2022 Philippine Elections

Robredo on rejecting Lacson’s ‘unification’ plan: If I run, I’ll fight until the end

Mara Cepeda
Robredo on rejecting Lacson’s ‘unification’ plan: If I run, I’ll fight until the end

COUNTER-SONA. Vice President Leni Robredo delivers her 'Ulat ni VP Leni' speech via Facebook Live on July 27, 2021.

Vice President Leni Robredo's Facebook page

According to the Vice President, Senator Lacson’s plan would see all opposition bets filing for candidacy, and then withdrawing over time in favor of the best polling contender

Vice President Leni Robredo resisted Senator Panfilo Lacson’s “unification” formula in the 2022 elections because it meant she would have to file for her certificate of candidacy (COC) knowing she may have to withdraw – a tactic she feared would lead her supporters on.

In her weekly radio show on Sunday, August 8, Robredo told her co-anchor Ely Saludar why she rejected the proposal of Lacson – who is presenting himself as an “alternative” presidential candidate for 2022 – despite her ongoing efforts to forge a united front for the opposition.

Lacson did not give details when he said on August 5 that Robredo resisted his “unification” formula for the elections. 

According to the Vice President, Lacson’s plan apparently would see all potential opposition bets filing their COCs. They would then agree on a specific time to observe who among themselves performed the best in surveys. The rest of the candidates would then have to withdraw their candidacies in favor of the “best” contender.

However, she believes this set-up would just lead her supporters on, since she would have to withdraw from the race just because her poll numbers were dismal. 

Robredo, Philippine opposition leader and chair of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP), is still mulling over her own presidential bid. Pre-election polls show she is still the most viable candidate for the anti-Duterte forces despite her low ratings.

She said once she decides to gun for the presidency in 2022, she would fight until the end. 

“Sa akin, simple, simple ‘yung dahilan ko sa pagtutol doon sa proposal. Sa akin, ‘pag nag-file ako, kailangan kong ituloy ang laban. ‘Pag nag-file ako, hindi ako puwedeng umatras kahit gaano pa kahirap kasi prinisinta ko na ‘yung sarili ko sa publiko eh,” Robredo said. 

(For me, I have a simple reason for rejecting the proposal. For me, if I file my candidacy, I have to finish the fight. If I file my candidacy, I can’t just withdraw from the race no matter how difficult it may be, because I already presented myself to the public.)

Lacson respects decision

Lacson said he respects Robredo’s decision to decline, saying it was a “selfless and sincere” offer to support the Vice President’s coalition-building efforts.

“It goes without saying, I respect her decision to resist my suggestion and whatever reasons she has for declining. I admit that while there could be some complications attendant to my suggestion, nevertheless, it was a sincere and selfless offer in support of her equally sincere efforts to have one common candidate against whoever will be the administration’s bet,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson also told reporters that his suggestion to Robredo included having his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, become common vice presidential bet for the opposition “if only to emphasize that I have no intention of abandoning my partner.”

Forging united front still on

While Robredo disagrees with Lacson’s offer, she believes there is still time for potential opposition presidential bets to find a compromise. 

She said she understands Lacson’s “out-of-the-box” formula is rooted in his desire to also forge a coalition in 2022. 

“Hindi ako nawawalan ng pag-asa na maghanap pa, kasi proposal lang naman ‘yun eh…. Patuloy na naghahanap ng best na formula,” the Vice President said. 

(I am not losing hope that we’ll find more ways to unite, because that was just a proposal…. We’re still looking for the best formula.)

The Vice President is giving herself until October 8 – the first day of COC filing – as her ultimate deadline to decide on her 2022 electoral bid.

Robredo has been meeting with other potential contenders like Lacson and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to find “commonalities” on issues they can agree on. 

The Vice President, however, said she would be temporarily suspending any coalition talks while various areas in the Philippines are still under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“Sinu-suspend ko muna ‘yung lahat na initiatives sa pag-uusap kasi ECQ ngayon. May panahon pa naman para puliduhin ang mga engagement at usapan,” Robredo said.

(I am suspending all initiatives to talk because we’re under ECQ now. There is still time to iron out all the engagements and discussions.)

The Vice President is one of the preferred presidential bets of the 1Sambayan coalition, which is also aiming to endorse a single slate of opposition candidates to defeat President Rodrigo Duterte’s ticket in 2022. 

Robredo’s coalition talks with other candidates was frowned upon by another 1Sambayan nominee, ex-senator Antonio Trillanes IV. He believes only the Vice President is the logical standard-bearer for the opposition. 

But other key opposition figures, like LP vice chairman and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon as well as former Ombudsman turned 1Sambayan convenor Conchita Carpio Morales, are backing the Vice President’s political strategy. – Rappler.com

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.