Otso Diretso heads to Leni and Jesse’s turf to woo Bicolano vote

Mara Cepeda

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Otso Diretso heads to Leni and Jesse’s turf to woo Bicolano vote
The 8 opposition candidates tour Camarines Sur, home province of the Robredos


CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – The Otso Diretso candidates of the opposition are doing their rounds in Camarines Sur, home province of Vice President Leni Robredo and her late husband Jesse Robredo, to boost their Senate bid.

Seven of the 8 senatorial bets – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, ex-solicitor-general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, and former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada – arrived at Naga Airport past 7 am on Wednesday, February 13. 

Former interior secretary Mar Roxas, who skipped the soft launch of the slate’s campaign the day before, is expected to join the other candidates within the day.

Headlining Otso Diretso’s trip to Iriga City and Naga City is a visit to the tomb of Jesse at the Eternal Gardens Memorial Park, before the senatorial ticket will hold their grand proclamation rally at Plaza Quezon at 6 pm.

The death of Jesse Robredo in a tragic plane crash in 2012 thrust his wife into the national spotlight, leading Leni Robredo to running for and winning as Camarines Sur 3rd District congresswoman in the 2013 polls. In 2016, Leni then ran for vice president, besting 6 other male and incumbent senators. 

The Otso Diretso ticket considers their visit to Jesse Robredo’s tomb as “symbolic.”  

“Very symbolic because si Sec Jesse [ang] leader natin na matino at mahusay and I think marami sa atin ‘yon ‘yong sinisikap naming maging – maging matino, maging mahusay, maging hindi lang mabuting tao pero maging leader. And I think ‘yon ang hinahanap ng tao ngayon eh,” Aquino told reporters.

(This is very symbolic because Secretary Jesse is the leader who is decent and excellent, and I think many of us aspire that – be decent, be excellent, and not just be a good person but a good leader, too. And I think that’s what the people are looking for these days.) 

Diokno, meanwhile, said wooing the Bicolano vote is important for Otso Diretso, where most of the bets are lagging behind in pre-election surveys so far.

 Siyempre malaking bagay ‘yon. Traditionally, progressive ang vote ng Bicolano kaya sana naman ay makuha din natin,” said Diokno.

(That’s a big thing, of course. Traditionally, the Bicolanos have a progressive vote so we’re hoping to get that as well.)

Camarines Sur is a vote-rich province, with 1,199,609 voters registered for the 2019 elections.

Breakfast with the De Limas

The Otso Diretso slate will first go around Iriga City, where their ally and detained Senator Leila de Lima grew up. 

They will make quick stops in Pili and Baao before having breakfast with sectoral leaders and De Lima’s relatives in Barangay San Agustin.

Aquino said the opposition candidates intend to show their solidarity with De Lima, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fiercest critics who is now detained due to multiple drug charges.

“Of course alam natin na pinapahirapan siya kahit she’s always done her best to serve the people. Kahit mula sa kulungan, nagfa-file pa rin ‘yan ng resolution, nagfa-file ng mga batas. And we want to  visit her family just to show na nakikiisa kami sa kanila,” said Aquino.

(Of course we know that she’s being given a hard time even if she has always done her best to serve the people. Even while in prison, she still files resolutions and laws. And we want to visit her family just to show her that we are one with them.)

The opposition senatorial candidates will then pay a courtesy call on Monsignor Non Sañada at the St Anthony of Padua Parish Church, then have a dialogue with students of Zeferino Arroyo High School. 

Otso Diretso will eat lunch with officials of Iriga City at the Asog Country Hotel before heading to Naga City in the afternoon. – 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.