Atty. Barry Gutierrez Interview with Karmina Constantino and Lito Banayo on ANC Dateline
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And on In Focus today we'll get up to speed on the presidential campaigns of Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko" Moreno Domagoso. Joining us now, the spokesperson of VP Robredo, Attorney Barry Gutierrez, and Lito Banayo, the campaign manager of Mayor Isko Moreno. Gentlemen good afternoon to you, thanks for joining us today. We really appreciate [you] coming to the show.
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Good afternoon Karmina. Good afternoon sir Lito.
LITO BANAYO: Good afternoon Karmina. Good afternoon Barry and the staff.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Alright. Again appreciate you coming to the show. I'm gonna start off with Lito first. Lito, as you were mounting the campaign, what was your projection, where are you supposed to be at this point, a little over a month before May 9?
LITO BANAYO: We are running neck to neck with Vice President Leni Robredo at this point in the campaign. Although admittedly the numbers of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are still on the high side but it has been going down considerably per our internal surveys.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And is it going down considerably enough for you to catch up?
LITO BANAYO: Well, thirty days or actually it's more than thirty days prior to the elections is a long time in electoral politics. Anything can happen as shown in previous elections, anything can still happen between now and election day. Number two, one would doubt the veracity or the credibility of surveys at this particular time when the environment is very toxic because there are so many paid trolls and because of these paid trolls who bash those who profess their sympathies towards a particular candidate or the other, many people have just refused to respond accurately to the numerators who ask them questions during surveys. So, I really would doubt whether in this very toxic environment, where there are paid trolls left and right, whether people are expressing their real sentiments about the– in the surveys.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Alright. Let me go now to Attorney Barry Gutierrez. Barry is this where you want the campaign to be a month before the elections?
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well obviously we would want to be leading in the surveys clearly, every campaign would not want to be in second place at this point. But given where we started and given the fact that from the most recent survey results I have seen, we seem to have gained a lot of ground and clearly the campaign has a sustained momentum from the very very successful ground events and the rallies in various parts of the Philippines. I think we're well on our way going into the last 34 days, to actually come up with a big finish on May 9.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Okay. Later on we're gonna talk more about those rallies. But first I want to go back to Lito Banayo. Lito, your rallies have been a mixture of both thin crowds and thick crowds. What have been the challenges on the campaign trail so far?
LITO BANAYO: What we have been doing are really town hall events. There are few rallies, what we [inaudible] go directly to the people together with motorcades. We do not believe in you know, big rallies where you have basically the same people following you wherever. Aside from the fact that the– it takes a lot of expense even if we would say that many of these are volunteers. So, what we do are really: go straight to the people, present our platform, present our advocacies, and we're happy with what we're doing rather than have a mammoth survey– a mammoth rallies which do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of people on the ground.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Was this the plan originally or did you have to switch gears midstream into the campaign?
LITO BANAYO: No. From day one we never had big rallies. We never brought people by the busloads or truckloads to our events. These are all very organic and we prefer it that way.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And this is organic as well in the mayor's personality?
LITO BANAYO: Yes. The Mayor's personality of course is important. That basically, we do not believe in bussing people to big rallies. Good optics but that's just about it. Whether they would translate into numbers come election day is questionable.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And that is exactly what people are concerned about when you talk about your campaign Attorney Gutierrez. Despite the huge turnouts in these rallies, people are concerned whether these people actually translate to actual votes, what do you say to that concern Barry?
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well to begin with, we never really wanted big rallies anyways. It's the big rallies that came to us. We don't believe in bussing people either, we've never done that. It's the people who have actually shown up wherever the Vice President has gone. So, the fact that in the last few weeks, the intensity of the emotions and the buy-in of the people coming to our rallies and the number of people coming to wherever the Vice President has gone, we feel that that will be reflected. First, in the surveys that will be coming out soon and eventually in the actual vote that will be there on May 9.
