By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo believes the eight Senate bets of the opposition coalition will face an uphill battle in next year’s midterm elections.
Robredo, a leader of the opposition, was open about it during a forum held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on Wednesday, October 17.
She said the 2019 polls will be “tough” for the opposition due to the popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte, who will likely endorse senatorial candidates in the administration ticket.
“The President is still very popular, and the candidates that he will endorse would have… you know… would benefit from the President’s popularity,” Robredo said.
After delivering the keynote speech, the Vice President was asked about the upcoming Philippine elections and Duterte’s popularity in the context of his war on drugs.
Robredo admitted the opposition took a “big risk” of forming a Senate slate composed of quality candidates given that popularity is the number one driver for winning elections.
“We decided not to put up a full slate for the Senate. Instead of 12, we’re putting up only eight…It’s a strategy that we’re doing. We decided to put up names of really, very good people so that we could differentiate from the names put up by the administration,” she said.
The Vice President said she hoped the opposition Senate bets would still win in next year’s polls despite Duterte’s endorsement on his candidates.
The opposition bets vying for Senate seats are lawyers Chel Diokno, Florin Hilbay and Romulo Macalintal, former soldier Gary Alejano, reelectionist Bam Aquino, civic leader Samira Gutoc Tomawis, returning senator Mar Roxas, and former congressman Erin Tañada.
Of the eight candidates, only Roxas and Aquino made it to the winning circle based on last month’s Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations surveys.
Someone from the audience also asked Robredo why Duterte is so popular in the Philippines for his anti-drug campaign.
The Vice President said Duterte was “not a smooth talker” and “effective in giving out a single message,” which Filipinos like of him.
“He was rough, he was raw. He says what he thinks. No holds barred, always for him — until now. And people were attracted to that,” she said.
“For some reason, I felt like… maybe people were tired of, you know, diplomacy and decency that they wanted more authenticity. And they saw it in him,” added Robredo.