“For the Vice President, a decision not to run will take more courage than choosing to run.”
I have said this several times: If Vice President Leni Robredo decides to run for the presidency, I will support her unconditionally. This is because I know her record and I have personal knowledge of her style of governance as well as her virtues as a servant leader. I consider her my friend as I did her husband, former Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. I owe both of them my personal loyalty.
Having said this, I know VP Robredo is asking the right question in her discernment process: Will her candidacy lead to the outcome she wants to most avoid—the victory of Sara Duterte or of Bong Go with President Duterte as Vice-president?
As I have raised in another article, the VP’s numbers now are in fact near the ceiling of the electoral votes she can receive next May. Unlike in 2016, Robredo is now universally known and her ability to convert votes is limited. She would also not get the lift she got from the Aquino administration and Liberal Party that was the case in 2016 when she overtook both Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero in the last weeks of that campaign. I doubt if she will be able to raise her current standing more than a couple of points even with an intense, well-financed, and perfectly run campaign. This is particularly true if she did not get a significant bump from the death of former President Noynoy Aquino. I hope her political operatives have commissioned customized surveys to track this.
A decision by Robredo not to run will take more courage than choosing to run. This is so not because it is giving up an ambition, as the Vice President is motivated solely by public service. But she will be disappointing many of her core supporters who believe she is the only one worthy of supporting for 2022. From my own conversations with such supporters, they are not ready to support anyone else and that is something Robredo would have to consider as well.
One consideration is the effect of an unsuccessful campaign on an opposition senatorial slate. If polls are to believed, it will not be a walk in the park for good reelectionist senators like Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, and Leila De Lima and excellent potential candidates like Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, Sonny Trillanes (if he decides to abandon contesting for President and VP) and Samira Gutoc – all of whom I endorse wholeheartedly alongside former VP Jojo Binay who has proven himself as a staunch and reliable champion for human rights. They need strong candidates at the top of the ticket to be competitive.
Aside from Robredo, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno could be the candidate of a unified opposition. He certainly has a compelling personal story, being able to claim to have directly experienced inequality, poverty, hunger, the exploitation and contempt of the rich.
Moreno is a master campaigner and in particular knows social media, which most likely will be the most important and effective means of campaigning in the 2022 elections, very well. He has outsmarted and outtalked President Duterte in their recent encounters. This is a good sign.
He has also done excellently as Mayor of Manila, including in responding to the pandemic. I assume of course that he will recover from COVID-19 in the weeks to come.
Among the potential candidates, except for Senator Ping Lacson and former Senator Bonbong Marcos, Mayor Moreno has had the most experience in governance—more than Robredo, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Bong Go, and Mayor Sara Duterte. Because of this, he has a clear vision of where he wants to bring the Philippines as he had when he campaigned for mayor of Manila.
Moreno’s latest political move is joining Aksyon Demokratiko, a party founded by former Senator Raul Roco and whose most prominent member now is Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto. This is a clear sign of the kind of campaign he will be waging—principled, vision-centered, and issue-based. Take note that in joining AD, he left a more traditional political party the National Unity Party, which is identified with one of our richest businessmen.
There is talk that Moreno will be asking Senator Grace Poe to be his vice-presidential candidate. They would be a competitive tandem. Between the two of them, Moreno and Poe have 20-percent support, according to the latest surveys. I suspect that there is an overlap in the profiles of Moreno and Poe supporters and that they should be able to shift allegiances to either candidate easily. This is not the case if Moreno or Poe runs for vice president of Robredo. Their popular support will not automatically transfer to the latter and instead go to other populist candidates like Pacquiao or Sara Duterte.
This is not about my personal preference. This is about what is good for the country as Robredo correctly and wisely frames it. I hope all of us who want to bring this country to a better place can unify around a common platform and a winnable ticket. Let’s do this!
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