NAGA, Camarines Sur – It was the Otso Diretso’s proclamation rally here Wednesday evening, but the spotlight was on Vice President Leni Robredo and her late husband former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo as the opposition slate alluded to the couple’s track record to woo voters in their stronghold.
The Otso Diretso’s kick off rally here was held at Plaza Roxas, a “historical place” where Secretary Robredo decided to run for public office in 1987, said Otso Diretso bet Mar Roxas, a Liberal Party stalwart close to the Robredo family.
“Matagal na tayo magkakilala. Hindi na ako magsasalita tungkol sa sarili ko. Magsasalita ako tungkol sa lugar na ito kung saan dumadaloy ang kadakilaan ng Pilipino,” Roxas said in the same speech where he touted Robredo’s good governance programs.
(We’ve long known each other. I will no longer talk about myself. I will talk about this place where the glory of the Filipino flows.)
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal reminded Bicolano voters that he was the legal counsel in the electoral protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Robredo.
“Kaya siya sinasabihang madaya dahil ‘yung isa hindi marunong tumanggap ng pagkatalo,” Macalintal said.
(She was accused of being a cheat because the other one does not know how to accept defeat.)
“Hinamon ko sila Marcos at mga abogado niya. Sabi ko magpakita ka ng isang balota lang na ang boto mo ay binoto para kay Robredo. ‘Pag ikaw nakapagpatunay kahit isa lang, ako ay magsu-surrender ng license bilang lawyer,” he said.
(I challenged Marcos and his lawyers. I said show a ballot where your vote went to Robredo. If you prove even just one, I will surrender my license as a lawyer.)
“’Wag niyo na masyadong alalahanin iyon [kaso]. Ang alalahanin niyo na lang paano niyo ako iboboto,” he said in jest.
(Don’t worry about it too much. Just focus on how to vote for me.)
Senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno took a swipe at Robredo’s political rival to emphasize his push for justice.
“Ang katarungan sa atin nawawala na. Makatarungan ba ang sinasabi ni Bongbong Marcos na siya ang bise? Makatarungan ba na ipinakulong nila si Sen. (Leila) De Lima ng walang ebidensiya?” he said.
(Justice is disappearing in our midst. Is it just that Bongbong Marcos claims he is the vice president? Is it just the Sen. De Lima was jailed without evidence?)
De Lima is also a Bicolano who was born and raised in nearby Iriga City.
Other Otso Diretso bets banked on their affiliation with other Bicolano allies and politicians.
Gary Alejano mentioned that Albay-born Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is his Magdalo peer. Pilo Hilbay said he was part of the Aksyon Demokratiko, a party formed by late Bicolano lawmaker Raul Rocco.
Robredo assured voters that each Otso Diretso candidate had her nod, emphasizing that Roxas was a close friend of Jesse, while Bam Aquino was her campaign manager in 2016.
The Robredos were a power couple in this city in the heart of Bicol.
Before his appointment to the Aquino Cabinet, the late Sec. Robredo was Naga City mayor for 6 terms.
Nearly 100 percent of Naga voters backed Mrs. Robredo’s vice presidential bid in 2016, while the entire Bicol region gave her over 3 million votes in the last national elections.
Robredo, who spoke in dialect during the proclamation rally, appealed to her hometown to help the Otso Diretso slate the way they helped her in the 2016 elections.
“Tulungan ninyo ako na ikampanya sila. Alam ninyo na hindi namin ilalapit sa inyo kung hindi kami tiwala sa kanila,” Robredo said.
(Help me campaign for them. You know that I will not endorse them to you if we don’t trust them.)
“Noong 2016, binigay sakin ng Naga, Camarines Sur ang kanilang boto. Sana ‘yung ibinigay niyo sa akin, ibigay niyo rin sa kanila,” she said.
(In 2016, Naga, Camarines Sur gave me their vote. I hope that you will also give them what you granted to me.)
Senatorial candidate Erin Tañada also urged voters to campaign for Otso Diretso candidates in other areas.
“Alam namin na sa Naga mananalo ang Otso Diretso pero hindi kaya ng boto ng Naga, ng Camarines Sur,” Tañada said.
(We know that Otso Diretso will win in Naga but the vote of Naga, of Camarines Sur alone will not suffice.)
“Kailangan natin kausapin ang iba’t iba nating mga kaibigan, kamag-anak sa ibang probinsiya upang dalhin nila ang Otso Diretso,” he said.
(We need to talk with our friends, relatives in other provinces so they would carry Otso Diretso.)
Only 2 of the slates’ 8 candidates made it to the top 15 of pre-election surveys before the official start of the campaign period earlier this week.
Roxas and Aquino had the “statistical chance” of winning the elections, while the roster’s 6 other bets trailed behind reelectionist senators or candidates who were endorsed by the ruling Duterte administration.
Robredo admitted that the slate would be having a hard time campaigning in areas outside her bailiwick as most local government officials have allied with the administration.
“Pero hindi naman local government officials lang ‘yung susi [para manalo],” Robredo said.
“Mapaalam mo lang sa taong bayan kung sino ‘yung mga kandidato [ng Otso Diretso], confident ako na dadalhin nila,” she said.
(But local government officials are not the only key. If we could only inform the public about who the candidates are, I’m confident that the voters will carry them.)