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By Mara Cepeda in Manila

Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo will not allow the massive, volunteer-led movement she inspired in the 2022 presidential elections to just fade away following her loss to the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Facing tens of thousands of her supporters during her thanksgiving event at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City on Friday, Robredo announced the creation of the Angat Buhay nongovernmental organisation, harnessing the so-called “pink revolution” her campaign inspired for the bigger battle ahead.

This NGO, set to be launched on July 1 or a day after Robredo steps down as vice president, will be named after the highly praised anti-poverty and pandemic response programme she has been running for the past six years.

“Hinding-hindi dapat pumanaw ang diwa ng ating kampanya. Ang pinakalayunin ng gobyernong tapat ay ang pag-angat ng buhay ng lahat. Kaya inaanunsyo ko ngayon ang target natin: Sa unang araw ng Hulyo, ilulunsad natin ang Angat Buhay NGO,” said Robredo, sending her “kakampink” supporters into a frenzy.

(The spirit of our campaign should never die out. The primary aim of an honest government is to uplift the lives of all. That’s why we are announcing our target: On the first day of July, we will launch the Angat Buhay NGO.)

The Vice-President plans to tap into the Robredo People’s Councils that her campaign team had strategically put up across provinces to help organise the hundreds of volunteer groups that were created for her presidential bid.

‘All is not lost’ pledge
Robredo may have lost the 2022 presidential race to her bitter rival Marcos, but she assured her supporters that all hope is not lost.

“Bubuin natin ang pinakamalawak na volunteer network sa kasaysayan ng ating bansa. Tuloy tayo sa pagtungo sa mga nasa laylayan at sa pag-ambagan para umangat sila,” said Robredo.

(We are going to build the biggest volunteer network in the history of our country. We will continue going to those on the fringes of society and working together to alleviate their lives.)

And once the Angat Buhay NGO had been been set up, it would serve all Filipinos in need, she said.

“Pero hindi tayo mamimili ng tutulungan…. Ipapakita natin ang buong puwersa ng radikal na pagmamahal,” said Robredo.

(But we will not choose who to help…. We will show them the full force of radical love.)

One of Robredo’s first campaign messages was a call for “radical love” — for her supporters to exercise sobriety and openness as they aim to convert those who were voting for another presidential contender.

It was only around mid-January of 2022 — about two weeks before the official campaign period started – that Robredo’s campaign slogan “Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat (Honest Government, a Better Life for All)” was coined.

New Zealand Pinoy supporters for the Leni-Kiko presidential elections ticket
New Zealand Pinoy supporters at a Kakampink rally in Auckland’s Campbell Bay Reserve two days before the election … they are now planning a new movement that will link to Angat Buhay in the Philippines. Image: David Robie/APR

Heartbreaking loss for only woman
It was a heartbreaking loss for the lone female presidential contender, who was riding on a volunteer-spurred momentum in the crucial homestretch of the 90-day campaign. It made her critics step up their attacks, with three of her male rivals even ganging up on her in a now-infamous joint press conference on Easter Sunday.

Robredo’s presidential bid has sparked what has since been called a “pink revolution” never before seen in Philippine elections, where even Filipinos who do not usually engage in political activities saw themselves spending their own money and dedicating time just to campaign for her.

She hit the ground running when the official campaign period started. Robredo was indefatigable on the campaign trail, visiting multiple provinces in a span of a week.

She would start her day early in the morning and her grand rallies could last until midnight.

This was complemented by the massive volunteer base that Robredo attracted in the 2022 campaign. Her “kakampink” supporters organised soup kitchens, marches, motorcades, concerts, house-to-house campaigns, and grand rallies that were attended by tens of thousands – sometimes even in hundreds of thousands – across provinces.

Observers and Robredo herself likened the pink movement to the “People Power” collective effort of Filipinos in February 1986 to oust Marcos Jr’s father and namesake, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, through a bloodless revolution.

But all of these were not enough to make Robredo the 17th president of the Philippines. This upset her supporters, many of whom continued to grieve and grapple with the election results.

But Robredo had already told them to accept the results. She then said that they should channel all their emotions into doing the necessary work needed to bring about a more meaningful change in the Philippines in the next six years.

Sociologist Jayeel Cornelio said Robredo’s post-elections call for her movement aims to counter what some political pundits believe to be a creeping authoritarianism under Marcos.

“Leni gets it. A disengaged citizenry will only embolden authoritarianism. Transforming the movement into the biggest volunteer network this country has ever seen is not only a social intervention. It is a political statement,” Cornelio tweeted.

Crusade vs disinformation
Robredo also made it clear on Friday that she would lead efforts to break the massive disinformation network on social media, rallying her “kakampinks” to join her in this crusade.

“Alam kong marami pa tayong lakas na ibubuhos. Nakikita natin ‘yan ngayong gabi. Itutuon ko ang enerhiya ko sa paglaban ng kasinungalingan at hinihiling kong samahan ninyo ako dito. Kailangan nating maging isang kilusang magtatanggol ng katotohanan,” said Robredo, sending her supporters into a frenzy.

(I know you still have a lot of strength left. We can see that tonight. I will channel my energy to fighting lies and I am asking you to join me in this fight. We need to become a movement that would defend the truth.)

Without directly mentioning any name, the Vice-President acknowledged that the Marcoses had spent years fortifying their disinformation network that sought to sanitise the Marcos regime and rid Filipinos’ memories of the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship.

Studies have also showed that Robredo was the top target of these lies, which in turn benefitted Marcos’ presidential run.

Robredo believes she would need the help of the more than 14 million “kakampinks” who voted for her in the May polls to counter the well-entrenched disinformation network.

“Ang pinakamalaki nating…kalaban, namamayagpag na bago pa ng panahon ng kampanya, dahil dekadang prinoyekto. Matindi at malawak ang makinaryang kayang magpalaganap ng galit at kasinungalingan. Ninakaw nito ang katotohanan, kaya ninakaw din ang kasaysayan, pati na ang kinabukasan,” said Robredo.

(Our biggest…enemy was already dominant even before the campaign period because decades had been spent working on this. The machinery capable of spreading hate and lies is formidable. It stole the truth, so it also stole our history and our future.)

“Disimpormasyon ang isa sa pinakamalaki nating kalaban. Pero sa ngayon, maaring naghari ang makinarya ng kasinungalingan. Pero tayo lang ang makakasagot kung hanggang kailan ito maghahari. Nasa atin kung tapos na ang laban o kung nagsisimula pa lamang ito,” she said.

(Disinformation is one of our biggest enemies. For now, perhaps the machinery of lies rules. But it is up to us how long it would prevail. It is up to us to say the fight is over or if it is only just beginning.)

Mara Cepeda is a Rappler reporter. Republished with permission.

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