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Who thought this was a good idea?
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, all survey laggards, held a press conference on Sunday (April 17) at an expensive hotel to claim that a certain presidential candidate allegedly approached their respective camps to ask them to withdraw from the presidential race.
So, the three of them – who were also joined by vice-presidential candidates Senate President Vicente Sotto and Willie Ong – made a stance that they are not bowing down. This, they said, is them showing “unity.”
It could have ended there... until Moreno opened his mouth.
“I am calling for [Vice President] Leni [Robredo] to withdraw [because] whatever [she is] doing is not effective against [former senator Ferdinand] Marcos. Withdraw, come and join us,” he said.
But Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales must be delusional to think that any of them will win should Robredo withdraw. In the latest Pulse Asia survey, Moreno fared 8%, Lacson 2%, and Gonzales 0% – literally the size of an Easter egg. If we combine their ratings (and even if we add Senator Manny Pacquiao’s 6% in the equation), they still would not match Robredo’s 24%.
How did they arrive at the idea that any of them will win if Robredo backs out, especially after their recent display of bullying? Given yesterday’s brouhaha, I believe many of Robredo’s supporters will shift to other more significant candidates should the vice president quit; if you ask me, choosing to vote for Ka Leody de Guzman will make more sense.
It was also funny when Gonzales said that the Filipinos should look past Number 2 – referring to Robredo who currently ranks second in Pulse Asia’s survey – and consider them instead. Why are they proposing to have a new Number 2 when the goal should be to have a new Number 1?
If their real goal is to avoid a Marcos presidency, as Moreno said when he asked Robredo to withdraw, shouldn’t they be ganging up on Marcos and not on Robredo? It is like competing – your goal should be to beat the reigning champion and not the first runner up. Only a loser thinks that way. Focusing all your energy to beat the first runner up just does not make sense.
Unless, of course, their goal is to let Number 1 win by pulling Number 2 down with them. We can never know.
Moreno and Lacson must have been extremely hurt when IM Pilipinas and Partido Reporma left them for Robredo. Add to that that Robredo saw a surge while Moreno saw a decrease in their respective preference ratings (it is likely that the numbers that Moreno lost were among those that were added to Robredo’s, hence his unmistakable agitation towards Robredo). Their man egos must have been really bruised for them to resort to wonk-wonk bullying of the female candidate who is currently enjoying the momentum.
The conduct displayed by Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales revealed an unfortunately common behavior in the country’s heavily patriarchal society: men always expect women to make space for them.
Moreno and friends should be at the forefront of progress as aspiring national leaders. But alas, being at the expensive Manila Peninsula cannot even cover their disgusting sexism and misogyny.
With three weeks left before the elections, it seems very obvious that we are already following a two-way race between Marcos and Robredo. This is most probably why Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales are desperately fitting themselves in the show, hoping to still look relevant – all in the disguise of “unity.”
As the “sadbois” of Philippine politics (as described by netizens) were busy ganging up on the lone female presidential candidate in a press conference, Robredo was busy having lunch with the Sumilao farmers in Naga; the Sumilao farmers have been marching across the country to actively campaign for Robredo, who served as their lawyer back when they were fighting for their ancestral land that was being claimed by the giant San Miguel Corporation.
Also, on the same day, Robredo shifted her campaign symbol from a pink rose to a flower bearing the Philippine flag's colors: red, blue, and yellow – joined by the campaign colors of Robredo and her running mate Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan: pink and green.
If anything, the change in their overarching campaign message shows that the pink rose has already bloomed to that of a Philippine flower – more patriotic and more inclusive. Isn't that what unity is?
Robredo capped off the night with a Facebook post addressing her supporters. She said in Filipino, “20 campaign days left. Let us not let our emotions take over. Let us refrain from saying hurtful words. Let us focus on the campaign – person to person, heart to heart. We have a nation we need to fight for.”
I remained amazed by how graceful and calm Robredo responds to attacks – characteristics that only persons with a sense of dignity and nobility have. That Facebook post was such a huge slap to Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales; their expensive press conference turned out to be all for naught.
Instead of holding a presser, Moreno, Lacson, and Gonzales should have used that time and energy instead to focus on their respective campaigns and not on Robredo’s. But because of their recent theatrics, they have exposed that their male egos and toxic-masculine self-interests are hurt because a woman candidate is ahead by a wide margin in surveys. So, they resort to what a group of scared boys does in times of fear – stand up and portray themselves as bullies.
Sadbois and bullies. That is how you will be remembered.
Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who writes in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, gender, and the 2022 Philippine elections. The views expressed are his own.
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