Robredo gains converts, Marcos is Cebu party’s pick | Inquirer News

Robredo gains converts, Marcos is Cebu party’s pick

Cebu youth groups supporting Leni

FILE PHOTO. Over 10,000 cheering Cebuanos showed their support for presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo, running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, and their senatorial slate at the Southwestern University, Cebu City, Cebu on Thursday, February 24. (VP Leni Media Bureau)

Major breakups and alliances marked the political landscape on Tuesday, less than a month before the presidential election.

Ikaw Muna (IM) Pilipinas, one of the earliest groups to push for Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso’s run for No. 1, declared its switch in allegiance to Vice President Leni Robredo.


Led by former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority General Manager Tim Orbos, the former overall coordinator of the volunteer groups backing Domagoso, some key leaders of the group hosted a press conference to announce its rebrand as “IM Leni,” as shown on tarps in the background.


But in another press conference, IM  Pilipinas secretary general Philip Piccio insisted that the organization remained “solid and firm” in pushing for Domagoso’s victory on May 9.

In Cebu, the biggest political party in the province formally endorsed the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., suggesting disunity in the powerful Garcia family.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who heads One Cebu, issued a statement announcing the party’s positioning. At the same time, her brother, Cebu Rep. (3rd district) Pablo John Garcia, said he was stepping down as party secretary general to continue campaigning for Domagoso.

Marcos Jr.’s camp is “humbled” by One Cebu’s endorsement, according to his spokesperson Victor Rodriguez.

On the campaign trail in San Fernando, La Union, the Vice President told reporters that every endorsement was “very crucial.”

“As we approach the elections, every addition to us is always welcome. We’re grateful, and I hope to meet them … so I can thank them personally,” she said of her new supporters.


But Domagoso couldn’t be bothered by the desertions. “I tell you, they weren’t in my life before,” the Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer told reporters in San Pedro, Laguna.

Orbos said the failed planned unification of certain presidential candidates was among the factors he and some key leaders of the then “NaISKO Coalition” had considered in deciding to switch allegiance.

“We asked for a call to unite all the candidates to give them the chance to unify against the [survey] front-runner,” he said in reference to Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator.

But the statement of Domagoso’s campaign manager Lito Banayo rejecting any talk of unification, along with the remarks of the other presidential candidates, was decisive, Orbos said.

He recalled saying back then: “If that’s the case, that there won’t be unity at all, maybe we should just stop this. Just give it to that candidate and just help hand in hand for the Philippines.”

Still, Orbos said he respected the stance of Banayo and of the camps of the other candidates.

“[Marcos Jr.] is getting stronger, leading us to fight among ourselves, but something crossed our minds and hearts that whatever it may be, whatever he represents, there was a past that [showed us] how the Marcoses rose to power,” Orbos said.

He said that while the sins of the father “cannot be connected” to the son, Filipinos had already tried and were aware of the “symbol” of the Marcoses.

“We need to do something, and we will do everything in every way we can think of,” Orbos said. “We now shift our call for unity with Vice President Leni Robredo.”

800,000 volunteers

NaISKO Coalition claims nationwide membership of some 800,000 volunteers backing Domagoso, who is trailing Marcos Jr. and Robredo in the surveys.

Orbos said he and his IM Leni colleagues were not forcing the volunteers to also switch allegiance, but had sounded the call to “fight this war” with them.

There is no official stand yet on who they would back for the vice presidency, but Orbos said he personally would go for Robredo’s running mate, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

IM Pilipinas’ Visayas and Zamboanga chapters had earlier declared support for Robredo.

Orbos said the switch was made not only by IM Pilipinas, but also by, among others, Warays for Isko represented by Ed Cojuangco, who had quit Aksyon Demokratiko; Isang Pilipinas secretary general Elmer Argaño; George Habacon of Rizal for Isko; Rey Sarmiento of IM Nueva Ecija; and the group’s Central Luzon regional head.

He said opposition group 1Sambayan convener and former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo was also with them.


“While I have the consensus of the national conveners [in] this direction … I am hopeful that the rest of the IM organization will join us in the growing battle of the Filipino people, led by VP Leni, against Marcos Jr.,” Argaño said at the same press conference.

“Indeed, winter is coming,” he said, referencing “Game of Thrones,” the popular TV series. “The modern Night King is now haunting and is about to zombify every Filipino, unless a formidable alliance of Filipinos themselves is quickly organized, under the leadership of a staunch enemy of darkness.”

He said the shift to Robredo was “no longer a question of loyalty” to any particular candidate, but about “moving forward and not diving deeply again into our darkest past.”

