MANILA (Reuters) – Four Philippine presidential candidates, including retired boxing star Manny Pacquiao, dispelled speculation that they would drop out of the race, saying they remained alternative options for front-runner Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, Senator Panfilo Lacson and former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzalez pledged at a joint news conference Sunday to fight “any attempt to subvert the true will of the people through preemptive maneuvers or otherwise restrict their options.” .
“Each of us will continue our presidential campaigns and strive to be worthy of the choices our people will choose from,” they said in a joint statement.
“He will never withdraw despite the black propaganda launched by the other candidates,” said Pacquiao’s spokesman, who was initially expected to join the press conference but did not attend.
The four trailed in the polls in the run-up to the May 9 election, while Marcos – the country’s late dictator’s son and namesake – held a clear lead, while Vice President Leni Robredo came in second by a wide margin.
“There have been numerous attempts to constrain voters’ choices to two (Marcos and Robredo). That is why we had to do it (joint press conference),” Laxon said, without specifying who was taking such steps.
Domagoso went so far as to call on Robredo, the only candidate, to make a “superior sacrifice” and withdraw from the race, defeating Marcos.
“I’m calling on Lenny to quit. Everything you do is not effective against Marcos,” said Domagoso, a former actor better known by his stage name Isco Moreno.
Laxon said he wasn’t the only one who made him feel like dropping out of the supposed race “in exchange for financial and other considerations”.
But Robredo’s camp rejected calls for her to withdraw.
“With three weeks remaining before Election Day, we are experiencing significant momentum for our people’s campaign,” her spokesman, Barry Gutierrez, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)