CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – When Vice President Leni Robredo raised the hands of the Otso Diretso senatorial bets onstage on Wednesday evening, February 13, it started raining.
But the thousands who gathered at Plaza Quezon in Naga City for the slate's grand proclamation rally stayed put. The city, after all, is the bailiwick of the Vice President.
Robredo urged her fellow Bicolanos to help her campaign for Otso Diretso, most of whom are lagging behind in preelection surveys. (READ: Otso Diretso bets to Iriganons: 'Our fight is also De Lima's fight')
The Vice President said that even if the Otso Diretso bets are mostly unknown, she can vouch for their track records. (READ: Otso Diretso slate offers 8-point platform)
"'Yung 8 nilalapit ko sa inyo. Hindi lang ako humihingi na [iboto] 'nyo sila. Pero 'yung hinihingi ko, tulungan 'nyo akong ikampanya sila," said Robredo.
(I'm presenting the 8 to you. I'm not just asking you to vote for them. But what I'm asking for is, help me campaign for them.)
"Alam 'nyo po na 'di namin ilalapit sa inyo kung 'di kami naniniwala sa kanila," she added.
(You know I wouldn't present them to you if I didn’t believe in them.)
She recalled her own come-from-behind victory in the 2016 vice presidential race. Robredo said she owes part of her electoral win to her home province Camarines Sur, where she edged out her opponents with 664,190 votes.
In 2016, the tandem of Robredo and Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas – now an Otso Diretso senatorial bet – was victorious in Camarines Sur. Like Robredo, Roxas beat his opponents then with 305,670 votes.
In Naga City, Robredo had garnered 88.8% of the votes or 60,597 votes, while Roxas got 56.1% in the presidential race with 38,144 votes.
Robredo hopes Bicolanos would repeat the same thing for Otso Diretso in May. (READ: Can Otso Diretso do a repeat of Robredo's 2016 victory?)
"Kung titignan natin ‘yung resulta ng vice presidential elections, nakapalaki ng binigay 'nyong boto sa akin. Ibinigay sa akin ng Naga, ibinigay sa akin ng Camarines Sur, ibinigay sa akin ng Bicol region – kaya tayo nagtagumpay. Sana 'yung ibinigay sa akin, 'yun din 'yung ibibigay sa kanilang 8," said the Vice President.
(If you look at the results of the vice presidential elections, you gave me so many votes. Naga gave their vote for me, Camarines Sur gave their vote for me, Bicol gave their vote for me – that's why I won. I hope what you gave me, you will also give to the 8.)
While Robredo secured the vice presidency, Roxas had to settle for second place to then-Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Roxas on Senate bid: 'I'm not here to redo 2016')
Aside from Roxas, there are 7 other candidates in Otso Diretso. They are Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, ex-solicitor general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, and ex-Quezon congressman Erin Tañada.
In her speech, Robredo said Roxas has become a "second father" to her 3 daughters after the tragic death of her husband, the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, in a plane crash in 2012.
She shared that Roxas even took the Robredo siblings to a concert they wanted to watch before.
"Alam 'nyo po na matalik na magkaibigan si Sec Mar and Sec Jesse. No’ng namatay si Jess, madalas si Sec Mar na kinakamusta ang aking mga anak," said Robredo.
(You know that Sec Mar and Sec Jesse were good friends. When Jess died, Sec Mar would always check up on my children.)
The Vice President then said Naga has much love to offer to Aquino, who was her campaign manager in the 2016 polls.
"Alam ko po mahal na mahal 'nyo din si Senator Bam Aquino. Hindi lang dahil napakadalas niya dito.... Pero no'ng napalaban po ako ng 2016, si Senator Bam 'yung nabiktima ko [para maging campaign manager]," Robredo said.
(I know that you also love Senator Bam Aquino. This is not just because he goes here often.... But when I ended up running in 2016, Senator Bam was the one I victimized to be my campaign manager.)
Robredo also spoke fondly of Macalintal, who is her lead legal counsel in the electoral protest filed against her by defeated vice presidential bet Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
"'Pag nagpainterview na si Romy Mac, kampante na ang aking mga kababayan [tungkol sa kaso ko]," said Robredo.
(When Romy Mac gets interviewed, my province mates' worries about my case are eased.)
She then gave quick praises for the remaining members of the slate.
The Vice President said Alejano is "napakahusay, hindi lang napakahusay na sundalo pero napakahusay na tao (excellent, not just an excellent soldier but an excellent person)."
"Solid ang paninindigan (A man of solid principles)" was how Robredo described Tañada.
As for Hilbay, Robredo said his rags-to-riches story as a Tondo boy who became solicitor general is "napaka-inspiring (very inspiring)."
As for Gutoc, Robredo said the mother from war-torn Marawi City has a lot of kababayans (town mates) in Naga, which welcomed those displaced by the Marawi siege.
Robredo endorsed Diokno last and took a swipe against the sister of Bongbong, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, with whom Diokno faced off in GMA News' recent senatorial debate.
"Napanood 'nyo ba 'yung debate? Napaka-lodi!... Natameme ata 'yung kanyang naka-one on one. 'Di ko na sasabihin kung sino," said Robredo.
(Did you watch the debate? He is such an idol!... The person he had a one-on-one with wasn't even able to clap back at him. I won't say who she is.) – Rappler.com