2022 Philippine Elections

Young public servants backing Senate bet Chel Diokno choose Robredo for president

Mara Cepeda

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Young public servants backing Senate bet Chel Diokno choose Robredo for president

Vice President Leni Robredo talks to reporters on the sideliens of the Swab Cab initiative at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City on January 17, 2022.

Jay Ganzon/OVP

(1st UPDATE) The Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino has ties with the Kaya Natin! Movement, the NGO associated with the Robredos

MANILA, Philippines – A new political party formed by young local officials who carried human rights lawyer Chel Diokno for his 2022 senatorial bid has placed its bet on Vice President Leni Robredo in the May presidential race. 

The Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KANP) officially adopted Robredo as its standard-bearer in a virtual event on Monday, January 17. 

This made KANP only the second national political party to back Robredo, following the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) that Robredo chairs but is not running under as a presidential aspirant. The local party Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan led by former Cebu City mayor Tommy Osmeña earlier endorsed Robredo in the country most vote-rich province Cebu.

In a bid to make her run more viable, Robredo not only shed LP’s defamed yellow political color in favor of pink; she is also running as an independent bet. Still, Robredo’s most trusted allies from LP are helping run her campaign. 

KANP is relatively a newcomer in Philippines politics, as it was formed in early 2020 and was accredited only in 2021, party president and Cavite 6th District Provincial Board Member Kerby Javier Salazar told Rappler.

KANP’s most prominent member is Diokno, who jumped ship from LP after losing his first bid for a Senate seat in 2019. Diokno is part of Robredo’s senatorial ticket. 

Salazar said it was KANP which offered to be Diokno’s vehicle in the 2022 senatorial polls. Many of its young members are “CHELdren” or supporters of the respected lawyer. 

KANP has around 700 members nationwide, including about 100 politicians seeking local posts in this year’s elections. 

“Today more than ever, our country needs a leader that has both national consciousness and a [nation’s] conscience. Leaders whose strength comes from within and above. Leaders who value truth and justice. Leaders who respect the life and dignity of every person. Leaders who follow a path with heart,” Diokno said during the program.

Salazar said they were supporting Robredo because of her integrity and track record as a leader – from the time she served as Camarines Sur representative in 2013, to her well-praised anti-poverty and pandemic response programs as Vice President. 

He said the young leaders in KANP believe only Robredo possess can harness the potential of the Filipino youth.

“Paano natin sasabihin sa kapwa natin kaabatan na, o we are very potent force kung ang iidolohin at susuportahan natin ay wala naman nung mga pamantayan na yun? Sa lahat ng mga kumakandidatong pangulo ngayon, tanging si pangulong Leni ‘yung tapat, handa, at sigurado kami na may kakayahan talagang iangat ang buhay ng bawat isa,” said Salazar. 

(How are we going to tell our fellow youth that oh, we are a very potent force, if the person we would be idolizing and supporting is someone who do not meet these standards? Among all those seeking the presidency, only Leni has the integrity, readiness, and our assurance that she can improve the lives of everyone.)

KANP is also endorsing Robredo’s running mate, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, as well as the senatorial bid of former Ifugao congressman Teddy Baguilat Jr. Both are LP stalwarts. 

KANP and the Kaya Natin connection

KANP’s endorsement is seen as much-needed boost to the campaign of Robredo, who continued to struggle in pre-election surveys despite the growing volunteer-led movement backing the Bicolana’s quest for Macalañang. 

KANP’s support for Robredo also does not come as surprise, as two of its founders – Salazar and actress turned former Dagupan councilor Maybelyn Dela Cruz-Fernandez – are members of the non-governmental organization Kaya Natin! Movement. 

Robredo’s late husband Jesse Robredo, longtime Naga City mayor and former interior and local government chief, was among the founders of Kaya Natin. 

The NGO has since spearheaded projects honoring Jesse’s legacy following his death in a tragic plane crash in 2012. Kaya Natin is also one of the regular partners of the Office of the Vice President for its relief drives. 

Salazar said Kaya Natin lead convenor Harvey Keh, a board member of the Jesse M. Robredo Foundation, helped inspire him and Fernandez to establish KANP. Keh isn’t a party member, however. 

“Actually we’re not expecting that we would be accredited, but it was Sir Harvey who always inspires us to keep on going. He did not meddle in our affairs. He did not even influence us on what to do. What he wanted was for us to independently form this initiative for the youth,” said Salazar in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Robredo said she is humbled by KANP’s support and is “excited” to work with them in the coming weeks.

“Nagkakaisa po tayo dahil ang nakataya dito ‘yung kinabukasan natin at ng mga magiging anak natin. Kaya malaking karangalan po na kasama ko kayo. Nakikita niyo kaming kahanay niyo sa laban na ito,” Robredo said.

(We are united because the lives of our children are at stake here. That’s why it such a huge honor to be with you. I am with you in this fight.)

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Though KANP cannot boast having incumbent mayors and governors on its rooster, Salazar said the other local officials in the party know their constituents and can help with Robredo’s grassroots campaigning. 

“Alam namin kung ano yung nais ng mga botante, so kami nababanggit namin sa campaign team kung ano ‘yung hinahanap dahil nandito kami sa lokal. Pangalawa, nailalapit namin nang mas madali sa aming mga supporters ‘yung kandidatong sinusuportahan natin sa national,” Salazar said.

(We know what the voters want, so we mention to the campaign team the things people look for in our localities. Secondly, it’s much easier for us to talk to our supporters about the candidate whom we are supporting in the national race.)

Salazar first joined politics as a Sangguniang Kabataan in General Trias City in Cavite before becoming a three-term councilor. He said he sought permission from local leaders in the province to openly support Robredo. 

“Hindi magiging madali, definitely, pero ‘yung pagiging vocal siguro namin at ‘yung paglantand namin ay makakatulong upang mamulat ang kaisipan ng mas maraming Pilipino (It’s definitely not going to be easy, but our being vocal would perhaps help open the minds of many Filipinos),” said Salazar. 

Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla earlier said an internal survey in the province showed the dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the top choice of Caviteños. Robredo came in third. 

But it was Robredo who led Remulla’s “informal survey” done on Twitter, which the governor later deleted. – 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.