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    Interview with OVP spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez Dateline Philippines – ANC

    Interview with OVP spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez Dateline Philippines – ANC

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Now let’s talk more about what happened yesterday. Joining us now is Vice President Leni Robredo’s spokesperson, Atty. Barry Gutierrez. Atty. Gutierrez, welcome to the program and thanks for joining us today.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Happy to be here, Karmina.

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: All right. So what happened yesterday? Were you blindsided by the former senator’s statement? Give us the inside story.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yeah, it was a surprise. You know, the senator has actually been an ally, and he has been in communication with us, you know, periodically over the course of the past few years. He knows what the Vice President’s decision-making process is. He knows that the Vice President is still very much open to running for president. So it was a bit of a surprise to see him come out to say that the Vice President was already preparing to run for governor of Camarines Sur—which gave a lot of people maybe the unfortunate impression that she has already abandoned any intentions to seek the presidency in 2022, which is far from the truth.

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Okay, Atty. Barry, just a couple of things here. Number one: Is she really considering running for governor of Camarines Sur? Is that part of the options that the Vice President is exploring? Because when you look at the tweet of former congressman Teddy Baguilat... this is what he tweeted yesterday: he said that, first, that the VP is still running—or is still interested in running—for the presidency, and that second, you guys are preparing and working 24/7, organizing the machinery to prepare for that eventual run.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yeah, both of those things are true. To answer your first question, the Vice President has made no secret of the fact that a run for a local position is one of the things that she’s actually been considering over the course of the past year or so, ever since, you know, the talk of 2022 has started heating up. So that’s still very much on the table. But that said, there have been no preparations insofar as pursuing an actual run at a local level is concerned. And Congressman Baguilat is correct when he says that insofar as the Liberal Party is concerned and the allies of the Liberal Party are concerned, there are already preparations being made by volunteers, by supporters, by local chapters, to prepare for a possible presidential run in 2022. And obviously, the preferred candidate for such a run would be the Vice President. She is the chairperson of the Liberal Party, she is leader of the opposition, and she is obviously the person who embodies most what we feel should be embodied by the person who will be president of this country. She has demonstrated her ability to be an executive during the course of this pandemic, and we think she will be a great president. So that’s still very much the default position that we are pursuing at this stage.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: What about what Congressman Teddy Baguilat also tweeted yesterday? He said that the Vice President is a registered voter of Naga, and that Naga doesn’t vote for the governor of CamSur, being a highly urbanized city, and therefore, he claims, as a Naga voter, VP Leni cannot run for governor. Does that hold any water?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, I can speak to the factual assertion you made—yes, the Vice President is still a registered voter of Naga. She has not made any move to transfer her registration from Naga City to any other place, so she is still very much a voter of Naga City. My understanding is that Naga is an independent component city with its own charter, and in previous elections they have not really voted for any of the provincial officials, being an independent component city. So I think that the points that he raised are correct.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Have you talked with former senator Trillanes post the statement that you released yesterday?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I have not talked to him personally. In fact, one of the things that surprised me with the declaration of Senator Trillanes is that prior to making it, he did not attempt to—he had no conversation with the Vice President. And as I said before, you know, we have been talking to him in the past. You know, we are allies, we are on the same side on a lot of issues. So, you know, all these would have been resolved by him directly asking the Vice President “Are you running for governor?” and he would have a very clear answer. You know, there is no such plan yet. There are no preparations being made in that regard.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Sabi nga ni Congressman Teddy Baguilat, linggo-linggo daw magkausap kayo ng Magdalo.

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: [chuckles] If not directly with the Vice President, then at least with the other people within the opposition, yeah.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: So precisely this question: Do you feel, or does the Vice President feel that with what former senator Trillanes did yesterday, that that was tantamount to undercutting the process that the Vice President has right now?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, let me put it this way: I understand—and I think the Vice President understands—where Senator Trillanes is coming from. He just wants to be sure that come 2022, whatever Vice President Leni Robredo decides, there will be a single candidate that the opposition can rally around, and that candidate will embody what we feel should be represented by any candidate running against this particular administration. And if you look at the rest of his statement, it’s pretty clear that what he’s saying is “in the event that the Vice President ultimately decides that she will not run for president, then, you know, I am willing to step up,” and he has been fairly consistent on that, and you know, I’ll give that to him.

