OPPOSITION presidential bet Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo at the weekend said the campaign rally for her in an avenue near the Philippine capital region’s major thoroughfare is a people’s crusade that should enjoin more citizens to fight for a transparent government, which is her main battlecry.
“It is so clear to me right now: Hope is at the heart of our people’s campaign,” she said in Filipino before a crowd of at least 130,000 gathered along Emerald Avenue in Pasig City.
The presidential candidate said the hope cultivated in her people’s campaign is brought about by volunteers who managed to overcome repression by authorities during the campaign season.
Election campaigns in the Philippines are traditionally mobilized through political machineries with support from local government officials.
“The hope is brought about not by the candidate standing here, but the hope of fellow Filipinos who walked with you when roads were blocked, who painted murals that had been erased, who repacked goods with you for victims of calamities,” she said.
Ms. Robredo vowed that should she be elected president, she would ensure that jobs would be available, healthcare would be accessible, transportation would be reliable, and housing and infrastructure would serve families. Most of all, the female candidate promised to install a people-led government, which veers away from the influence of political families.
Emerald Avenue is located near an EDSA monument built to commemorate the Filipino people’s uprising against the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose son and only namesake is leading in pre-election surveys.
Ms. Robredo defeated Mr. Marcos in the 2016 vice-presidential election by just over 260,000 votes. There were more than 54.36 million registered voters that year with an 81.95% turnout.
During Sunday’s program, the vice president admitted that even if hundreds of thousands of supporters gathered for her campaign rally, “there’s still so much of those not here with us today.”
“I just want to tell them that you are all welcome here,” she said, as she exhorted everyone to go outdoors and share her campaign message.
“Fifty days to go. Fifty days, Pasig and NCR (National Capital Region). Can we still double our efforts?” she asked her supporters. “We started from almost nothing and we are here now. We still have 50 days to campaign.”
Ms. Robredo’s main rival, Mr. Marcos, has refused to participate in main presidential debates.
Ms. Robredo and other rivals, including Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso, labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman, and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said during a debate last Saturday organized by the Philippine poll body that the government should go after the Marcos family’s unpaid estate tax, which could be used to fund social services amid surging global fuel prices.
A day after, Mr. Marcos urged the Filipino electorate to respect voters’ freedom to choose their next set of leaders, saying there is no “reason for us to fight with one another over whom to support in the upcoming elections.”
The debate skipper, whose candidacy has been opposed by a number of civic groups due to his failure to file income tax returns, said his response to “hateful speeches” has always been to maintain a “dignified silence.”
The late dictator’s heirs owe the government billions of pesos in estate and income taxes, the agency tasked to recover the family’s ill-gotten wealth said last week.
The P23-billion estate tax had ballooned to P203.8 billion due to interests and penalties after the Marcos family refused to pay it, according to Mr. Domagoso’s political party, citing computations by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio in a Sept. 30, 2021 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza