By Raymund Antonio
True to her word, Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday campaigned for the “Otso Diretso” slate during her visit in the provinces of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.
Robredo met representatives of various sectors in a multisectoral dialogue held separately at Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, and the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, without any of the opposition senatorial bets.
But in these two events, she never failed to mention in her speeches the Otso Diretso candidates before a crowd of barangay officials, retired teachers, youth leaders, persons with disability, and tricycle operators, among others.
Robredo, the leader of the opposition, took the occasion as an opportunity to introduce the eight-member senatorial ticket and court voters for them in the May 13 polls.
In her speech in Nueva Ecija, she spoke of the credentials and clean track record of Otso Diretso candidates to boost their Senate bids.
Running for senators under Otso Diretso are former Interior secretary Mar Roxas II, Senator Bam Aquino IV, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, ex-Quezon congressman Erin Tañada, and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay.
The Vice President told the crowd that they would support the Otso Diretso candidates once they know them well.
In the City of San Fernando, Robredo also made a pitch for the opposition senatorial bets, asking Kapampangans not only to vote for them but help her campaign for them as well.
“Kapag bumilib kayo sa Otso Diretso, ang sunod kong hilingin sa inyo hindi lang iboto sila kundi ipakilala rin sa iba (Once you believe in Otso Diretso, my next request to you is not only to vote for them, but also introduce them to others),” Robredo, a lawyer, said.
In an interview with reporters, Robredo said she would “take advantage” of her community visits to talk about the Otso Diretso slate.
“When I make rounds ever since I started my term, you know that I would spend two to 3 days of the week to go to the communities. Now that it is the election season, I would take advantage of the opportunity to introduce the candidates whom we believe would truly be of service to the people,” she said in San Fernando City.
Pampanga is a vote-rich province with 1.9 million registered voters. This could be a stronghold for administration senatorial bets because it’s the home province of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of President Duterte.
Governor Lilia Pineda and son Vice Governor Dennis Pineda hosted the campaign launch of Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), the political party of presidential daughter Sara Duterte, on the first day of the campaign period in Pampanga, where Arroyo was present.
Despite the huge turnout at HNP’s rally, Robredo remains hopeful for the Otso Diretso candidates.
“Hindi siya sa tao na nag-a-attend. Iyong nakita naman natin over the years, na iyong mga rallies hindi siya sukatan, dahil alam natin kung ano iyong nangyayari sa rallies (This is not about the people attending the rallies. Over the years, we’ve noticed that rallies are not the basis of support, because we know what happens during rallies),” she said.
“Ako hopeful, hindi dahil sa akin, hindi dahil sa leaders, pero hopeful ako dahil ang ino-offer namin na mga kandidato, talagang bukod-tangi (I’m hopeful, not because of me, not because of the leaders, but I’m hopeful because the candidates we offer are really exceptional),” said Robredo.