Definitely, when you talk about numbers in rallies by itself, it's not going to be a metric for turnout. But if you look at how these numbers are reached, if you look at the fact that these are people who voluntarily came there, who spent their own money, who spent their own resources, some people chose to wait for hours before the Vice President could arrive, that's a level of investment, that's a level of buy-in into a campaign that I think is unprecedented in any of the political campaigns that I have seen and that will certainly be reflected in the outcome of the May 9 elections.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And that is precisely why people are concerned Attorney Gutierrez because they are saying these are the very same people who have the resources, who have been going to rally after rally after rally of the Vice President, then it's the same. Basically, the echo chamber is just following the VP wherever–
BARRY GUTIERREZ: I don't believe that because if you were just talking about Metro Manila then maybe. But you're talking about a number of provinces coming from Northern Luzon, Isabela, down to Southern Luzon, in Bicol, Cavite, Laguna, to the Visayas in Negros and in Iloilo, down to all the way down to Mindanao, in General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and other places. So, this is not a case of 40,000 people flying everywhere. This is a case of people wherever the Vice President’s going, showing their support, coming out to show that support physically, and actually doing much more than just going to rallies.
Just several days ago, we had a grand launch of the house to house campaign, and you could see ordinary people coordinating with surrogates and celebrity supporters going house to house, doing what it takes to actually bring the numbers up. So, I don't think that this is a case of just looking at the numbers of people who attend the rallies. You have to look at the entire people's campaign in its totality. What have people done, what have people committed themselves to doing, what they are still doing in the last 34 days?
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: I want to go back to Lito Banayo, the campaign manager of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. I wanna talk about what happened yesterday, the leadership of Ikaw Muna Visayas shifting allegiances, abandoning Mayor Moreno and pledging their allegiance to Vice President Leni Robredo. How big of a loss is this to the campaign, Lito?
LITO BANAYO: Well he is one person who came up with the press conference but now we have reactions from various sectoral groups comprising our volunteers in the Visayas which state that, well I wouldn't– I won't mention what the nasty word that they said about Mr. Malazarte, but they're saying that they are still with Isko Moreno and that they're, while they belong to the same fraternity, I don't know what fraternity that is, they have not actually met Mr. Malazarte in their activities. And they're saying that they know the pulse on the ground, we are focused on mass recruitment, and we are not depending on surveys. This is a statement issued yesterday by Dr. Winley Dela Fuente and Mr. Edward Ligas of the President Isko Movement: Isulong ang Kapakanan ng Pilipinas, and the VISA: Visayas for Isko Alliance.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: But have you met with Mr. Malazarte even before?
LITO BANAYO: I've never met the guy. I don't really know him at all. He announced, I remember, about two months ago or a month ago, that they were forming a group of volunteers for Mayor Isko Moreno but I haven't personally met the guy.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: So, your take on him pledging allegiance to the VP?
LITO BANAYO: Well, it's a free country. We have a multiparty system on a count of a confused, vague, and confusing 1987 Constitution which allows for a multiparty system. It's not a two-party system that we have. So, people are free to support whoever they want.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: But the optics. You're talking about the optics a while ago, about VP Robredo's or at least of any candidate's huge turnouts in rallies. What do you think would the optics be considering that there is a shift, whether or not you consider it as a big loss to the campaign, there's a shift of allegiances, how should people view this?
LITO BANAYO: We also have groups who originally were with the leading candidate, which is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., shifting to us, shift to Isko. – [crosstalk]
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And what are these groups?
LITO BANAYO: From a Marcos Jr. group or supporters, original supporters.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: What are these groups Mr. Banayo? If you please.
LITO BANAYO: I don't have the names right now but I did get that report about five days, six days ago.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And the reason? – [crosstalk]
LITO BANAYO: I don't have [inaudible] on my desk.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And the reason that they gave you for supporting you instead?
LITO BANAYO: Typically, the 203– basically the 203 billion estate tax which they said should be collected by the government. And which the Marcos family with whom, I mean of whom the administrator of the estate is Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has simply refused to pay on the basis of his sense of entitlement. And they feel that this is a major issue that will impact on the chances or the numbers of Mr. Marcos Jr.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Okay. We're gonna go into that more in a bit, but first, I'll go back to Attorney Barry Gutierrez. Barry, this is the second turnaround in what, two weeks? Groups shifting allegiances to Vice President Leni Robredo. What does she think now of turncoatism given that she's now benefiting from it?
