Philippines: Opposition Coalition Picks VP Robredo as Presidential Candidate

J.C. Gotinga and Aie Balagtas See
Manila
2021-09-30
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Philippines: Opposition Coalition Picks VP Robredo as Presidential Candidate Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo salutes during a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 121st anniversary of Philippine independence, at Rizal Park in Manila, June 12, 2019.
AP

A Philippine opposition coalition on Thursday nominated the country’s vice president, Leni Robredo, as their presidential candidate for next year’s general election, a race already packed with contenders from across the political spectrum.

In the Philippines, voters elect their president and vice president on separate tickets, which means that holders of the top two political offices could be from rival parties or partisan factions. Robredo, 56, who has openly criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs, is considered an opposition figure.

She topped an internal poll held among coalition members, who “overwhelmingly” favored her as their presidential candidate, retired Supreme Court judge Antonio Carpio, the coalition’s leader and former Philippine Supreme Court justice, said in a virtual forum announcing the nomination.

“Integrity, competence, track record, patriotism, and vision for country winnability – we have chosen V.P. Leni based on these criteria,” Carpio said, asking Robredo to accept the coalition’s endorsement “to lead the Filipino people in these difficult times in our history.”

“We believe that the nation cannot survive another six years of gross mismanagement of the government and the economy, plunder of public funds, violation of human rights, and destruction of our democratic institutions,” he said, referring to the Duterte administration.

Robredo, who belongs to the Liberal Party, has yet to accept the nomination.

Robredo, a lawyer who ran for public office after the 2012 death of her husband, an interior secretary, thanked the coalition for nominating her but said she needed more time to weigh her options.

“Much is asked of a president. Many responsibilities and obligations come with it – the lives and the future of Filipinos are at stake,” she said in a statement.

“In the coming days, please join me in prayer that our decision will be what is best for the country.”

The nomination potentially puts Robredo in a race against other popular contenders. These include boxing champion Manny Pacquiao; Sara Duterte, who is the president’s daughter and mayor of Davao City; Francisco Domagoso, a former actor who is the mayor of Manila; Panfilo Lacson, a veteran senator and a former police chief; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is the son of the late dictator by the same name.

Sara Duterte currently leads opinion polls among prospective contenders of the May 2022 presidential election, but has not officially announced that she is running.

The official filing for the candidacies will start on Friday and last until Oct. 8.

Soft-spoken

The opposition coalition, which is called 1Sambayan (meaning “One Nation”), said Thursday that it nominated Robredo based on her positions on critical issues such as human rights, national security, foreign relations, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carpio acknowledged a “very remote possibility” of Robredo declining the nomination, in which case the coalition would reconvene to select a replacement, he said.

Robredo had long been seen as an obvious choice for the opposition, being the highest-ranking elected official of her party, which has sought to countervail the populism of Rodrigo Duterte.

In several earlier media interviews, she has emphasized that putting an end to Duterte’s governance should be the opposition’s primary goal. She had “always been ready” to become president, as it came with the job of serving as vice president, she had said in the past.

Calm and soft-spoken, Robredo is seen as an outlier in the Duterte administration.

Lately, she has been vocal about the government’s missteps in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, including allegations of corruption amid high daily infection rates.

Robredo’s office has mounted pandemic programs independently of the administration, for which she has earned praise from other government officials, watchdogs, and civic groups.

Marielle Lucenio contributed to this report from Manila.

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