2022 Philippine senatorial race

Robredo bares Senate slate, turns foes into allies vs Duterte

Mara Cepeda

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Robredo bares Senate slate, turns foes into allies vs Duterte

IN THE RUNNING. Presidential bet and Vice President Leni Robredo names her senatorial ticket for the 2022 elections.

(UPDATED) Leni Robredo's ticket in 2022 includes a former vice president, 5 incumbent senators, 2 returning senators, and 1 former congressman across 7 parties
Robredo bares Senate slate, turns foes into allies vs Duterte

Opposition leader and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo raised her profile as a power broker in Philippine politics as she bared her Senate slate that has turned bitter rivals into allies – all in a bid to shake Duterte’s grip on power in 2022.

On Friday, October 15, Robredo announced 11 names for her senatorial ticket in the 2022 polls. It includes a former vice president, five incumbent senators, two returning senators, and one former congressman representing seven parties from across the political spectrum.

They are the following:

  1. Teddy Baguilat Jr.  (Liberal Party)
  2. Jojo Binay (United Nationalist Alliance)
  3. Leila de Lima (Liberal Party)
  4. Chel Diokno (Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino)
  5. Chiz Escudero (Nationalist People’s Coalition)
  6. Dick Gordon (Bagumbayan VNP Movement)
  7. Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan Party)
  8. Alex Lacson (Kapatiran Party)
  9. Antonio Trillanes IV (Magdalo)
  10. Joel Villanueva (Independent)
  11. Migz Zubiri (Independent)
Robredo bares Senate slate, turns foes into allies vs Duterte

Robredo is running as an independent candidate, while her running mate Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is seeking the vice presidency under LP.

Robredo earlier said her running as an independent is her “symbolic” way of showing that she is open to unite with different political parties. 

She has also recalibrated her unification efforts for 2022, as she is now focused on being seen as a unifying figure, instead of channeling energies to forging an unlikely alliance with other presidential bets.

Her political strategy appears to have worked, with her senatorial slate composed of politicians who never would have banded together in the past. 

Robredo acknowledged several people in her slate make for strange bedfellows given their previous conflicts years prior.

But for the opposition leader, what’s important was that these 11 senatorial hopefuls were among those willing to sit on the negotiating table when she made the call to unite for 2022. 

“Actually, ‘yung mga pinili natin na guest candidates, they were among the very first who responded to our call for unity. Na kahit maraming pinagdaanan sa ating kasaysayan na hindi pagkakaisa – hindi ko naman sila nire-regard ever na kaaway eh – pero may mga hindi pagkakasundo sa mga daang tinahak before, ‘yung kahandaang makipagkaisa, malaking bagay na ‘yun. Ang shine-share namin ngayon, ‘yung aspirations para sa bansa natin,” said the Vice President.

(Actually, the guest candidates we chose were among the very first who responded to our call for unity. That even if they went through so much disagreements in the past – I never regarded them as my enemies – even if there were conflicts in the paths they took before, their willingness to unite, that’s such an important thing. What we are sharing now is our aspirations for our country.)

But how does Robredo plan to reconcile her bid to root out corruption in 2022 if she wins with the fact that several members of her slate had faced corruption allegations in the past? The Vice President said no one is perfect.

“Ako, naniniwala ako na wala namang perpekto sa amin, kahit ako. Walang perpekto sa amin. Pero ‘yung pinakamahalaga, ‘yung commitment tsaka ‘yung readiness na umupo sa isang lamesa at pakinggan ‘yung iba’t ibang mga paniniwala ng mga kasama at magpanday ng isang hindi lang plano, pero pati ‘yung agreements to operationalize ‘yung ating aspirations. Sila ‘yung nagpakita sa atin ng ganung kahandaan,” said Robredo.

(I believe none of us are perfect, including myself. No one among us is perfect. But what’s most important is the commitment and readiness to sit at one table and listen to different beliefs, and to forge not just a plan but even the agreements to operationalize our aspirations. They were the ones who showed readiness to do just that.)

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, who played an instrumental role in helping Robredo form her Senate slate, said it was not easy to convince the members of the ticket to come together initially, especially when Robredo had still not decided on her presidential bid. 

“It was not an easy process to assemble all these people with diverse backgrounds and political leaning. But when Vice President Leni declared that she was running for president, it was easy for us to get them back and support the candidacy of President Leni, because they realized that Leni – Vice President Leni – is the only person who can lead us in the next six years and get us out of this quagmire,” said Drilon, who is also LP vice chairman. 

