OVP Spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez on VP Leni Robredo’s unity ticket talks and plans for 2022 elections After the Fact on ANC
Host: Christian Esguerra
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Joining us tonight is Atty. Barry Gutierrez, who’s the spokesman of Vice President Leni Robredo. Good evening, Atty. Barry, and thank you for joining us on your program.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Good evening, Christian, and it’s always a pleasure to be here.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay, so what’s it going to be? Is Vice President Leni Robredo running for president or not?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, the decision is still being made despite the fact that Senator Pacquiao and Mayor Moreno have already made their announcements that they intend to run for the presidency. Her perspective is up until the point where they actually file certificates of candidacy, lines remain open and it’s still possible to still work for a unified candidate or set of candidates for the opposition. So she remains committed to that and as she has said previously, she will still continue to pursue discourse and try to exhaust all means to forge a possible unity before she makes her decision.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So she’s still hoping that the opposition could come up with a single candidate for president who may not necessarily be herself?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, yes, that’s the ideal—but you know, short of everybody getting into the same boat at the minimum, get as many people as you can in the same boat. So that’s what she’s hoping for and working for up to this point.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So, just want to clarify this: her communication lines are still open with Senator Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno for a possible unity ticket?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes. Well, they’re still talking—let’s put it this way. As to what the content of those conversations will be, well, you know, I really can’t speak to that but yes, there are still conversations going on [among] the three of them.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But what makes her think that she can still unify the opposition forces and groups and come up with a single candidate for president when in fact, at least in the case of the two candidates or contenders, they already said that there’s no turning back; they’re going to run for president.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, to begin with, I think it’s partly borne out of her own determination and her own conviction that the best possible route towards ensuring that we don’t get a continuation of this kind of governance is for the, you know, people who are willing to identify with the opposition to field one unified slate. That’s really her overriding concern here. And she has said repeatedly, the easiest decision for her to do would be simply to declare and run as the opposition candidate but her perspective is there’s a higher imperative here, which is to do all she can to ensure the successful run of the opposition in 2022. And you know, from past experience, lagi namang mayroon pa ring opening, eh, kahit na nag-declare ang mga tao. People are always willing to still converse up until the time na talagang final nang nakasulat iyon. Minsan nga, mayroon nang nag-file, nagbabago pa ng isip, eh. Nagbabago pa ng kandidato. So she’s committed to actually pursuing this line, to exerting this effort and while the conversations are still going on, while the lines of communication remain open, she feels that it is her duty and it is her imperative to actually try to do this as part of, you know, a greater duty to the nation.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So did Vice President Leni Robredo reach out to either Manny Pacquiao or Isko Moreno after they made their respective declarations?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I don’t know whether they have had conversations since then, but what I do know is that the lines of communication are open and it’s highly probable that they will still talk within the next few days or at least leading up to the actual filing and during the first week of October and that’s something she has committed to.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So what would the Vice President tell them?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, I don’t know. I’m not really—I can’t really speak to the specifics of what they will discuss but what I do know is she will still try and forge what unity she can if it is at all possible. So if it’s a conversation about, you know, people forming an alliance or possibly reconsidering declaration to run for, probably vice president or some other office, then she will try to push that. But you know, short of that, the possibility of at least agreeing on certain things and coming together in alliance is always there. But again, as I said, I can’t really speak to the specifics of what they will discuss. I really can’t talk about what specific bargaining or negotiation points are on the table in these discussions. But what is clear is her determination to make this effort—this last ditch effort to forge a unity.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Is the Vice President open to supporting either Senator Manny Pacquiao or Manila Mayor Isko Moreno for president? Is that an option for her?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, that—she’s always been clear that that’s an option depending on how the conversations will go. As she has repeatedly stated, she’s willing to actually set aside her own presidential run to support another person if that is in the interest of the unity that she is pursuing, if that will make it more likely that we can avoid a repeat of the last five and a half years post May 2022. But if that does not materialize or in her assessment, that’s not going to happen, then she also said that she’s ready and willing to actually run for the presidency herself.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But the last statement that she made, which was not vague, was that if she’s chosen by 1Sambayan as a candidate for the opposition, for the coalition, she would be ready to take the challenge.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, what she said was if she’s chosen as the consensus candidate of the opposition, then yes, she’s willing. I don’t know whether that’s just 1Sambayan or that refers to a broader field of groups and individuals within what is now the emerging opposition, the ranks of the opposition, but yes, she did say that. And I think that she will hold firm to that when the time comes.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Clarify ko lang ha, so 1Sambayan is a coalition of opposition forces and civil society groups…