“And only VP Leni has the strength, fortitude and a record in fighting lies,” Argaño said.

Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez welcomed the coalition’s switch.

‘In the name of hope’

“[As] VP Leni said, our strength comes from us in the name of hope,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “And we believe that this coming together in shared hope, regardless of the colors we choose to wear, is what will bring victory, not just for a particular candidate on Election Day, but for the Filipino people over the next six years.”
In its own statement, 1Sambayan said: “The unequivocal statement of support is a clear sign that the whole country is now being overwhelmed by the Pink Wave, and there is no stopping it.”

But for Domagoso, the defection of certain leaders of IM Pilipinas and some of its local chapters was no skin off his back.

“Life must go on. The ordinary Filipino family never gives up every day, despite traffic, joblessness, the need to pay rent, water, electricity and food,” the mayor said.

“I’m always happy. I’m always grateful to the Lord. Thanks to Jesus, thanks to Mama Mary, for the opportunities to improve my station in life. This is not new to me. As in literally nothing,” he said, adding:

“But I wish them good luck. I hope the other group will trust them.”

Domagoso said he would continue offering himself to Filipinos as alternative to the “two warring colors, the reds and the yellows,” referring to the camps of Marcos Jr. and Robredo.

“If you want to move forward, let’s heal the country, let’s have peace of mind, let’s focus on the real problems, not the problems of the two warring colors. Do you want peace of mind? Vote for me as your president. I will give you peace of mind. No quarrels, no vengeance,” he said.


Domagoso said no one had informed him about the defection.

“This is a democracy. They can do whatever they want to do. They’re entitled to their opinion. They said they have so much anger toward Marcos. But I have no anger toward Marcos,” he said.

Piccio said the group that had endorsed Robredo was only a breakaway faction that did not represent IM Pilipinas’ national leadership.

“We are maintaining what we have started ever since the day Yorme Isko decided to file his candidacy for president … We are still going strong as our members continue to grow in all regions of the country,” Piccio said.

“We will continue with our programs beyond the May 2022 national polls because the people continue to need our help to survive every day … We will finish the race alongside Yorme Isko Moreno,” he said.

IM Pilipinas Central Luzon regional head and Pampanga Board Member Jun Canlas said the true IM Pilipinas group was still gaining support from various sectors nationwide.

Alain James Buque of IM Pilipinas’ Mindanao chapter said the group was steadfast in backing a presidential candidate with “the right skill set, global competence and, most of all, solid faith in the Lord.”

Extensive consultations

“All of these are characteristics of Isko Moreno, which is why our members in Mindanao keep growing,” he said.

In Cebu, Governor Garcia initially wanted to stay neutral. On Tuesday, she finally disclosed One Cebu’s choice after “weeks of extensive consultations and discussions with provincial, municipal and barangay leaders in the 44 municipalities and seven cities of the province.”

“We considered differing opinions of party leaders advocating for the causes of different presidential candidates, and have determined that the unity and strength of One Cebu, its ability to serve its constituents in the province of Cebu, and ultimately the interests of Cebuanos are best served if we unite behind the leadership of BBM as president and, as we have earlier announced, [Davao City] Mayor Sara Duterte as vice president,” she said.

Shortly after his sister’s statement was issued, Congressman Garcia, One Cebu cofounder, released his own. He said he was stepping down as party secretary general “to avoid any conflict of interest.”

“From the start, I have been clear and consistent about my support for Mayor Isko Moreno’s candidacy for president, believing that he is, among the many choices, the most capable and best prepared to lead the country out of this many-pronged crisis that it now faces, and into the future,” the lawmaker said.

“I am not known to abandon a comrade-in-arms midbattle. And I am not about to do so now, in the few years left of my political life,” he said.

But he said he would continue to work for the victory of One Cebu’s local candidates.

Congressman Garcia has been vocal in his position against the Marcoses.

In an online post on the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution anniversary 0n Feb. 25, he wrote that the real enemy was “if we forget the darkness that the country went through during martial law and the dictatorship.

He also highlighted in an online post that his father, the late Cebu Gov. Pabling Garcia, was one of the lawyers of the anti-Marcos movement in Cebu.

No quarrel

But Governor Garcia told the Inquirer in Cebu City that there was no quarrel within the family.

She said it was her brother who drafted the One Cebu statement endorsing Marcos Jr. “In fact, PJ and I were together yesterday,” referring to him by his nickname. “We also talked this morning (Tuesday). There is no conflict in our family. I respect his decision to not support Bongbong.”



Isko Moreno says IM Pilipinas switch to Robredo ‘separates men from boys’

Robredo completes show of force vs rivals in Pampanga

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