Arnel Casanova, former chairman of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in the previous Aquino administration, also helped Robredo form her Senate slate. He dropped his own Senate bid in 2022.

The 12th slot in Robredo’s senatorial ticket is still being negotiated, sources told Rappler. Possible options are either labor leader Sonny Matula or former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, whom the Robredo camp has been in talks with these past days.

But Robredo said a total of four or five names are currently being considered for the 12th senatorial pick, whom she wants to be the best person to represent the marginalized sectors in her slate. 

Binay and Trillanes

Among those in Robredo’s powerhouse slate are former vice president Binay and former senator Trillanes, who were among the bitterest of enemies pre-Duterte.

In the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, Trillanes went on overdrive to stop a Binay presidency from happening

Trillanes was among the senators at the time who led a months-long investigation into the multiple corruption allegations that hounded Binay and his family.  That Senate probe is among the factors seen to have led to Binay’s loss in the 2016 presidential race.

The former vice president then tried to run for Makati 1st District’s congressional seat in 2019, but he was stunned by his ally-turned-foe Kid Peña.

In March, a Makati court found Trillanes guilty of libel for accusing the son of Binay, former mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., of allegedly buying off Court of Appeals justices to obtain favorable orders.

Binay retreated from the political spotlight for a while after his consecutive electoral losses. But the human rights lawyer has since reemerged as an opposition figure against Duterte, whom he had called as an “executioner” in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

Trillanes later found a surprise ally in Binay when Duterte tried to revoke the amnesty granted to the rebel soldier turned senator in 2018. Binay said the President should not have done so, as amnesties are meant to be final and executory.

The former vice president said he was thankful to be included not just in Robredo’s slate but also the tickets of at least two other presidential contenders, senators Manny Pacquiao and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

“Maraming paraan para umahon sa pandemya, muling ibangon ang ekonomiya ng bansa, at pagandahin ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino. Ngunit hindi natin ito magagawa kung tayo ay magkakahiwalay. Kailangan nating magsama-sama. Iba’t iba man ang kulay, nagkakaisa naman tayo sa hangarin,” said Binay.

(There are many ways to get out of this pandemic, to revive the country’s economy, and to improve the lives of every Filipino. But we cannot do this if we are going to work in silos. We need to come together. We may have different colors, but we are united in our aspirations.)

Trillanes did not directly answer when asked by Rappler how he plans to campaign in a slate alongside Binay, but he said he respects the selection process that Robredo’s senatorial ticket went through.

“Isang malaking karangalan na maisama sa senatorial slate ng ating next president Leni Robredo. Ako at ang grupong Magdalo ay nirerespeto ang resulta ng selection process na ito. Higit pa rito, nakatuon kami sa pagpapanalo ng ating next president Leni Robredo,” said Trillanes. 

(It’s such a huge honor to be included in the senatorial slate of our next president Leni Robredo. The Magdalo group and I respect the results of this selection process. More importantly, we are focused on ensuring the victory of our next president Leni Robredo.)

De Lima and Gordon

Robredo’s ticket also includes Gordon, who has been criticized for enabling the Duterte machinery’s vicious attacks against De Lima.

De Lima remains in jail over what she calls trumped-up drug charges against her. Her incarceration has been deemed by local and international human rights groups as political harassment by the Duterte government. 

Duterte directed his wrath at De Lima when she started a Senate investigation into the extrajudicial killings happening under the President’s bloody drug war in 2016. As former head of the Commission on Human Rights, she also initiated a probe into the Davao City killings under Duterte as local executive.

When De Lima was later ousted as chairperson of the committee on justice and human rights, Gordon replaced her and took over the drug war probe. 

Among the senators who voted in favor of removing De Lima as chairperson were Zubiri and Villanueva, both of whom are now part of Robredo’s 2022 senatorial slate. 

The Gordon-led panel later ruled that neither Duterte nor the state should be held accountable for the drug war deaths. 

Fast forward five years later, Duterte’s violent anti-drugs campaign and the Davao City killings are the subject of a crimes against humanity probe by the International Criminal Court.

Gordon has since become a fierce critic of the President, with the senator now heading the ongoing probe into the Duterte government’s anomalous pandemic deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation

Gordon called Duterte a “cheap politician” for continuing to defend the businessmen and government officials embroiled in the Pharmally scandal. – 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.