A torrent of social media backlash hit the three presidential candidates who held a press conference on Easter Sunday to denounce alleged moves from the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo to get them to bow out of the race and subvert the people’s will ahead of the May 9 elections.
In response, the camps of Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday blamed the media for posing questions that made it appear the presscon at the Manila Peninsula Hotel was an expressly anti-Robredo event.
Ashley Acedillo, Lacson’s spokesperson, said on ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart: “The discussion took that turn because of the questions of the media. There would have been a lot more substantive issues that could have been discussed.”
Ernest Ramel, chair of Moreno’s Aksyon Demokratiko party, shared the same view.
“That’s why it went to that conversation that seemed anti-Leni Robredo. This was the media who put those questions in and eventually of course, the sentiments of the candidates came out about her,” he said.
“It was that way because the questions by the media, they kept on pounding on the issue of Vice President Leni Robredo, that’s why the gentlemen obliged them by answering what they really felt,” Ramel added.
He stressed that some media are framing the presidential election as a two-way race between Marcos Jr. and Robredo.
“What they are doing, I’m sorry, some of the media people are framing it as a two-way race. It’s very unfair,” Ramel said.
But the Vice President herself remained unfazed by the clamor of her rivals, specifically Domagoso, to withdraw her candidacy, and reminded her supporters that only 20 days remained in the campaign before Filipinos go to the polls to elect their next leaders.
Robredo still trailed former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in most presidential surveys, although her campaign made up ground over the last two months on the strength of massive campaign rallies across the country and fervent supporters on social media, who have also gone house-to-house to try and change Pinoy voters’ minds and elect her.
Asked about his “Withdraw Leni” statement, Domagoso told reporters: “Kapag malaking tao ang nangbu-bully, okay lang. Kapag ang ordinaryong tao nangatwiran, bastos o masama na (When an influential person bullies others, it’s okay. When an ordinary person explains his point, he is either rude or evil.)”
“Parang there is social injustice. Parang ang may karapatan lang na magsalita ay yung malalaking tao o matataas na katungkulan (It seems that there is social injustice. It seems that only people in higher position are the only ones who have the right to speak),” he said.
Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday clarified they are not calling on anyone to withdraw, and Lacson called for respect as the elections near, particularly for voters.
“With the campaign period for the May 9 elections nearing the homestretch, it is not too late for candidates to show respect: Respect for one another, respect for the election process, and most importantly, respect for our voters,” he said.
The three-term senator also maintained he only attended the press conference to offer himself as an alternative.
Lacson, Domagoso, and Gonzales said Sunday they will not back out of the presidential race despite calls and feelers supposedly from Robredo or her emissaries.
Domagoso said the “elitist” behavior of Robredo’s camp is driving away supporters.
“They paid the price already in 2019,” the Manila mayor said, referring to Otso Diretso, the senatorial slate which Robredo endorsed during the midterm elections that year and which Samira Gutoc, one of Aksyon’s senatorial candidates this year, was a part of.
“Zinero sila kasi masyado talagang elitist (None of them were able to make it because they are too elitist),” Domagoso added.
Lacson’s own supporters on social media said people and media members should not have framed the gathering as an attack against
Robredo, decrying allegations of “toxic masculinity” or “misogynism” leveled against the former national police chief and his fellow male presidential candidates.
This was despite sharing their common experiences of being asked to withdraw their candidacies that would deprive other people of alternatives to either Marcos or Robredo, they added.
“The press con isn’t a misogynist act—rather just a joint statement of these candidates for the VP’s ‘alleged’ call for withdrawal… What’s important before making any judgement is not to be blinded by your support to a particular candidate,” said a political science student named Michael (@bokimfr) in his threaded tweets.
Some netizens also expressed they have grown tired of Robredo’s camp and her supporters always using the “gender card” to deflect criticisms hurled against their preferred candidate instead of providing better arguments in their own defense.
“Keep throwing off-tangent accusations like ‘toxic masculinity’ against people who raised valid (issues) against you and keep wondering why you’re widely despised. Lather, rinse, repeat,” Roman Surtida (@rsurtida) wrote in his tweet.
Domagoso’s name trended on various “socmed” platforms on Easter Sunday after he urged Robredo to drop her presidential bid.
Robredo’s supporters had first used the hashtag #WithdrawIsko in October 2021, the Manila mayor said. The hashtag grew traction online on the day Robredo announced she would also run for president after unification talks with Domagoso, Lacson and other potential opposition candidates failed.
Hours after Robredo’s announcement of her candidacy, Domagoso slammed her in a press conference in Manila, where he called her a “fake leader with a fake color.”
The Manila Peninsula presscon was still a trending topic on Twitter on Monday, generating mixed to negative reactions mostly coming from
“rabid” Robredo fanatics who refused to acknowledge the seriousness of her fellow candidates’ claims.
Lacson repeatedly stated during the presser that his objective was not to destroy Robredo or ask her to withdraw, but just for her and her camp to level the playing field.
“Respect for our voters can best be shown by offering them as many choices as possible—which is why my running mate Senate President
Sotto and I have made it a point not to ask other candidates to withdraw even as we maintain our stand against negative and baseless personal attacks,” the senator said.
“Having said that, there is a whale of a difference between not making personal and baseless attacks and calling out preemptive maneuvers by some camps to have other bets withdraw,” Lacson added.
Sotto echoed the sentiment in a separate statement.
“It is not automatic that we share the views or statements of other candidates on matters outside the joint statement, much less agree to be bound by such views,” he said.
He also clarified that while he and Lacson signed a joint statement with Moreno and Gonzales on Sunday, their purpose was to “uphold the sovereignty of the Filipino voters.”
“To add more clarity, our message is that you should not believe disinformation that either one of us is withdrawing—first and foremost—that is really our message. That’s the core message this morning.”
“Because we’re emphasizing this morning: Nobody will withdraw. We’ll go all the way until May 9, come what may. So, let us not buy into the propaganda, no matter how foul and below the belt. Do not believe that one of us is going to withdraw because we’re going all the way up to Election Day,” Lacson said.