny Pacquiao in San Juan. 

Robredo’s birthday crowd significantly dwarfed these rallies, however. Local police estimated that 14,000 showed up for Marcos, while only 12,000 attended Pacquiao’s rally.

‘The people would bring Leni Robredo to Malacañang’

As Robredo spoke, the crowd along Macapagal Boulevard was at rapt attention. Many were straining their necks to get a better glimpse of their candidate while they used their fans bearing Robredo’s face. 

The heat even at night was almost unbearable given the thickness of the crowd. Medics were working overtime, as people from different points of the boulevard fainted. 

But even under these conditions, the “Kakampinks” were looking out for each other. They helped the organizers hand out boxes of bottled water and passed around snacks for those who needed to eat. They did their best to give breathing space whenever someone in the crowd started feeling light-headed. 

LOVE OF COUNTRY. “Kakampinks” wave several Philippine flags during the presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo’s rally in Pasay City on April 23, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Their energy and excitement was palpable, the crowd cheering and chanting the names of Robredo and her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan at different times all throughout the day.

Three stages were put up along the boulevard to deal with the massive crowd, true to the branding of the event as a street party slash musical festival. It also allowed even those at the back to see the “Kakampink” entertainers and social media influencers up close. 

But emotions ran high when ordinary folk representing different sectors went up onstage to describe their dreams under a Robredo presidency. 

HELPING EACH OTHER. Supporters set up a free water refill station during the rally of presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo on April 23, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Several people in the crowd started wiping their tears while listening to Mar Valbuena from the Manibela party-list group speak of the daily woes of commuters and public transportation drivers. It’s a gut issue for many of those residing or working in Metro Manila, which has long been dealing with the perennial traffic problem.

Valbuena cited the experiences of commuters stranded in terminals, of the struggles of drivers unable to afford the steep prices of fuel and the boundaries they have to pay to their operators at the end of the day. 

“Kung may gobyernong tapat, lahat ng manibela, bibiyahe lahat! Sa goberyenong tapat, lahat ng commuters, makakasakay lahat!.. Ang manibela at ang taongbayan ang magdadala kay Leni Robredo sa Malacañang,” he said. 

(If we have an honest government, all public transportation drivers would be able to ply the roads! Under an honest government, all commuters would be able to get their rides!… Steering wheels and the people would bring Leni Robredo to Malacañang.)

The crowd roared in agreement. 

Vice Ganda, A-listers are for Robredo

The star-studded roster of guests was the icing on the cake for Robredo’s birthday rally. 

The biggest surprise, of course, was the show-stopping performance of entertainer and comedian Vice Ganda. Days before the rally, rumors were abound online that he was going pink in 2022. He had endorsed President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. 

All the rumors were confirmed when Vice Ganda finally took the stage near the end of the program, his campy pink suit stealing the show with its kilometric train that had “Leni Robredo” written all over it. 

“Ang regalo ko sa sambayanang Pilipino ay ang boto ko kay Leni Robredo. Sa gabing ito, opisyal kong ine-endorso ang susunod na pangulo ng Republika ng Pilipinas, si Leni Robredo!” said Vice Ganda, making the crowd turn into a frenzy. 

(My gift to the Filipno people is my vote for Leni Robredo. On this night, I am officially endorsing the next president of the Republic of the Philippines, Leni Robredo!)

Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

Other A-listers headlined Robredo’s rally, including Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez, her husband and singer-songwriter Ogie Alcasid, the actress Cherry Pie Picache, the Diamond Star Maricel Soriano, Mr. Pure Energy Gary Valenciano, and the Megastar Sharon Cuneta, Pangilinan’s wife. 

Singers like Janno Gibbs, Ebe Dancel, Johnoy Danao, as well as bands like Ben&Ben, Imago, Gracenote, Cheats and the Magalonas, and Rivermaya serenaded Robredo and the crowd.

Award-winning actor John Arcilla also gave a rousing speech, reminding Filipinos they hold the power to choose the people who will serve them.

“Hindi po namin sinasamba si Leni Robredo. Siya po ay aming sinasamahan sapagkat sinasamahan niya ang sambyananang Pilipino… Hindi po namin sinasanto o sinasanta si Leni Robredo. Siya po ay aming sinisinta dahil iniibig niya ang ating bayan,” he said.

(We do not worship Leni Robredo. We stand by her because she stands by the Filipino people…We do not sanctify Leni Robredo, we love her because she loves our country.)

COUPLE GOALS. Regine Velasquez and Ogie Alcasid sing a duet for the “Kakampinks” in Pasay City on April 23, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Actress and philanthropist Angel Locsin, whom her fans describe as the real-life “Darna,” even got tear-eyed when she discussed how tired she was of living under a corrupt government. 

“Kung ayaw natin na naghihirap tayong lahat, kung ayaw natin ng korupsyon, bakit tayo boboto sa tao na may bahid ng korupsyon?… Kung gusto natin ng pagbabago, tigilan natin yung pagboto sa mga political dynasties. Sila lang po ang magpapakasasa, pero tayo ang kawawa,” she said. 

(If we no longer want to suffer, if we no longer want corruption, why are we going to vote for people with corruption cases?… If we want change, let’s stop electing into office those from political dynasties. They will just enrich themselves while we suffer.)

Veteran Kapamilya host Bianca Gonzales appeared during a Robredo rally for the first time, following the footsteps of her “PBB” co-hosts Robi Domingo, Melai Cantiveros, and Kim Chiu, who have hosted past Robredo rallies. Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez and Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza hosted program along with comedians Ogie Diaz and Mama Loi.

Videos of top Kapamilya stars Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, and Liza Soberano were also played onstage, giving “Kakampinks” hope that the celebrities would soon speak or perform in one of Robredo’s remaining rallies in the last two weeks of the campaign. 

Robredo’s marching orders to 412,000 in Pasay: Open your hearts, fight fake news

For Robredo, the presence of these celebrities in her rallies just confirms her belief that Filipinos – regardless of their stature in life – would take a stand because of the dreams for the country. 

Because why would these stars take risks on their careers for a presidential candidate who’s still ranking number two in the surveys?

“Kahit po hindi tayo nangunguna sa survey, tumataya sa atin. Bakit kaya? Dahil malaki ang pagmamahal nila sa ating bayan. Dahil naniniwala sila, nasa kamay nating lahat ang kapangyarihan,” said Robredo. “Ang kapangyarihan pong tunay, wala sa kamay naming mga politiko pero nasa kamay ng ordinaryong mamamayang Pilipino.” 

(Even if we’re not leading in the surveys, they are taking their chances on us. Why? Because their love of country is tremendous. Because they believe that true power rests in all of us. True power rests not in the hands of politicians, but in ordinary Filipnos.) – 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.