Owing to the brewing shift of political alliances, even vice presidential candidates are unsure of their standing with their presidential running mates with barely six weeks to go before the May 9 general elections.
Some have called on the public to maintain their pairings from the outset of the campaign to the ballot box, like Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan did Thursday, while others asked Pinoys to consider alternate couplings entirely, as VP candidate Rizalito David and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda did this past week.
The aim of this mix-and-matching, pundits believe, is to disrupt the survey-leading tandem of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor “Inday” Sara Duterte—or at least present Filipinos with alternatives in case they don’t wish to see one or both members of the UniTeam get to lead the country in the next six years.
That’s why Pangilinan yesterday called on voters in Tarlac to put him and running mate Vice President Leni Robredo together on the ballot, saying it would be difficult if the future second-in-command came from a different party as the President.
“Baka iba ang planuhin sa ating President Leni [They might plan on something different for our President Leni],” the senator said, mentioning Robredo’s own experience under President Rodrigo Duterte over the last five-plus years.
However, local politicians like Salceda have openly announced their support of a “ROSA” (Robredo-Sara Duterte) tandem instead of the existing “TRoPa” (Team Robredo-Pangilinan) duo, as they believe the President’s daughter would not seek to immediately succeed her father, who steps down on June 30.
“It is not (Sara’s) nature. She could have been the front runner if she decided to run for President, but she did not,” Salceda said as he, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, and Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar launched the ROSA Movement last Monday.
Meanwhile, David, the running mate of presidential bet Jose Montemayor, said in a statement Tuesday that he was willing to set aside his own campaign and form a “grand coalition” with other candidates for vice president just to beat Sara Duterte—then suggested a tandem of Robredo with Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.
“If the coalition picks Leni and Sen. Sotto for VP, we [Montemayor and David] will just push for this tandem for the remainder of the campaign,” David said.
Sotto, however, has said he will stand firmly with Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, whom he had convinced to postpone retirement for a second crack at the presidency—which suffered a serious blow when the party backing him, Partido Reporma, decided on Wednesday to support Robredo instead.
Robredo, through her spokesman Barry Gutierrez, said while she is thankful to groups endorsing her presidential bid with Duterte—a pairing described by Salceda as “women of steel” – the Vice President reiterated she is standing by Pangilinan, her fellow Liberal Party stalwart.
The current VP received the tacit support of Partido Reporma yesterday through party president Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez in a press conference, but observers have described it as a belated move to solidify the opposition against the Marcos-Duterte duo with barely 50 days left before Election Day.
Last year, Robredo had been in talks with Lacson to form a “unified” opposition against candidates seemingly backed by President Duterte or his administration, but sources said negotiations broke off after they could not agree on who between them would slide down and campaign for the country’s No. 2 elective position.
This left Lacson taking Sotto’s dare to run again for President after his failed 2004 bid as they became the first pair to declare their candidacy last September. Even then, the “macho bloc” senators could not gain the full support of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which Sotto chairs, as some members had already openly endorsed Marcos or Sara Duterte.
Robredo later chose Pangilinan and picked the color pink to symbolize their campaign—and move away from the stigma of the “yellows” associated with the Aquino-linked opposition Liberals, which the Duterte campaign had effectively demonized in the 2016 national elections.