Moreno defends 'Withdraw Leni' call as Lacson distances self from it


MANILA, Philippines — The call for Vice President and fellow presidential candidate Leni Robredo to withdraw was fair play, Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer Isko Moreno said Monday as he re-asserted his claim — so far unsubstantiated — that the VP and her campaign team have been telling him to quit the race.

In a statement sent to reporters, Moreno claimed his call for Robredo to withdraw is just a "fair" way to give her "a dose of her own medicine" as he pushed the false claim that her camp has been persistently intensifying calls for other candidates to withdraw "in the belief that it will make her win against Ferdinand Marcos Jr."

This comes after Moreno and other male presidential candidates lagging behind in the surveys held a joint press conference to urge Robredo, the only female candidate standing at second place, to withdraw. 

“It’s just a fair call. What they had said before, they also heard from themselves. Nothing unusual,” Moreno told reporters in a chance interview after landing at the Surigao Airport for campaign sorties. 

There is no proof thus far that calls for other candidates to drop the race came from a directive issued by the campaign team. In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on April 11, Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez denied there were active efforts on the campaign team's part to unite the other presidential candidates.

READ: At joint presser, bets make pitch for 'new No.2' vs frontrunner Marcos

The 47-year-old presidential candidate said that his call is also an “honest” one. He claimed that the "persistent call" for withdrawal supposedly from Robredo herself "points to the brand of elitist politics that he wanted to stamp out if given the chance."

“It’s an honest call. When they were asking us since Day One, ‘withdraw Isko.’ Honestly, that is the cry of the ordinary Filipino. When people in power start bullying, it's okay. When the ordinary person does it, they're being rude or unreasonable,” said the 47-year-old presidential candidate.

“My question is: what is your right to ask us, as you are our competitor, to withdraw? What is your right? Because you are a high-ranking person, and these people are with other candidates, aren't political alliances that big? ” Moreno said.

Moreno went on to push another false claim: that calls for other candidates to withdraw in order to have a one-on-one showdown between Robredo and Marcos Jr. are an indication that politics in the Philippines since 1986 has been a conflict between two families and two colors.

This, despite the past six presidents coming from four different political parties. 

READ: Former Isko supporters take offense at Manila mayor's tirades

That same day, fellow presidential bet and Sen. Ping Lacson attempted to distance himself from Moreno's claims after the fact, claiming he did not know the Manila City Mayor would go that far. 

This, despite his attendance at the same joint press conference and his support of the overall narrative. He did not say anything to contradict Moreno on Sunday night. 

“In fairness to Mayor Isko, he made it clear that the ‘withdraw call’ was only his own,” Lacson said in a series Viber messages send to reporters.

“I don’t think I was blindsided, or at least it was intentional on the part of Mayor Isko. I think he was carried away by his recollection that VP Robredo earlier asked him to do the ‘supreme sacrifice’ and withdraw,” he added.

— Franco Luna with a report from Angelica Yang 




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