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, we have to make a distinction between turncoatism in terms of a politician shifting political parties, which was what she was talking about during the debate, and a shift in a volunteer group deciding to support a different Presidential candidate. So, I don't think you can equate the two here. But what we will say is that the decision of several groups who formerly were supporting different Presidential candidates and have now decided to actually throw their support behind the Vice President, is again– proof positive and part and parcel of the momentum that has been reflected in the activities on the ground. And we believe, will soon be reflected in the numbers both in terms of surveys and in votes on May 9.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: But no matter how much you– how you qualify whether it’s political parties or volunteer groups, the fact remains that there's been a shifting of allegiances to favor her. How can this not dilute or at least lead to compromises, I mean we know that politics is addition, but how can this not lead to compromises in the future?
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Let's be clear. There was no negotiation that happened here. The support was actually, well the latest actually came as a surprise. Although, you know, a pleasant surprise. There was no prior negotiation. There was no dealing here. There was no kaliwaan na nangyari. We've been very very clear on that from the start. If support is going to be given to the Vice President's Presidential run, and it's freely given, meaning there's no strings, walang kapalit, then we will accept it.
But, she has been very very clear, any alliance that should be anchored on a negotiation must be based on common principles, a common value set, a common vision for the country. Anything short of that and you know, we're not going to accept it. But the fact of the matter is, the recent declarations of support for the VP have been freely given and they were accepted in the same spirit and in the same [inaudible].
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Let me go back to the 203 billion peso estate tax debt of the Marcos family. Mr. Banayo, there was a point during the campaign period of Mayor Moreno, earlier on when he said: this is about two families, let's move on from this issue, let's not bring in the whole country here, this is just an issue between two families. And yet here he is now, going after the Marcos family for the 203 billion estate tax debt. What shifted there, what led the Mayor to embrace this issue and make it a campaign issue?
LITO BANAYO: Well in the first place Karmina, it is a legitimate campaign issue. It is an issue of character. It is an issue of someone who feels entitled and who thinks that his family can escape the clutches of the law. Now, we did not invent this issue. This was, in fact, we just picked it up from Justice Toni Carpio's column about the unpaid estate taxes of the Marcos family. So, it is a very legitimate issue. It is not a campaign tactic. It is something that people have to know because precisely, Isko Moreno and Doc Willie Ong are fighting it out in these elections to present an alternative to warring factions of failed leaders who have led this country to where it is today, despondent and hopeless.
Despite it about the people, it's not about yellows and the reds, the pinks, and whatever color, it is not about hating the faction, one faction or that. It is about giving the ordinary man a break from dynastic and power-hungry politicians. It is about meeting minimum basic needs of every Filipino by someone who has demonstrated his ability despite the pandemic, to prevail over crisis and achieve what others merely promised. So, that is what we stand for. We are presenting an alternative to two groups who have led this country for the past what? Three, four decades.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: If it is all that, that you said, then why did he utter those words earlier on in the campaign?
LITO BANAYO: Which words?
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: That this is not about, that people should move on from the Marcos-Aquino issue that this is not about two families fighting each other.
LITO BANAYO: It's not about two families fighting each other, it's about presenting on an alternative 'no? Maiba naman, hindi 'yung maya't maya na lang sila na lang ng sila 'no? 'Yun ang posisyon namin na ano, it's not about– kaya nga sinasabi ko, 'yung 203 billion estate ano, is not born out of a dislike for the Marcos family or a dislike for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It's a legitimate issue that came out in the course of the campaign.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: When you said maiba naman and yet, you said maiba naman and yet, there was also a point during the campaign when you were also welcoming an endorsement from President Rodrigo Duterte. When we talk about that endorsement, that hasn't come yet, and if you believe what he said that he's going to be neutral in this campaign season, that's never gonna come. How big of a loss is that to the campaign of the Mayor?
LITO BANAYO: You know as Barry said earlier, politics is addition, 'no? If President Duterte endorses whoever, then that is an addition to whoever he endorses 'no? Given as it is that he has very high popularity ratings up to the present so siyempre, it is an addition but it is not that, it's not such that you anchor your entire campaign on the endorsement of anybody 'no? I mean, you just have to continue presenting your advocacies, your platform and that's it. As against the candidate for instance who simply refuses to participate in debates, simply refuses to-- who disdains for that matter 'no, public opinion about what his advocacies, or his character, or his qualifications are.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Alright. Now, I was talking yesterday gentlemen to Professor Julio Teehankee of De La Salle and this is what he was saying: If we compare what is happening now to what happened in 2016, at this point during that time, there was some Duterte magic already happening that clearly paved the way for him to win the 2016 elections. Something has got to happen at this point, if we were to prevent or if the country is to prevent a Marcos presidency– if that is the goal.
