WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Philippine politics ablaze with speculation as 5 presidential bets set joint press conference

Sources from the camp of some of the candidates – Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella and former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales – said they had “no clue” on the agenda for the press conference, with aides of Lacson and Moreno saying their principals had not signaled any intent to “slow down” in their campaign.

If they were not going to announce a coalition against frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo had been repeatedly pushing, are the rivals coming together to denounce some “dirty tricks” or warn the nation against any move that might undermine the elections? the sources were asked. The reply: “possible.”

Robredo is a distant second to Marcos Jr. in all surveys, but some political analysts had said she had the “best shot” to beat him if the others backed out and rallied behind her – an option that the others had repeatedly rejected.

Lacson said he had enough “experience” at attempts by the Robredo camp for a coalition, and was burned by what he deemed their disrespectful stance toward the VP’s rivals.

Moreno recently insisted he was the consistent “third choice” and it is a “three-way race” between him, Marcos and Robredo.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, has declared several times the only thing that can make him back out is if he gets a “clear signal” from God that he should exit the race, adding, he would do so even if it’s just “two days before elections.”

‘Common candidate’ Sotto

Lacson and Pacquiao’s running mate, Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, recently had a tiff when Atienza suggested that Lacson consider having his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, team up with Pacquiao for a more winnable  formula.  Sotto has consistently placed second to Marcos’s running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Lacson was angered by the call of Atienza, who has since apologized. Lacson accepted the apology but offered this idea to Atienza: the latter will withdraw, and Pacquiao and Lacson will adopt Sotto as their common candidate.

There was speculation on Saturday that this option: of the rival camps coalescing on at least this option of a “common candidate Sotto” would be the agenda of the Easter presser.

Late Saturday, advisories started coming out, one after the other, for a joint press conference. Moreno’s camp first issued the advisory, sparking speculations of who he might be appearing with.

The latest advisory from the Lacson-Sotto Media Bureau said: “Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson will be holding a joint press conference together with four of his fellow presidential candidates on Easter Sunday, 11:00 AM, at the Rigodon Ballroom of the Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City.

“Joining him in this activity are Senator Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko’ Moreno Domagoso, former Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

“Members of the media are invited to cover this event. No other details have been disclosed by the communications teams of the respective candidates.”

Image credits: Nonie Reyes

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