Commentary PHL Vote 2022

Yes, Yorme, it’s about character

Isko Moreno has gone mad and bad. He keeps on attacking Leni Robredo, but the vice president refuses to pick a fight with him. Isko, Francisco Domagoso in real life, is right. The issue is not about gender but the “character of a person.”

Domagoso, the standard-bearer of the decimated Aksyon Demokratiko party, is showing his character as the 90-day campaign for the May 9 presidential elections draws to a close. He describes Robredo as the “No. 1 bully,” but his tirades make him out to be the bully.

The outgoing mayor of Manila has reasons to get mad. In early April, key members of a volunteer group Ikaw Muna (IM) Pilipinas, led by former Transportation secretary Tim Orbos, left the Domagoso campaign team and joined the Robredo camp.

The group said the decision to shift support to the Robredo campaign was brought about by the trend showing that the fight for the presidency has narrowed down to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Robredo.

Orbos, the convenor of IM Pilipinas, said other candidates should consider withdrawing in favor of another who has the best chances of winning against Marcos Jr. IM Pilipinas was founded by individuals who opposed martial law in the 1970s and 1980s and fought for the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Domagoso initially shrugged off the defection and Orbos’ call for the withdrawal of the other candidates. But he grabbed the chance during the Easter Sunday press conference he had with fellow presidential aspirants Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Norberto Gonzalez to unleash his emotions.

He called on Robredo to “initiate the supreme sacrifice” and “withdraw” from the presidential race “if [she] love[s her] country,” saying that her fight “is just against Marcos.”

The result of the latest Pulse Asia survey on voter preference for president in the May 9 elections showed Marcos Jr. remains the front-runner at 56%. Robredo, who posted a 9-percentage-point improvement, is still far second at 24%. Domagoso is a distant third at 8%.

Domagoso’s publicist claims that the outgoing mayor of Manila has been gaining support from the Marcos camp following his call for Robredo’s withdrawal. However, reports indicate that he has been losing more supporters who are joining the Robredo campaign.

On April 18, a group of Islamic leaders, who earlier pledged to help Domagoso’s presidential campaign, came out and declared their support for Robredo.

Three days later, Domagoso lost two big groups — the Aksyon Demokratiko-Youth and the Isko Tayo Kabataan — that have shifted their support to the vice president’s bid for the presidency.

While Domagoso tries to downplay the defections as mere showing of the groups’ anger with Marcos Jr., a sentiment he says he does not share, he continues to attack Robredo, describing her as “No. 1 bully” and a “matapobre,” or an elitist.

Even long before the official campaign period started, Domagoso was already attacking Robredo. In October, he criticized the vice president’s decision to run as an independent and to adopt pink as her campaign color.

Huwag kayong malilinlang sa pagpapalitan ng kulay… Ang tanso, tubugin man ng ginto ay tanso pa rin… Fake leader with fake color is a fake character,” Domagoso said, referring to Robredo’s dropping of the color yellow, which is associated with the Liberal Party.

That time, the hashtag #withdrawIsko trended on social media following Robredo’s last-minute decision to file her certificate of candidacy for president after talks for just one opposition candidate to be fielded against Marcos failed.

Domagoso’s arrogance has gone to his head. While he is right that his fight with Robredo is beyond her being a woman, the issues he has been raising against the vice president could also be raised against him.

He has been harping on the vice president’s change of political color from yellow to pink to multi-color, but didn’t he jump from one political party to another every election in the past? He accused Robredo of lying, citing her assurances during the “unity” talks last year that she wouldn’t run for president. But didn’t Domagoso also state in January last year, when he sent relief goods to the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption, that he was not seeking the presidency?

From the start, Domagoso seemingly treated Robredo as his No. 1 rival, instead of Marcos Jr. He probably thought he was already close to the presidency if he got the endorsement of 1Sambayan, until Robredo gave in to calls for her to run for higher office. Domagoso could not forgive Robredo for the change of mind.

To him, the battle is really between him and Robredo, not Marcos Jr. His fight with Robredo shows his overbearing character and his being a bully. It just so happens that he’s starting a fight with a woman who refuses to be distracted by his tantrums.


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.