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: —and they’re trying to unite all these opposition forces. Vice President Leni Robredo is part of that, is that correct?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: She has agreed to be part of the process, yes, but she herself as an individual is not a member of 1Sambayan. But yes, she has agreed to be part of the process.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Pero may sarili ba siyang lakad to unify the opposition separate from that effort by the 1Sambayan?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: So far all the efforts that she has undertaken had been undertaken not on behalf of 1Sambayan or not under the—[technical lag]—of 1Sambayan, but in her capacity as Leni Robredo, ‘di ba, leader of the opposition. That’s the hat that she wears in these discussions. Obviously, the 1Sambayan process is something that she is keenly monitoring and that will play a role in the eventual decision that she will make. But insofar as the efforts that she has been undertaking over the course of the last few months, all the people she has talked to, many of them are even part of 1Sambayan. Many of the people that she has talked to have not even agreed to be included or to abide by the decision of the 1Sambayan. So her efforts cover a much broader field of contenders and players in this conversation.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So what will be her clear indicator that the decision has already been made or made clear as to who would be the sole candidate for the opposition if that, indeed, is still possible?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I actually don’t know. At the end of the day, she is the one directly conversing with Mayor Moreno, with Senator Pacquiao, with all these other leaders, and I could only assume that her decision will be anchored on the outcome of these conversations.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Pero hindi ba, the declaration—the separate declarations by Senator Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno were quite telling as to which particular direction they would want to take. Wala na bang lilinaw pa roon? Gusto nilang tumakbo sa pagka-pangulo, eh. Mayroon din silang nilatag o ilalatag na plataporma. So what else Vice President Leni Robredo is waiting for?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, as I said earlier, ‘di ba, they have made these public declarations but the lines of communication remain open. Puwede pang mag-usap. In fact, mayroon pang openness na mag-usap so she will continue to explore that. Ngayon, kung at the end of the day mukhang wala na, sarado na talaga, and then she comes to another decision point and she will make a decision at that stage. But what is important at this point is, regardless of these declarations, there is still an opportunity that she sees—an opening that remains, and she will pursue that opening because she feels that it is her obligation to do so.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: What makes her too optimistic about that opening from either Senator Manny Pacquiao or Mayor Moreno?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, I suppose it’s the fact that they’re still willing to talk that gives her some measure of optimism with respect to, well the possibility that her efforts will still bear fruit in this regard. Kaya lang hindi pa naman nagsasara, eh. I suppose that’s the long and short of it.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: So one option on the part of the Vice President is that these two contenders who already made their declarations might still reconsider and support her, is that one option?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: That’s a possibility. I would suppose that can still happen. I wouldn’t presume to speak for either of these gentlemen, ‘di ba. They have their own decisions, they have their own people, but definitely, that’s a possibility that she’s considering that might still be on the table. I really can’t speak to what—how far they’re willing to go. All I can say is she, despite the declaration, the conversations are still ongoing and the Vice President views that as an opening to continue pursuing these talks. And as I said, if she views it as her responsibility to pursue these talks as far as they will go, up to the point na talagang wala na, clear that wala nang pupuntahan and from her statements, from her own assessment, wala pa tayo doon, doon sa wala nang pupuntahan.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But time is running out, ha. [chuckles]
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: That’s true. That she is acutely aware that we have about two weeks to go before the filing. She is also very much aware of iyong clamor from her own supporters na magkaroon na ng declaration. But I think it’s testament to how seriously she takes the responsibility to forge [the broadest] coalition possible, despite the clamor, despite the fact that the easiest route at this point would be simply to say, “I’m also going to file come first week of October,” she is still pursuing this, even if it doesn’t play well, even if it’s not popular among her own supporters. But you know, she’s serious about it. But at the end of the day, if after all the efforts it will become clear that it’s no longer possible to forge a broader unity, then, you know, I have no doubts that she will make her decision at that time as to whether or not she herself will file her own candidacy for president.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: How do you respond to comments coming even from her own supporters that this—that the fact that this decision-making is taking too long, that might be construed as indecisiveness on the part of the Vice President. How would you respond to that?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, my take is—and you know, I’ve had many conversations with the Vice President about this—we understand where the—that there is a certain frustration that is coming from the ranks of the supporters. But you know, the delay, if you can call it that—I hesitate to brand it as a delay. It’s really more a commitment to pursue this process to its logical conclusion, you know, and to take it as far as it will go, is that the idea really is she’s serious about the responsibility of forging a broad coalition. It’s not indecisiveness. