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Will Leni Robredo's critical remarks against her opponents be good or bad for her campaign?

By NICK GARCIA Published Jan 27, 2022 6:14 pm Updated Jan 27, 2022 8:35 pm

Vice President Leni Robredo stood by her statements criticizing her opponents in the presidential elections, as some analysts took stock whether her seemingly "off-brand" statements may be beneficial or detrimental to her campaign.

In an interview with reporters today, Jan. 27, Robredo maintained that she only sought to answer Boy Abunda's question truthfully.

"Ako, ayoko nang dagdagan pa. Ayoko na dagdagan yung conversation. Alam ko may mga mara-ruffle ako na feathers pero tinanong kasi ako eh. Ayoko naman na sumagot na parang umiiwas. Sa akin lang, ‘yung tanong sinagot ko. In my honest opinion, ‘yun talaga ‘yung palagay ko na kailangan ko isagot," said Robredo. "Alam ko na, ready naman ako. Ready ako pero para mag-react pa sa mga reaction nila, tingin ko hindi naman necessary."

During the 2022 Presidential One-On-One Interviews with Boy Abunda  on Jan. 26, Robredo was given a minute to answer why Filipinos shouldn’t vote for the other candidates.

Robredo said of Marcos Jr: “Number one, sinungaling. Pangalawa, in the difficult moments, hindi siya nagpapakita.”

She then criticized Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso for his constant switching of political parties and colors.

“Hindi klaro iyong paninindigan sa maraming bagay,” she said.

Robredo also didn’t hold back against Ping Lacson, claiming he lacks actual output.

“Maraming salita pero kulang sa on-the-ground na gawa,” she said.

As for Manny Pacquiao, whom she said she’ll vote for if she weren’t running for the presidency, Robredo said his good character won’t suffice in leading the country.

“Ito, malungkot ito, Boy,” she said, “pero iyong kabutuhan ng loob kasi, sa atin, hindi sapat.”

The vice president told Filipinos to consider voting for her, as woman leaders like her, shine during crises.

“Ako, Boy, pinakita nitong krisis na ito, and many other crises in the past, na ang mga babaeng lider, nagsa-shine during crisis,” she said. “Pinakita ko iyan sa maraming trabaho namin dito sa (Office of the Vice President). Marami kaming mga krisis na nalagpasan with flying colors.”

It may be a deliberate attempt to somehow present her feisty self.

Lacson reacted to Robredo's statement about him, saying "Hindi ako kulang sa 'on the ground'. Hindi lang talaga ako ma-epal tuwing magbibigay ng tulong sa mga kalamidad man o sa mga indibidwal na tulong."

Marcos Jr.'s camp also reacted to Robredo, saying they don't resort to negative campaigning.

“What presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos is offering to the Filipino people is his unifying brand of leadership," said Vic Rodriguez, Marcos Jr.'s spokesman, in a statement. "He does not and will not engage in negative and hateful campaigning."

'Tougher image'

Jean Encinas-Franco, associate professor of Department of Political Science in University of the Philippines-Diliman, told PhilSTAR L!fe that Robredo’s critical statements were “a little bit off-brand,” as she’s never exhibited such a tone before, given her “motherly” image.

But Encinas-Franco said it might have been Robredo’s attempt to dismiss past criticisms about her supposed inferiority as a leader.

“It may be a deliberate attempt to somehow present her feisty self,” she said. “Baka reaction niya rin iyon sa comments na ‘mahina’ o ‘duwag.’ Hindi natin alam.”

Dindo Manhit, founder and president of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, shared the same sentiments.

“Her answer, maybe, was meant to position her as tough and definite in her views toward her opponents,” Manhit said.

They're all candidates. There's no male or female here,

Manhit also pointed out that presenting one's self as "tough" may be a double-edged sword.

"The one who attacks, or in this case, comes out strong if (these are) substantiated by facts. She's simply telling the truth because of the facts that come with it. (Then) it might benefit that candidate."

But for those who make negative pronouncements toward others without proof, "that's when it goes negative for the candidate that came out very strong."

'Build yourself up rather than attack'

In a widely shared Facebook post that has now been deleted, communications consultant Archie Inlong said that political candidates should focus on building themselves up rather than attacking their opponents. 

Inlong noted that his post is "NOT an assessment of the performance of any political candidate" or "VP LENI'S ANSWERS TO THE TITO BOY QUESTION."

"Tanong sayo halimbawa ni Tito boy, 'Bakit hindi dapat iboto si Candidate X?' Instead of saying "Pangit kasi siya", use this: 'Ang kailangan kasi ng mga kababayan natin ay isang mayor na maganda'," his post read.

"Puwede mong lagyan ng humor, at idagdag ... 'katulad ko'.," his post further read.

For Encinas-Franco, Robredo could’ve also used the time to focus on expressing the finest points of her campaign.

“While saying that (building up her campaign), she's already saying very subtly the negative aspects about the other candidates' campaign,” she said.

Gender bias?

As to whether Robredo's blunt pronouncements may rub up people the wrong way, compared to when other male candidates do it, Encinas-Franco and Manhit think that gender shouldn’t be an issue.

“If it's a male candidate saying his honest opinion about a female candidate,” Encinas-Franco said, “it's fair and square, as long as it isn’t framed in a sexist manner.”

“They're all candidates. There's no male or female here,” Manhit said.

Manhit stressed that at this point, it couldn’t be determined whether Robredo’s pronouncements toward her rivals, especially Marcos Jr., worked for or against her.

“Would it be accepted by the voters? Is it a good move?" Manhit said. "We would not know until we see the next round of surveys."