(Updated April 18, 6:28 p.m.) Only three of the four presidential candidates—all trailing in election surveys—showed up at the joint press conference on Easter Sunday meant to announce their unwillingness to withdraw from the race.
Advisories were sent out to the press over the weekend and called for coverage of the event supposed to be attended by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and “three other” candidates.
Sitting next to Domagoso on the panel at the conference were presidential hopefuls former defense chief Norberto Gonzales and Sen. Ping Lacson as well as vice presidential bets Dr. Willie Ong and Senate President Tito Sotto.
Also expected to be in attendance was Sen. Manny Pacquiao, but he did not make it to Manila Peninsula Hotel.
His signature was also visibly missing in the joint statement released to the news media.
Tingnan: Kopya ng joint press statement nila Senator Lacson, Pacquiao, Mayor Isko at dating Sec Gonzales. pic.twitter.com/1iED5mOYxD
— robert mano (@robertmanodzmm) April 17, 2022
Why the ‘joint’ presser?
At the event, Gonzales pitched for a “new number 2” in the race, referring to Vice President Leni Robredo, whose recent leap in the surveys behind Bongbong Marcos Jr. has been seen as proof that the election for the top post is proving to be a “two-way race.”
Domagoso, however, openly called for Robredo’s withdrawal from the elections altogether. He argued that Robredo, who earned the preference of 24% of respondents in the latest Pulse Asia survey, may not be the candidate to beat Marcos.
“If you are not a good player to win, then you pay the supreme sacrifice, you withdraw,” Domagoso said. “The same challenge they’re giving us… now we’re calling [on her]. Be a hero. Withdraw, Leni.”
Domagoso, who figured far third in the survey with 8%, claimed that Robredo “fooled” him when she said “1,000 times” she would not run for president.” Lacson also accused her of being untrustworthy for the same reason.
Robredo, however, had explained that her failed attempts to agree with possible presidential bets in unification negotiations drove her to run for president herself.
A missing Manny
Twitter users supportive of Robredo lauded Pacquiao and Leody de Guzman, another presidential candidate, for their non-participation in what they deemed a “demolition job” against their lone female rival.
Much respect for Manny Pacquiao, Leody de Guzman, and other candidates who refused to participate in an activity that belittles Leni Robredo, benefits Bongbong Marcos, and boosts nothing but politicians' fragile egos.
— Gideon Lasco (@gideonlasco) April 17, 2022
Domagoso, however, claimed that Pacquiao had intended to sign the statement, only that the boxer-senator was running late and on his way from General Santos City to Manila.
Senate President Sotto, Lacson’s running-mate, also said of Pacquiao:
“He is one with the group, definitely. Nakikiisa siya sa layunin nitong usapan. At he just had to fly to GenSan for an emergency last night. So, he was taking off while kausap namin siya on the phone at hahabol siya rito as mentioned by Senator Lacson; na kung hindi man ‘yung video niya ay magkakaroon tayo ng kopya.”
But Pacquiao did not really mean to participate in the joint presser, his running-mate Lito Atienza claimed on Monday, April 18.
“Manny Pacquiao never intended to attend a meeting like that which is bordering on irresponsibility. Alam niyo ang totoo niyan, ‘yang meeting na ‘yan naisip para magkaisa lahat para mapigil ang rumaragasang Marcos victory,” Atienza said over One News Now.
“Bakit napunta kay Leni? Bakit napunta roon sa mga participants? Hindi malaman ni Manny. Kaya sabi niya ‘buti na lang hindi ako um-attend parang may nagbulong sa akin na huwag kang um-attend diyan. Puro kalokohan lang ang mangyayari dyan,” the vice presidential candidate added, quoting Pacquiao.
De Guzman, who was not invited to the press conference, resorted to posting tweets obliquely referring to the Manila Peninsula event to signify that he, too, will not be withdrawing from the elections.
Masarap ang halohalo dito sa South Cotabato pero di singmahal nung halohalo sa Manila Pen. Ano bang kaguluhan dun ngayon? pic.twitter.com/xxhZlAomlg
— Ka Leody de Guzman (@LeodyManggagawa) April 17, 2022