2022 Philippine Elections

Urban poor groups urge Robredo to run for president amid low ratings

Mara Cepeda
Urban poor groups urge Robredo to run for president amid low ratings

'LENI UP.' Members of the Leni Urban Poor coalition hold up signs that read 'Leni UP' during their online launch on August 2, 2021.

Leni Urban Poor

Vice President Leni Robredo is lagging behind five other potential bets in terms of popularity among the poorest Filipinos

At least 15 urban poor groups banded together on Monday, August 2, to convince Vice President Leni Robredo to run for president, an effort backed by her middle-class campaigners to pull up her survey numbers.

The new coalition, called Leni Urban Poor (Leni UP), comes as Robredo is deciding whether to mount a presidential bid in 2022. Robredo wants at least a fighting chance if she runs for president, because otherwise she might split the votes of the already-fragmented opposition.

While she won based on a pro-poor platform in 2016, Robredo is lagging behind five other potential presidential bets in terms of popularity among the poorest Filipinos.

Based on the latest presidential survey by Pulse Asia, only 5% of class E voters would vote for Robredo. On the other hand, survey leader Sara Duterte has 40% of class E, followed by Grace Poe at 12%, Isko Moreno at 11%, and Bongbong Marcos and Manny Pacquiao both at 8%.

Nationwide and across socioeconomic classes, with a rating of 6%, Robredo is only the sixth most popular presidential bet, lagging behind Sara Duterte (28%), Moreno (14%), Marcos (13%), Poe (10%), and Pacquiao (8%).

Robredo, however, is the most popular opposition bet, based on this Pulse Asia survey conducted from June 7 to 16.

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Despite her dismal survey numbers, urban poor groups on Monday said they decided to place their bets on Robredo, who has long been praised for her flagship anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay.

Jonathan Chua of the Laban ng Maralitang Sektor – Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa said most of the Leni UP members have long been working together to ask for decent and safe housing from government.

Leni UP leaders said Robredo has vast experiences working with communities in her hometown Naga City in Camarines Sur long before she entered politics in 2013. 

She also served as Duterte’s housing czar for five months, but she resigned in 2016 after the President stopped inviting her to Cabinet meetings. 

“At tingin namin sa lahat ng mga puwedeng tumakbo, tingin namin si VP Leni ito. Sa kaisahan namin, sa pag-uusap namin, sa mahabang talakyan, ‘yung sinseridad, ‘yung kakayanan ni VP Leni na kami ay naging bahagi ng pagpapaunlad hindi lang ng sektor mga maralita kundi ng buong siyudad,” Chua said.

(Of all the people who can run, we think VP Leni is most qualified. In our coalition, in our talks and long discussions, we saw VP Leni’s sincerity and her capability to make us feel that we are involved in the progress not just of the poor sector but the entire city.)

Leni UP counts 11 urban poor groups and 4 NGOs as main member-organizations. These 11 urban poor groups said represent some 150,000 indigent families, according to the Eric Villanueva of Leni UP’s communication group.

It’s an organic initiative of the urban poor that is independent from the ongoing efforts of Team Leni Robredo (TLR) – the main movement of supporters egging the Vice President to run for higher office in 2022.

A TLR insider said leaders of Leni UP reached out to them sometime in July to seek assistance in terms of their messaging. But TLR didn’t have to change much of Leni UP’s messaging since their goals were in sync.

“We just aligned our messaging. When they presented that, we agreed. We shared that our vision is about people’s groups coming together and encourage everyone to organize to convince Ma’am to run. So it’s really alliance-building,” said the Rappler source.

A much-needed boost

Her supporters said Robredo, however, is suffering low survey numbers after Filipinos lost trust in the once-ruling Liberal Party, and after the Duterte machinery spent the past five years discrediting her name.

In an interview with Rappler in July, Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said Robredo has to work harder to get higher approval ratings in urban centers, where residents are likely more exposed to the Duterte propaganda online. 

“And our reading on this is really the disinformation and the fake news and the attacks on the social media have been hurled against her since the start of her term. So those are the challenges against us,” said Gutierrez.

Citing a Pulse Asia survey in the last quarter of 2020, Gutierrez said Robredo “has very good numbers” in rural areas and also class E. He attributed this to Robredo’s pro-poor projects – even as their camp needs to work more on classes C and D, as well as urban centers.

In a performance survey by Pulse Asia in the last quarter of 2020, Robredo recorded the lowest number among geographical areas in the National Capital Region with 48%. 

In terms of socioeconomic classes, Robredo had a 62% performance rating in Classes ABC and Class E, much higher than the 55% from Class D.

Her overall performance rating was at 57%, falling behind Duterte with 91%, Senate President Vicente Sotto III with 84%, and then-House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano with 70%.

Many of them, including TLR and Leni UP, have been going on overdrive to help build a campaign machinery for her.

They believe she is the most qualified person to run the post-pandemic Philippines – regardless of what the surveys say.

“Sa mga lider pampulitika, pinakamalinaw ang pagkaunawa ni Leni sa mga problema ng karaniwang mamamayan. Pinakamasigasig siya sa pagbibigay-tugon sa mga ito. Kaya tuwiran at tahasan naming ipinapahayag na dapat tumakbo si Leni sa pagka-pangulo. Dapat na siya ay maging pangulo,” Leni UP said in its manifesto.

(Of the political leaders we have, Leni has the clearest understanding of the problems of the common people. She has been working diligently to respond to these issues. That’s why declare that Leni should run for president. She should be the president.)

The complete list of Leni Urban Poor member-organizations are as follows:

  • Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino – Partido Manggagawa
  • Kilos Maralita
  • Laban ng Maralitang Sektor – Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa
  • Solidarity of Oppressed Filipino People – Damayan ng Maralitang Pilipinong Api
  • Quezon City Urban Poor Coordinating Council (QC-UPCC) – Carmen Collado
  • Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Maralitang Navoteño Federation, Inc.
  • Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa mga Baybaying Ilog – Urban Poor Advocacy Committee (
  • United Bulacan Resettlement Relocation Leaders Association
  • Homeowners’ Federation of Northvilles and Southvilles, Inc. 
  • Karapatan Ang Tahanan Network 
  • Community Organizers Multiversity
  • Urban Poor Associates 
  • Akbayan Urban Poor Caucus
  • Institute for Philippine Cooperative and Social Enterprise Development 
  • Institute for Popular Democracy

– 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.