PAMPANGA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday, December 15, said the throngs coming out to support her and running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan are fighting for the country’s future.
Speaking beyond schedule due to the big turnout at the opening of the campaign’s provincial headquarters in Barangay San Isidro in the City of San Fernando, the presidential aspirant said that Kapampangan civil society leaders pushed hard to convince her to contest the presidency.
“Nararamdaman namin na hindi lang kayo lumalaban para ipanalo kami bilang kandidato ‘nyo, pero lumalaban kayo para sa bayan,” Robredo said to a pink crowd of Kapampangans. (We can feel that you are fighting not just for our victory as your candidates; you are fighting for the country.)
Seeing the determination of supporters, Robredo said, gives her courage in the face of an uphill electoral battle.
“Lumalaban kayo para sa mga anak ninyo, para sa mga apo ninyo, para sa kinabukasan ninyo,” she said, gesturing to her volunteers. (You are fighting for your children, your grandchildren, your future.)
Noting that “all the strong ones are now together,” the Vice President said, “We are always asked, ‘Are you starting to lose hope?’” The crowd roared in response, “Hindi (No)!”
Irwin Nucum, one of the event organizers, said the turnout, which he placed at over a thousand persons in the headquarters alone, surprised the campaign volunteers.
“We were supposed to end at 6 pm but the turnout was great. We extended for another hour. We were surprised, the crowd even stayed until the end,” Nucum said in Kapampangan.
San Fernando Mayor Edwin “EdSa” Santiago, former mayor Oscar Rodriguez who is seeking a comeback, and former Pampanga governor Among Ed Panlilio were onstage with Robredo and Pangilinan to show their support for the tandem. They were joined by former Candaba mayor Danilo Baylon, who is running for Pampanga governor; and his wife Aniway, a Candaba mayoral aspirant.
In her speech, Robredo said that Panlilio and Santiago tried hard to convince her to run when she didn’t have any plans initially for the 2022 national elections. She admitted to her Kapampangan supporters how wrong her initial decision was.
She said Panlilo and Santiago came to her separately in September.
“Ang sagot ko po sa kanila, ‘Wala akong balak magkandidato’,” shared Robredo. (I told them I had no plans of running.) She said she also told them that as Vice President, “sobrang hirap nang pinagdaanan ko (I went through to much).”
Robredo apparently referred to her last five years and six months as vice president to President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration marginalized her. Duterte initially appointed Robredo as housing chief, following the tradition of presidents giving a Cabinet post to the vice president even if they are not politically aligned, but she was forced to resign after a few montsh as she was told not to attend Cabinet meetings. She also became the subject of a sustained disinformation campaign.
The Office of the Vice President under Robredo, however, managed to pursue its own poverty alleviation even pandemic response programs without any help from the national government.
Robredo said that in trying to convince her, Panlilio and Santiago had similar assertions. “Magdesisyon ka lang, lalabas ang tao(Just decide and the people will come out).”
“Si Among Ed, halos maiyak na kakakumbinsi sa akin,” Robredo recalled. “Si Mayor EdSa naman nakikipagdebate sa akin na grabe.” (Among Ed was almost in tears as he tried to convince me. Mayor EdSa really debated with me.)
Even when she accepted the challenge and invited Pangilinan to join her, Robredo said she was still pessimistic and told the senator, “Wala ako, wala kang aasahan (We shouldn’t expect anything).” She noted that local government officials, fearing reprisal from the Duterte administration, had shied away from her over the last five years.
Robredo said she was proven wrong. “Dahil noong nagdesisyon po kami mag-file, October 7 ‘yun, gulat na gulat po kami na pagsabi naming humakbang tayo para humakbang din ‘yung katabi natin. ‘Yun na ‘yun talaga ‘yung nangyari,” she stressed.
(When we decided to file on October 7, we were so surprised that when we said, let’s move, the people moved with us. That’s really what happened.) – Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.