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Presidential candidates refuse to back rival Robredo in Philippine race

MANILA (AFP) – Three rivals of Philippine presidential candidate Leni Robredo refused to back her campaign yesterday, dousing speculation they would withdraw from the race to improve her chances of defeating the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Voter surveys showed Robredo is a distant second behind Marcos Jr, but a recent bump in the polls and huge crowds at her rallies have raised hopes among her fervent fans.

There has been speculation that worse performing candidates were considering pulling out and endorsing Robredo to ensure Marcos Jr was defeated in the May 9 elections.

The latest Pulse Asia Research survey showed Robredo on 24 per cent with Marcos Jr on 56 per cent.

But in a press conference yesterday, Francisco Domagoso, Panfilo Lacson and Norberto Gonzales – who are on single digits or less – accused Robredo of trying to get them to withdraw. “Each of us will continue with our respective presidential campaigns,” Domagoso, told reporters. I’m calling for Leni to withdraw because whatever you’re doing is not effective against Marcos.”

A volunteer for Leni Robredo putting up banners. PHOTO: AFP

Their backing would have energised her campaign, said an assistant lecturer in political science at De La Salle University in Manila Cleve Arguelles.

“It would send a really strong signal to the other campaign that she has gained a new momentum,” he told AFP.

There are no runoffs in Philippine presidential elections, with the victor only required to win more votes than everyone else.

Lacson accused Robredo of “lying”, claiming she had previously told him that she would not run for president. Domagoso, the top second preference for president in the Pulse Asia survey, said the polls were “polluted” and questioned their accuracy.

The candidates said rival Manny Pacquiao, who was not at the gathering, was also on board with their decision.

Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez accused the three candidates of “theatrics”.

He did not respond to AFP’s question about whether Robredo’s team had asked the candidates to pull out.

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