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Makabayan seeks dialogue with Leni; 12th slot still open to Left

Filipinos ‘deserve only the best:’ De Lima, Pangilinan back Robredo’s 2022 bid

Vice President Leni Robredo formally announced her bid for presidency in the 2022 national elections before her staff and supporters in a brief ceremony held at the Quezon City Reception House on Thursday, Oct. 7. (Photo by OVP)

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan coalition wants to hold a dialogue first with Vice President Leni Robredo before endorsing a presidential candidate for next year’s elections.

Composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan party list groups, the coalition also denied in a statement on Sunday the claim of former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that its members had wanted 1Sambayan to throw its support behind Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, instead of Robredo.

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Trillanes said the coalition had tried to block 1Sambayan’s endorsement of Robredo for president.

“Makabayan has not endorsed any presidential bet at this time because it is still in the process of consulting the candidates on platforms and programs, while pushing for the broadest possible unity to defeat [President] Duterte and [former Sen. Ferdinand] “Bongbong” Marcos [Jr.],” the coalition said.

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While Makabayan had “common points” on current issues with Robredo, it pointed out that there were also long-term matters to consider.

The dialogue, it said, was “important” for a political coalition like Makabayan that represented the marginalized sectors of society.

“While the immediate task is to defeat Duterte and Marcos, we also need to discuss the reforms that [must] be put in place in the next six years, including land reform, national industrialization, labor contractualization, the peace process, and so on,” it added.

According to the coalition, it was open to talking with all other opposition groups that could unite to win against Mr. Duterte and Marcos, who was also seeking the presidency in 2022.

“On its own, Makabayan seeks a clear understanding and firm unity with other candidates on fundamental issues. This is why it has initiated talks with various candidates,” the coalition said, adding that it respected 1Sambayan’s decision to endorse Robredo and several senatorial candidates.

At the same time, it denied backing Domagoso or even another presidential candidate, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who had included former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares in his Senate slate as a guest candidate.

Colmenares was not in Robredo’s senatorial ticket composed of 11 candidates but she said the human rights lawyer was being considered to complete her lineup.

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Makabayan claimed that “we never got the chance to hear the objections to Neri’s inclusion nor were we given a chance to respond.”

“We can only speculate that there are objections coming from some of her supporters representing big business interests, militarists or even politicians who are at odds with Makabayan over various issues,” the coalition said.

Unifying candidate

Earlier, Colmenares’ supporters expressed their disappointment when he was left out of Robredo’s slate, with some accusing Trillanes of influencing her choices.

But one of her senatorial picks, Liberal Party stalwart and former Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., said that Robredo herself was the “one that sets the tone of the lineup.”

According to him, her slate “validates her position” as the unifying candidate after skeptics questioned the inclusion of certain politicians, contrary to her campaign to rid the government of the “old, rotten brand of politics.”

That Robredo was able to unify these candidates—some of them bitter political rivals like Trillanes and former Vice President Jejomar Binay, as well as Senators Leila de Lima and Richard Gordon—only showed that they were willing to “put behind the past” to defeat the administration in the 2022 elections, Baguilat said.

“There were certain nonnegotiables that were made clear to them that if you want to join Team Leni, you have to be against corruption,” he added.

Other issues were their stance on human rights, China’s intrusion in the West Philippine Sea and the pandemic response. “If you believe in some of those issues, then OK, you can join us,” Baguilat said.

Admittedly, however, the candidates “haven’t had a chance to talk together as a team yet,” he added, saying that he only found out about the other names on the ticket a day before the official announcement. Baguilat was one of the first six senatoriables picked by Robredo’s camp.

Still, having guest candidates only “shows her political savvy,” he said. “It’s difficult to negotiate your slate and at the same time strengthen [your] decision to unify,” he stressed.

Baguilat also said the 12th and final slot in the senatorial lineup was likely to go to someone from the Left: either Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula from the Social Democrat faction, or Colmenares of the National Democrat group.

Favorite target

Meanwhile, Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez, wondered why most of the presidential candidates seemed to be ganging up on the Vice President.

“Ever since VP Leni declared [her intention to run for president], people [were] like, ‘Oh, she’s a laggard in surveys, she’s not a strong bet,’” Gutierrez said on Robredo’s weekly radio show on dzXL. “But since then, almost all the other candidates have gone after her.”

Verbal attacks, horsetrading

He was referring to Domagoso’s verbal attacks against Robredo after the hashtag #WithdrawIsko trended on social media with the former saying those pushing for democracy were impinging on his right to run for president.

Fellow presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson also accused Robredo and Sen. Franklin Drilon of trying to convince his running mate, Sen. Vicente Sotto III, to be hers instead.

Gutierrez said that while the other candidates were focused on horsetrading, Robredo was continuing her COVID-19 response efforts as well as initiatives to help students cope with the distance learning setup.

“Her plans and priorities are clear,” he added, saying that “maybe that’s why many were amazed when they heard her speak (in last Thursday’s Rotary Club of Manila meeting), because they heard a candidate with a clear direction for what she wants to do.” INQ

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TAGS: dialogue, House of Representatives, Leni Robredo, Makabayan bloc
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