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. She is very decided that this is the way to go. This is the best way to go about it. And I have no doubts that—that that same kind of decisiveness will be applied whatever the outcome of these talks and these efforts towards unity will bring.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: What do you say to the statement coming from Senator– former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. He came out with a statement today in response to the declaration made by Mayor Isko Moreno the other day. And then sabi niya, “Hindi tayo nagmamadali, pero hindi rin tayo dapat nagpapahuli.” Basically, he’s already urging the Vice President not just to make a decision, but to decide to run for President.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, to begin with, Senator Trillanes has been urging the Vice President to make a decision for the last six months already. So, you know, this is not anything new. His position is clear, ‘di ba? He doesn’t think that the talks will go anywhere. And he has been clear on that since Day One. We were—I remember having this conversation—I don’t know, four months, five months ago? And, you know, that was already his position, so that’s not surprising. But my take is—and this is our appeal, actually, to a lot of the supporters—while we understand that there is a certain level of impatience, we’re only asking for another week, or another two weeks just to pursue this. The Vice President only has the interests of, well, not only the opposition but really, the nation at heart. And she thinks it is her responsibility to pursue this unity project as far as she can take it. But at the end of the day, she will make the decision. And, you know, we’ve waited this long. All we ask is to wait another week or two to pursue this to– to how far it can be taken.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Is she still talking with the Magdalo Group regarding possible unification? Although, opposition naman talaga ang Magdalo, pero are communication lines also open?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Communications lines have always been open with Senator Trillanes and the rest of the Magdalo Group. I am not aware, however, of any recent conversations. But, you know, they’re allies. They’re also within the 1Sambayan process, and, you know, there’s really no… there’s really no obstacle to Senator Trillanes reaching out and talking to the Vice President at any time.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Hindi naman kayo napipikon kay Senator Trillanes because of the statements that he’s been coming up with?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: No. We understand where he’s coming from, in the same way that we understand where a lot of the supporters who are speaking out online are coming from. We understand their frustration at this government. We understand that they think that we really need to take a strong stance for the 2022 elections, and we assure them—the Vice President feels exactly the same way. That is why, precisely, she is exerting all possible efforts to form the strongest coalition possible so that we will have the best chance of actually prevailing in 2022. So, iyon ang—pareho naman tayo ng objective dito. Ang message lang namin, chill lang tayo, ‘di ba? Magtiwala tayo and malapit na. She will be announcing soon.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Online, I also saw a good number of comments proposing this tandem: Vice President Leni Robredo for President, and Trillanes, for Vice President—her Vice President. Is the— ang daming ‘Vice President’ yata noon. [laughter]
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: [laughter] Okay.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Natigilan ako doon. Vice President Leni Robredo, if she runs for President, is she open to get former Senator Trillanes as her Vice President?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, at this point, she is open to a lot of names. Wala pa, hindi pa na papasok sa conversation iyan. Because right now, the focus is still, talking to all the other people within the now expanding ranks of the opposition to see sino pa ang puwedeng magsama-sama. Obviously, the conversation as to sino ang magiging Presidente, sino ang mag-bi-Bise Presidente, is going to be part of that conversation. So, we have not yet actually gone and, you know, sat down to talk about sino ba iyong mga kukunin natin na Bise Presidente if that comes. But definitely, Senator Trillanes is part of the 1Sambayan process. He is one of the people who has indicated that he is willing to be nominated as Vice President. So, you know, clearly, his name will be on that list.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: At saka ito ang sabi ni Senator Trillanes is that if the Vice President won’t run for President, he, himself, will run for President.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, that’s it, that has been his position since six months ago. So, again, that’s nothing new and, you know, we respect his position.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Hindi. Ang argument niya kasi—ang argument kasi niya, he doesn’t want the opposition to lose by default. But their priority, according to him, is that it’s the Vice President who should run for President.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, we are—we have been continuously appreciative of his declarations, his public declarations that, you know, he supports VP Leni’s run for President. We appreciate iyong trust that he has shown, iyong confidence that he shows in the Vice President’s candidacy. And we assure him, along with all the supporters, that the Vice President will not let the opposition lose by default, definitely.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But will the Vice President let the opposition down?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I don’t—‘Di ba, parang… kung mabigat para sa isang ordinaryong mamamayan that has to live through the last five and a half years, seeing kung ano man iyong mga shortcomings ng gobyerno nating ito, ‘di ba, you can imagine what the Vice President has had to experience and what she has had to endure. So I very much doubt that she will be the person to let all these people craving a better government, who want accountability, ‘di ba, who want a return to the rule of law and human rights and all the other things we expect from a National government, down.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. So, the Vice President, according to you, is still in the thick of unity talks with different groups and political figures. But what kind of preparation is she and her group are exactly doing?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: In terms of her own run? The Liberal Party has been continuously organizing. It has continuously been preparing its own, well, admittedly, limited machinery given the events of the last five and a half years in preparation for a run of Vice President Robredo—
