Pacquiao, Robredo kick off call for presidential bets to work together for 'Odette' relief

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Pacquiao, Robredo kick off call for presidential bets to work together for 'Odette' relief
In this photo taken early Dec. 16, 2021, residents sleep inside a sports complex turned into an evacuation center in Dapa town, Siargao island, Surigao del Norte province in southern island of Mindanao, ahead of Typhoon Rai's landfall in the province.
AFP / Roel Catoto

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:14 p.m.) — Leading presidential candidates in the 2022 elections are being urged to unite and pool resources together in the face of the devastation brought by Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In a post on Facebook on Thursday evening, Sen. Manny Pacquiao called on his fellow aspirants for Malacañang to come together and set aside politics to help people in the path of the typhoon.

"Magsama-sama tayo upang tulungan ang ating mga kababayan na nasalanta ng bagyo. Now is the time to come together as one. Tulungan natin sila," Pacquiao said, mentioning Vice President Leni Robredo, former Sen. Bongbong Marcos, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, Sen. Ping Lacson and labor leader Leody de Guzman.

(Let us join forces to help our countrymen who have been devastated by the typhoon. Now is the time to come together as one. Let us help them.)

As of writing, only Robredo has responded to Pacquiao’s appeal for unity, saying on Twitter that she joins his call.

Pacquiao thanked Robredo and told her to coordinate their efforts as he had arranged for cargo planes to be mobilized. The vice president told Pacquiao that her team will get in touch with his staff.

Lacson, however, said in a text message shared to reporters that he would have responded to Pacquiao's call if it were relayed to him privately.

"Since it was done through media — it goes against my principled belief that ‘calamity politics’ is the lowest form of campaigning. In fact I consider it abominable," he said.

Presidential bets mobilize

Lacson added that his office, friends and supporters have assisted victims "without fanfare and without any media coverage."

In a related development, Robredo said she has converted her volunteers’ headquarters in Quezon City to receive relief goods including blankets, hygiene items, bottled water, face masks, rubbing alcohol, rice and ready to eat food beginning Friday.

Pacquiao has started a fundraiser through his foundation for the victims of Typhoon Odette.

Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said that they have tapped their volunteer network to prepare and distribute rice, canned goods, milk and instant coffee to typhoon victims.

The tandem said they have prepared 6,000 relief packs for Samar, 6,000 more for Leyte, 2,000 for Tacloban and 6,000 for Masbate.

Moreno has called for a special session of the Manila City Council for a resolution to authorize funding for relief operations in the Visayas and Mindanao.

De Guzman, meanwhile, appealed to the public to help those in Odette’s path, but also urged fellow presidential candidates to pursue more long-term solutions to climate change.

“Para hindi na maulit, tumindig ang mga kandidato na ipasara ang mga coal plant, ipasara ang mga pagmimina na ginagawa ng mga korporasyon,” he said.

(So that it will not happen again, candidates must take a stand and shut down coal plants and close down corporate mining.)

Unity talks

Even prior to announcing his candidacy for president, Pacquiao has long appealed to his party mates in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan to set aside politics while the country still grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this appeal seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, as the PDP-Laban split into two factions — one led by Pacquiao and the other led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi — with the latter pushing President Rodrigo Duterte to run for vice president.

Duterte eventually accepted PDP-Laban’s nomination for him to run for vice president, but pulled a surprise when he announced during the filing of candidacies that he would retire from politics.

The president then filed his candidacy as a substitute for a senatorial candidate under minor allied party Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan, before ultimately withdrawing from the Senate race.

Appeals for unity among presidential candidates are also not new, as Robredo pursued this track before she announced that she will join the 2022 race to Malacañang so non-administration candidates can have a fighting chance to defeat Duterte's anointed bets.

But this too failed as she did not see eye to eye on key issues with the presidential candidates she spoke to, including Lacson, Moreno and Pacquiao.

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