INTENSIFIED efforts by political operatives of the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo have forced Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and three other presidential candidates to band together and hold an Easter Sunday press conference with the singular message that there will be no retreat nor surrender and each of them vowing to finish the race.
The joint press conference was a first in Philippine electoral politics with Moreno, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and former national secretary adviser and defense secretary Norberto Gonzales sharing the same table as they faced more than a hundred reporters and crew from TV, radio and newspaper organizations as well as from social media vloggers.
Boxing champion and Senator Manny Pacquiao and former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella have earlier confirmed their attendance in the historic joint media conference but were not able to do so. Pacquiao’s late flight from General Santos City and Abella’s engagement in Cavite prevented their appearance at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.
“Hinding-hindi kami magbibitiw sa kampanya. Ang bawat isa sa amin ay magpapatuloy sa aming mga sariling kandidatura upang maging karapat-dapat na pagpilian ng sambayanang Pilipino,” Moreno said, reading from a joint statement which was later signed by the three presidential bets present with Pacquiao concurring in an earlier a video call.
Vice-presidential candidates Senate President Tito Sotto, Lacson’s running mate, and Dr. Willie Ong, Moreno’s vice presidential bet, who were also at the press conference, signed as witnesses to the joint statement.
Answering questions from the media, Moreno revealed efforts by supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo seeking their withdrawal from the polls with less than a month before the May 9 voting, claiming that doing so would boost her chances of beating survey frontrunner, son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Well, alam ito sa group chat ng mga dilawan at pinklawan that they continue to send a message that on May 1, I will withdraw and I will be appointed as Secretary of DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government),” Moreno said.
Moreno added: “How far is the truth? I don’t know. But, how persistent they are, if I may borrow Senator Ping Lacson’s words, hinuhubaran kami. Hindi kami mabili, ang binibili tao namin. May bumili sa mga tao ni Senator Ping. May bumili sa mga tao namin. And it seems, isang kulay lang ang lahat ng ito.
Moreno was referring to the earlier statement of Lacson that after the chairman of Reporma Party defected to VP Robredo, it didn’t stop there. A known political operative from Robredo’s camp even approached the former Philippine National Police chief telling him to withdraw from the race and they can ask Senator Kiko Pangilinan to do the same apparently in exchange for Sotto as new running mate of Robredo.
Similar efforts by VP Robredo’s were also made to other presidential bets for them to withdraw and unite behind the Liberal Party candidate.
Moreno did not mince words when asked by reporters what really transpired between him and VP Robredo who was the one who called for “unity talks” among presidential timbers like Mayor Isko, Lacson and Pacquiao.
“Before the filing…may unity talks daw ang 1Sambayan. Inimbitahan din si Senator Ping, inimbitahan din ako. Ang gusto nila, unity. Pero towards pala one candidate, which is the Vice President. And I was told, ito literal. Hindi ito tungkol sa babae, hindi ito tungkol sa lalake. Tungkol ito sa pagkatao. This is about the character. It is about the character of a person. You were told in your face, let’s unite, let’s have one common candidate. She said to my face ‘I am not running.’ Bam Aquino was there, sa Forbes Park at Dasmarinas Village,” Moreno recalled.
The 47-year-old Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer said there was also a time during the Comelec presidential debates that he and Lacson wanted to hit back at Robredo in the debate proper because of her camp’s blatant raiding of their ranks for would-be defectors.
“Kami ni Senator Ping, gusto na namin mag-ano, kaya lang nahihiya kami kasi babae. Pero teka muna, eh sobra naman nang pambabastos sa amin. Binibili yung tao ni Senator Ping, binili mga tao namin. Hinihubaran nyo kami. Asan ba dun yung sabi nyong disente kayo? Parang kayo lang ang mapupunta sa langit,” Moreno pointed out.
“Kaya kami, tama po si Senate President Tito Sotto at Senator Ping na ang punto nito is simula ngayon, hanggang Mayo 9, tuloy ang laban namin. Yan ang pinaka-gist, tema ng meeting na ito. Pero dahil sa natanong mo na nga, I have to be true to you. And once and for all, to put an end to the doubts. They lied (about VP Robredo not running). And they continue to lie,” said Moreno.
Moreno maintained that their joint press conference was not due to their anger at Robredo nor at Marcos Jr. “Hindi ito dahil galit kami kay Marcos o galit kami kay Leni. We are competitors among ourselves. But, we try to compete in a very professional way nang hindi naman sinasaktan yung damdamin ng bawat isa.”
Moreno, Lacson, Gonzales and Pacquiao also vowed to defend the rights of the Filipino electorate to select their leader based on their personal choices. They also agreed that they will work with and support whoever is elected president among them in next month’s national elections. #