     

    But what I will say is that while I understand that there is a certain level of impatience, there is a certain, you know, eagerness on the part of not just the senator but a lot of our supporters for the VP to immediately make a declaration now, I would just hope that they respect the process she is going through. Nakakatawa lang kasi ito, ‘di ba, dahil inis na inis tayo sa mga taong atat na atat tumakbo, ‘di ba—we look down on people who seem so eager to run for president, but when you get somebody like the Vice President who says that, you know, “I really have to think about this. This is something that I have to reflect on,” you know, we are so eager to push her in the opposite direction—“now na, dapat ngayon na.” So, you know, my appeal is—not just to the senator but to all our supporters who are, you know, eager to see the Vice President make a decision—she is taking this very seriously, right now she is still focused on doing what she can to help us through COVID-19, but she will decide. Ako— You know, to be clear, this is on her mind. She has not forgotten it, she is not making light of it, but this is not an easy decision. And it should not be an easy decision—

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: This is the question, Atty. Gutierrez: What is keeping the Vice President from deciding on what’s going to happen in 2022?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I think there are multiple factors. Like in 2016, one of the factors is obviously her family. It is not easy for somebody like the Vice President, who has never been a professional politician and who, you know, has a very, very close relationship with her daughters, to just make this decision off the cuff, without regard on how it will affect her family. Remember, in 2016, one of the reasons why she took so long before she actually declared her intention to run for vice president at that time was she needed to get her family onboard. So I think that’s one of the things that’s still very much on her mind.

     

    Another thing is the consideration of whether or not she will really be the most unifying and winnable candidate for the opposition. You know, it’s clear that she—from my perspective, at least, and for the perspective of many others, that she is that person. But she has to go through that process herself. The 2022 elections is something she views as very important for our country, and she wants the best person to—the person with the biggest chance to actually unify the broadest base of people to rally around that particular candidate, to ensure our success in 2022. And that’s something she’s still reflecting on.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: So to be clear, Atty. Gutierrez, the options are gun for the presidency in 2022, set her sights on the governorship of Camarines Sur... and what else?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, obviously, just going back to regular civilian life is always on the table. And you know, exercise her leadership not as a public elected official, but in some other capacity—as a private citizen, as a civil society leader. After all, you’ll remember, before she entered politics, she was a public interest lawyer. She did champion various causes in a private capacity, not as a public official. So she can always go back to that. And although I personally am very eager and excited to support and campaign for Vice President Robredo in a presidential campaign, I respect the fact that this is a decision that she is giving a lot of thought to, and she has to decide for herself.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: You say that this is part of the process of the Vice President, but some are of the opinion that this is the Vice President playing coy. What do you say to that?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: [chuckles] I’ve known the Vice President for the better of a decade now, ever since we were in Congress, and coy is not something that I would ever attach to her as a descriptor. She is plain-spoken, she is very direct, she will tell you what she feels and what she believes. She’s, you know, she’s a straight shooter, and she will never play coy. My honest understanding here is that this is really a weighty decision, and she is really trying to navigate it as best as she can. She’s trying to balance what she feels are the very, very clear imperatives for the nation on one hand, balanced with, you know, her own personal considerations with respect to her family. And of course balanced with, you know, the political consideration of what will really be best for the opposition in this particular case. But as in the past, she has always demonstrated that she is willing to take on any challenge, like when we accepted the challenge to take on leadership of the anti-drug campaign way back in the latter part of 2019. So it’s clear: if and when the time comes, she will make the decision, and she will step up to the plate. But we have to give her the opportunity and the time to go through her own process.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Well, let’s get into that. As a final question, and a tweet you sent out yesterday: you said that the Vice President will convey her decision at the appropriate time. When is that appropriate time?

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: [chuckles] Well, you know, I cannot really speak to that. In previous interviews, she has said that maybe August, maybe September. Frankly I don’t even think that, you know, if you ask her directly she can tell you. She’s going through the process. What I am sure of is that this is something that she is taking very seriously, and that definitely she will come to a decision on this. This will not just drag on, you know, without resolution. She will at one point give a very, very clear, unequivocal declaration as to what her intentions are, and when she does that, you can be assured that before she did so, she weighed all these in her mind, and that she will make the best possible decision she thinks should be made under the circumstances.

     

    KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Atty. Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo. Thanks so much for your time, appreciate it. Take care and you keep safe.

     

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: You, too, Karmina. Anytime. Stay safe also.

     

    - 30 -

    Posted in Transcripts on May 13, 2021