So, I'm asking you now: Is that something that you're looking into and by something that's earthshaking, Professor Teehankee was saying this has got to be way of consolidation of forces. I’m gonna go to Attorney Barry Gutierrez for first, is this something that you are working on behind the scenes, is this something that you would welcome to prevent the Marcos presidency from happening and if there were going to be any consolidation, with which campaign, with which HQ, Attorney Gutierrez?
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, let me put it this way, it's something we are open to but it is not something that we are currently actively pursuing at the moment. Sir Lito said earlier, at this point in the campaign, I think every candidate, every camp is focused on doing their own thing, doing what they can to present their candidates, their advocacies, their platforms to the electorate, and focus on that.
But you know, 34 days is still a long time. A lot of things can still happen, so the possibility of you know, possible alliances can still be you know, explored, and it's something that we are open to but in terms of focus, we are focused on our own campaign and in so far as a game-changing magical moment is concerned, we think that's already here in so far as Leni Robredo's campaign is concerned. The fact that the people have themselves have come out in force to campaign for her actively in the way that they have been doing. I think it's really the game-change that a lot of us have been waiting for.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Mr. Banayo.
LITO BANAYO: I don't think that is in the realm of the possible at this point in time 'no, that for instance, you have major candidates– I'm talking about the major candidates, bringing themselves together and uniting [inaudible] supporting one candidate. One consideration that you have to understand also is, would a candidate who withdraws in favor of another candidate, would his numbers or whatever numbers he has, transfer to whoever he endorses 'no? That is an iffy question. Who or where will those votes eventually go to 'no?
So these are considerations that have to be made. And in the case of my candidate, in the case of my principle, paulit-ulit niyang sinasabi na isasangla ang kanyang laway. So when he says something, he says it and he does it. Having thrown his candidacy– I mean having thrown his gauntlet into the ring. Wala nang atrasan ito, tuloy-tuloy na ito and let us just focus on what we are doing and wait for the verdict of the people come May 9.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Which is more important to your principal right now Mr. Banayo, is it that he wins or that a Marcos is prevented from occupying the palace once again?
LITO BANAYO: Well, the 1987 constitution is very clear: We are under a multiparty system. It is a wrong premise, it's wrong as far as I am concerned, I don't believe in the validity of– I mean, in this confused and confusing setup that was brought about by the 1987 constitution where we have a multiparty system and a presidential form of government but nonetheless since it's multiparty, let the people decide among various players, among various candidates. Sinong gusto nila? Sinong pinapaniwalaan nila? Sinong nakukursunadahan nila 'no?
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Alright and having said that, final question to you both. Let me start off with Attorney Gutierrez. Last 30 days or so on the campaign trail.
BARRY GUTIERREZ: 34.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: 34 to be exact. What's gonna be a focus from here onwards?
BARRY GUTTIERREZ: Well, the focus is really going to be really trying to maximize the impact of the people's campaign that has coalesced around VP Leni. So aside from the big ground events that we have been seeing the past few weeks, we have started doing a more in-depth community-based grassroots led approach, house-to-house campaigns, market runs and so on and so forth, and I think that will only intensify in these remaining 34 days.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: And Mr. Banayo, what's gonna be your focus in the last 34 days?
LITO BANAYO: Tuloy-tuloy lang kami Karmina sa aming ginagawa. We go to different places all over the country and meet the various groups. Not necessarily political leaders but the public itself. And we have seen the warmth of the public reception to Isko Moreno and Doc Willie Ong so that is what we intend to continue doing, represent our advocacies and telling people na maiba naman, hindi 'yung sila na lang ng sila 'no? Ito na lang mga kulay na ito, pumili naman tayo ng iba, 'yung nanggaling sa totoong mahirap at alam ang nararamdaman ng mga mahihirap at may mga solusyon, may mga tunay na solusyon at mabilis ang aksyon na ginagagawa na na-demonstrate naman ni Isko Moreno in the three years that he has been Mayor of the City of Manila.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Mr. Lito Banayo there, Campaign Manager of Mayor Isko Moreno and Attorney Barry Gutierrez, Spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it, take care and you keep safe.
LITO BANAYO: Maraming salamat.
BARRY GUTIERREZ: Thank you Karmina.