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: For?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: —over the course of the past few months.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: For?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Sorry? For President. The Liberal Party has been very clear that their position has been, you know, the candidate that they will support is VP Leni. Of course, that’s subject to her final decision. But they are preparing for that. That’s never been a secret. But aside from LP, in the last three months or so, there have been a lot of volunteer groups that have come forward, individual citizens have organized themselves to push for a Leni Robredo run, and they are also moving, both on social media and offline. You have Team Leni Robredo, which is a volunteer hub based on social media, but as far as I understand, is also organizing on the ground. So, you know, there are a lot of moving parts here, and a lot of them have been moving already in preparation for her possible run. So it's not as if everything is in a state of stasis, naka suspended animation, while the Vice President has yet to make an announcement. But it’s very clear to me, as soon as she makes her announcement. Everything will be ready to go.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. How about a gubernatorial run in Camarines Sur. Is this still an option for the Vice President in 2022?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, she has been—when asked, she has always said that that remains an option. But it’s clear right now that any exploration of any local run will have to wait until she resolves her decision as to whether or not to run for a National position that is for President. So the primary consideration and the priority at this point is really—is really the Presidency. And anything else will be contingent and dependent on what her decision on that will be.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: But is there also—are there also preparations on the ground in Camarines Sur, just in case she decides to run for Governor?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Not as far as I know. I’m not privy, and I’m not involved in whatever is happening in local politics in Camarines Sur so I wouldn’t know. But as far as I know, I’m not aware that there are preparations ongoing. Although, there are groups on the ground there, perhaps they’re moving. But if they are, I’m not privy and I’m not aware of what they’re doing at this point.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: I’m asking about preparations on the ground because, ordinarily, baka nagtatanong iyong ibang mga nanonood, why you’re asking about the preparations on the ground hindi pa nga nakakapag-decide? Of course in politics, when you talk about politicians, they may say something, but do something else, ‘di ba? Puwedeng sinasabi ng isang pulitiko, ‘Wala ako’ng balak tumakbo,’ pero talaga nagpe-prepare, ‘di ba? I’m talking in general, right? So..
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: [laughter] Yeah, but, yeah. Tama naman iyon.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: I wasn’t talking about the Vice President—
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Pero si VP, hindi ganoon ha. Baka iyong mga tao magkaroon ng impression na si Leni nagpapa-keme pero at the same time nagpe-prepare. Hindi ganoon. She's really pursuing this honest to goodness. But, you know, her supporters and the Party itself, is of course, already making preparations because they are anticipating that if she does decide to push through—and I think a lot of people in the party are anticipating that she will, eventually, declare her candidacy for President, kasado na and hindi na kailangan maghabol.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Finally, in terms of these unification talks initiated by—being initiated by the Vice President, from among the ranks of the opposition, there are those that are very, very allergic to the idea of considering the likes of Senator Manny Pacquiao, or Manila Mayor Isko Moreno as part of the opposition. I mean, how do you deal with that, with that discussion?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you have to deal with that on the level of conversations. It’s clear there are people within our base of supporters, who are of the opinion that dapat, ano, “Purity above all else.” In other words, iyong mga tao na, who in any way somehow supported or were affiliated with the current administration, dapat automatically wala na iyan. But as the VP has been very clear also in her statements, we have to talk outside our own circles and our own echo chambers. The conversations have to keep moving outward. Because after all, we’re talking about a general national election. And in a general national election, you have to convince more people, not just the people within your own immediate base. And so, that’s the reason why these conversations are going on. That’s why she is open to actually having discussions, which is not to say na hindi issue iyong prinsipyo. Every conversation, every attempt at forging unity, is anchored on what we view as key principles and key issues, ‘di ba? And if there can be no agreement on any of these, then it’s probably not going to be possible to enter any sort of alliance or any sort of agreement. But the conversations have to happen. You cannot insist na, “tayo-tayo na lang and let’s do it on our own.” And that’s– She has been very, very clear about that.
CHRISTIAN ESGUERRA: Okay. Atty. Barry Gutierrez, Spokesman of Vice President Leni Robredo, thank you for joining us tonight.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Christian, and stay safe.
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