About 200 groups from various sectors and provinces altogether supposedly consisting of some 500,000 members held an online “people’s convention” on August 30 to proclaim Vice-president Leni Robredo as their candidate for president in 2022, citing her as the most viable opposition standard bearer against President Duterte.

With her track record as vice-president as proof of her capability to lead the pandemic-hit Philippines, the pro-Robredo volunteer groups said their objective was to boost Robredo’s profile as presidential candidate when she faces off with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the frontrunner in surveys and expected administration presidential bet.   

For more than hour, the convention participants said they cast their lot with Robredo although the Vice-president said she was still in a period of discernment. Robredo said she wanted a fighting chance if she makes a run for the presidency because she did not want to split the votes of an already-fragmented opposition.  

She was logging dismal numbers so far, falling behind five other potential presidential contenders in pre-election surveys.  But the same polls still indicated Robredo as the most viable opposition standard-bearer for the dissenting forces against President Rodrigo Duterte.  

There was no mention of Robredo’s dismal survey performance in the hour-long online program on Monday. Her supporters instead focused their messages on Robredo’s achievements, especially during the coronavirus crisis as well as the Taal volcano eruption last year.  

A good number of these pro-Robredo groups were launched just a few weeks or even days ago.  “Nangangarap tayo ng buhay na maginhawa. Nangangarap tayong makaraos sa pandemya… Naniniwala tayo na tanging si Leni Robredo ang makapagdadala ng gobyernong tutulong sa ating maabot ang mga pangarap natin,” said the volunteers in their manifesto.  

One of the first to speak during the program was Dr. Janine Maulit, who was infected with Covid-19 twice. She lost both her grandmother and great grandmother to the virus, too.  

Maulit recalled how Robredo and her staff did everything they could to help her family look for hospital beds at a time when most healthcare institutions were in full capacity.  Maulit also said the Office of the Vice President (OVP) as well as other Robredo supporters donated personal protective equipment, food, and other supplies to the hospital where she worked.  

Actually halos lahat, kinumpleto nila lahat ng pangangailangan. At tsaka nakita talaga namin ‘yung support na ‘di kami mag-isa lalo na sa kinakaharap na sitwasyon,” said the doctor.  

Seventeen-year-old Michelle Melendres also shared how the OVP was quick to respond when she wrote a letter to Robredo asking for help in paying for her mother’s hospital fees.  

“Yun po talaga tingin ko dati sa government na ‘pag hindi ka po talaga kilala, ‘di ka po tutulungan. Pero nung natulungan po ako ni VP Leni po, nag-iba po ‘yung pananaw ko sa government ngayon,” said Melendres.  

OFW Edwin de Jesus Reyes was also pinning his hopes on Robredo.  A caregiver in Italy for 24 years now, Reyes said the next president should be someone who could help generate jobs in the country so Filipinos would no longer need to work abroad.  

“[Kailangan] natin ng’ mga bagong lider na huhubog ng malakas na ekonomiya, pantay na pagkilala at trato sa lahat ng sektor ng lipunan. Siya ay maka-Diyos, makabayan, at may tapang at talino kaya ako kay Leni Robredo. Sana kayo din,” he said.  

Robredo has been meeting with other possible bets in a bid to build a broader opposition coalition, while her supporters have been going on overdrive launching groups calling on her to run. She also launched her own podcast on August 23 in a move seen to help Robredo reach younger generations a little over a month before the filing of candidacies in October.