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Opinion

As Opposition stays split, supporters defect to Leni

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

As Opposition presidential wannabes refused to unite and avert looming defeat, more and more of their supporters are defecting to Leni Robredo. The shift aims to boost Leni’s chances against administration bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Leni consistently places second but rising in voter preference surveys, with Marcos Jr. as frontrunner but falling.

Yesterday morning, the NaIs Ko umbrella of Isko Moreno campaigners declared support for Leni. Lead convenor Tim Orbos, former transport undersecretary, claimed a volunteer strength of two million nationwide. NaIs Ko earlier urged the nine non-administration presidential candidates to combine and endorse one among them. Rebuffed, it now calls on volunteers to support Leni and convince their standard-bearers to do likewise.

Ikaw Muna (IM) Pilipinas secretary-general Elmer Argaño joined Orbos in a press conference. Disputing accusations of opportunism, he said if they were, then they would have joined “sure winner Marcos Jr. ... yet ours is still an uphill battle and we’re running out of time.” Ikaw Muna in 2021 persuaded Moreno to run for president and claims to number 800,000. Moreno places a far third in voter surveys.

At afternoon press time, founding members of Partido Federal Pilipinas were set to break from Marcos Jr. Asserting originality, the Muslim Mindanaoans said they never nominated the son of their martial law enemy, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Muslim Filipino Commissioner Abubakar Mangelen, PFP chairman, is petitioning the Comelec to disqualify Marcos Jr., because he was never hailed in a party convention.

Last week, Ikaw Muna-Visayas chapter initiated the shift to Leni as “our patriotic duty.” On video, leader Nick Malazarte said they have no rift with Moreno. “There is danger of the Marcoses getting back to power,” he warned. “That is why if we believe Moreno is the best, we have somebody better, Leni, because the alternative is the worst, Marcos Jr.” A faction of the dominant administration party PDP-Laban carries Marcos.

On Monday, Ikaw Muna-Zamboanga chapter also announced a switch to Leni. But it endorsed Marcos Jr.’s running mate Sara Duterte for VP, not Leni’s Kiko Pangilinan or Moreno’s Willie Ong. It claims 20,000 members.

Also on Monday, the start of Holy Week, paid bloggers launched black propaganda on Leni’s daughter in fake, manipulated porn videos. The Vice President’s lawyers are to sue the smear spreaders. Spokesman Barry Gutierrez said its purpose is “distraction from the momentum we continue to gain. It won’t yield votes for those spreading it. Ang malalim na goal nito ay manggigil tayo at magwala sa social media para hindi tayo maka-convert (ng boto). Our response should be to hold the line para sa pag-ibig. Be firm but kind sa pagtatama ng disinformation, kahit gaano ito ka-walanghiya.”

Orbos told Sapol-dwIZ last Saturday that NaIs Ko earlier had won over many field campaigners of Manny Pacquiao, fourth in surveys. Though bugged by funding woes, Pacquiao said he would continue slugging unless he receives a Divine sign to quit.

As lead convenor also of Ikaw Muna, Orbos mentioned members’ defection to Leni from the Zambales and Pampanga chapters. As well, from Aksyon Demokratiko that carries Moreno. (Party chairman Ernest Ramel earlier forecast that a Moreno slide-out of the race would benefit Marcos more than Leni.)

On March 24, Partido Reporma chairman Pantaleon Alvarez withdrew support from Ping Lacson, survey fifth ranker. While the former speaker and Davao del Norte local officials now roots for Leni, they still carry Lacson’s running mate Tito Sotto for VP. Having resigned as party president, Lacson reiterated yesterday he would “crawl to the finish line.”

Orbos texted Gotcha yesterday: “From a general call for unity, we now call for unity for Leni due to the following:

“Except for the camps of Leody de Guzman and VP Leni, all other candidates including our Moreno have rejected unification. (De Guzman has less than one percent of respondents among 67 million voters; four others have less than one-fiftieth percent.)

“VP Leni is consistently in second place for the past months and has been on a steady rise with the biggest increase (nine percent) in the latest (Pulse Asia) survey.

“Less than a month (till Election Day) drastic measures must be taken.

“For VP Leni to win, she needs help beyond her organic support, from volunteers of other ‘presidentiables’.”

Exhorting people “to push their candidates to pivot to VP Leni,” he said, “If their principals remain immovable, then all volunteers who believe in the cause should support VP Leni.”

Orbos said they harbor no ill-will against Moreno or how his campaign was run, and apologized for the hurt their departure might cause. He disavowed any hatred for Marcos Jr. but said on Sapol-dwIZ that he experienced the tenure of Marcos Sr. and fears its return. A one-time aspirant for Pangasinan congressman, Orbos is the younger brother of President Cory Aquino’s executive and transport secretary Oscar Orbos.

LENI ROBREDO

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