2022 PH presidential race

Robredo recalibrates, to focus on unifying Filipinos instead of presidential bets

Mara Cepeda
Robredo recalibrates, to focus on unifying Filipinos instead of presidential bets

RUNNING MATES. A day after she declared her bid for the presidency in 2022, Vice President Leni Robredo formally introduced her running-mate, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, in a joint press conference held at the Quezon City Reception House on Friday, October 8, 2021. Earlier that morning, VP Leni accompanied Sen. Kiko in filing his certificate of candidacy for vice president at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

Photo by OVP

'Ang narealize natin, lalo na kahapon, narealize natin na nagkakaisa naman pala yung taongbayan. Hindi lang naman kailangan na kaming mga pulitiko ‘yung mag-unite,' says Vice President Leni Robredo

Vice President Leni Robredo has drawn the line: She will no longer focus on forging unity talks with other presidential contenders and will instead aim to be seen by the greater Filipino population as a unifying figure. 

Short of saying her mission to unite the opposition has failed, Robredo said on Friday, October 8, that she could not find a common ground with the other aspirants due to differences in “basic principles.”

This much became clear to Robredo after she filed her candidacy for president on Thursday, October 7.

It is now clear that her decision to run as an independent was not about becoming a more palatable ally to other politicians who are not as hardline opposition as her. 

Robredo would rather be seen by the greater Filipino people as a unifying figure in 2022.

“While our lines remain open, ‘yung focus na ngayon is uniting hindi ‘yung mga principals pero ‘yung uniting ‘yung taongbayan. Ang narealize natin, lalo na kahapon, narealize natin na nagkakaisa naman pala ‘yung taongbayan. Hindi lang naman kailangan na kaming mga pulitiko ‘yung mag-unite,” said the Vice President in a press conference. 

(While our lines remain open, our focus now is uniting not the principals, but unite the people. We realized, especially yesterday, that the people can be united. It’s not only us politicians who need to unite.)

“Pero ‘yung pinakamahalaga na ‘yung majority ng tao ay nabibigyan ng alternative, kung saan puwede silang mangarap muli, kung saan puwede silang makaramdam ng pag-asa uli. At ‘yun ang aming tututukan in the next few days,” she added. 

(What’s even more important for the majority of people to be given an alternative, where they can dream again, where they can feel hope again. And that’s what I’m going to focus on in the next few days.)

This is in stark contrast to the position that Robredo had taken during her long and winding discernment process. She had repeatedly asked her supporters not to be purists, believing only a united opposition stands to defeat President Rodrigo Duterte’s choosen successor in 2022. 

But in finalizing her 2022 run, it seemed that Robredo realized that she had non-negotiables that she could not just set aside “to unite for unity’s sake.”

I was really exerting a lot effort in trying to unify many different personalities, pero may hangganan kasi siya eh. At ‘yung hangganan niya, kailangang hindi kami magyu-unity not for unity’s sake, pero ‘yung nagyu-unite kami kasi mayroon kaming shared aspirations,” Robredo said. 

(I was really exerting a lot of effort in trying to unify many different personalities, but there’s a limit. We should be uniting not for unity’s sake, but we should be uniting because we have shared aspirations.)

Robredo ended up choosing her Liberal Party (LP) ally, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, as her running mate, saying he was the choice that “made the most sense” to her. 

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Robredo: Pangilinan and I are the true opposition

But what about her initial concern that her joining the jam-packed presidential race in 2022 would split the opposition vote?

Robredo arguued she and Pangilinan are the true opposition tandem in 2022, and that other candidates have other audiences.

It’s a jab against her opponents like Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Senator Panfilo Lacson who have been deemed by critics as enablers of Duterte but who later became oppositionists –  just in time for the 2022 campaign. 

“Hindi na ko [as] ka-concerned ngayon than when I was first starting kasi lumalabas naman ngayon, kami talaga ‘yung oposisyon. Wala namang lumalabas na kapareho namin, kapareho namin na in the sense ma mula umpisa, nakipaglaban talaga,” said Robredo. 

(I am not as concerned about that right now than when I was first starting because it is now becoming apparent that we really are the true opposition. No other person has emerged to be like us, in the sense that we have been fighting since the very beginning.)

Later on in a chance interview, the Vice President disclosed that unity talks with Moreno, in particular, bogged down because of his ambivalent position towards the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family. 

“I don’t want to go into details. Pero sa akin kasi, mayroong mga non-negotiable and ‘yung mga Marcoses, non-negotiable ‘yun sa akin,” Robredo said. 

(I don’t want to go into details. But for me, there are non-negotiables and the Marcos are a non-negotiable for me.)

The Vice President, however, was endorsed as presidential bet by the 1Sambayan coalition, which took on the task of unifying all anti-Duterte forces in 2022.

1Sambayan convenors are hoping other presidential contenders would later give way to  Robredo.

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Pangilinan, Baguilat as placeholder bets?

Despite these statements, Robredo and her LP allies are still leaving room for a possible alliance with another presidential candidate.

LP officials made former Ifugao congressman Teddy Baguilat Jr, party vice president for internal affairs, to be a last minute senatorial candidate to replace Pangilinan.

It is thus possible that Pangilinan would later return to being a Senate reelectionist should Robredo somehow strike a deal with another presidential aspirant to slide down and be her running mate instead.

This can be done if Pangilinan would substitute Baguilat as LP’s senatorial candidate. But it remains to be seen if this scenario would happen before November 15, the deadline for substitutions in the 2022 elections. – 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.