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    Interview with Barry Gutierrez on ANC's Headstart

    Interview with Barry Gutierrez on ANC's Headstart
    Headstart, ANC 24/7

    [START 06:05]

    KAREN DAVILA: Alright. Joining us now on hot coffee, Attorney Barry Gutierrez, Spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo. Good morning to you, Barry.

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Good Morning, Karen. Happy to be here.

    KAREN DAVILA: Alright. I know yesterday, you were already interviewed, and you had said that an apology is unnecessary although you acccept it. Sabi mo pa nga, matatanda na kayo, it's a few days to go bago ang eleksyon and you’d like to focus on that. But let me ask you first and foremost, you have Manila Mayor Isko Moreno who is standing by his call. How does this affect the efforts for unity for the opposition as a whole, Barry?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, the efforts for unity to begin with, always required some measure of commitment on the part of the people concerned to give way. Because obviously, there can only be one candidate that you will be uniting around. So, it seems very clear now, at least from the three gentlemen who attended the press conference last Sunday that they don’t seem to be inclined to further pursue any conversation about unity. So, for now, at least, in so far as they are concerned, I don't think they will be involved in any further conversations.

    On our end, we have been focusing on our own campaign since October. VP Leni has been very clear in saying that she feels that the tandem she formed with Senator Kiko Pangilinan is the tandem that we should be campaigning for and fighting for until the end. So, while we remain open to possible conversations on unity in the remaining 19 days until election day, it seems that the space for that has narrowed because of the events of Easter Sunday.

    KAREN DAVILA: Now Barry I’m curious, some has said that, isn't this– wouldn’t one consider this a failure on the part of the Vice President? In other words, she did try to speak with them, she tried to unite them and yet you have very scathing remarks about her character– she can't be trusted, she fooled us in the press conference. Doesn't this reflect on her leadership efforts in any way, whereas you have Mr. Marcos and Ms. Sara Duterte who are very united, and they kept their base?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: If anything, I think it’s a reflection more on the attitudes of the gentlemen who spoke last Sunday. To be clear, Karen the efforts of the Vice President to talk to them and to try to get them all under one tent, they all happended prior to her declaration on October 7 of last year. So, while we accept that well, it’s unfortunate that that particular conversation did not really lead to the broader unity she was pursuing at that point, since then, you know, it’s become a matter of well, people who are willing, if you if you still want to talk and join together then you can. But, given that from their statements last Sunday, they don't– one, they don't seem to be open to it at all anymore. And two, they seem to be still nursing some hurts from what transpired months before. I don't think that's a reflection anymore on the Vice President’s efforts. That’s really more a reflection on their attitude to begin with, which I think gives us a clue as to why the original talks did not go anywhere in the first place.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Now Barry, let's set the record straight. Were there really formal withdrawal offers made from your camp with the Vice President’s go signal or were these efforts just from allies, let's say a liaisons, who wanted to make the effort on their own. Some have said there was money being offered. How true is this? Is it official coming from the Vice President’s camp?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: We've answered this several times before. And to be very clear there have been no active efforts on our end to actually talk to any candidate much less ask them to withdraw. Certainly, money was never on the table. And in fact, even if you look at their statements on the supposed talks, only one name was mentioned, Mayor Jun Simon and we've already clarified that Mayor Jun Simon does not speak for the campaign and is not authorized to actually speak for the campaign and whatever conversation he was pursuing that was purely his own initiative and purely on his own you know– that was his own call.

    But aside from that name, no other names have been mentioned, no other person has been identified, as actually spearheading the supposed efforts. We are actually surprised at the insistence of some of these candidates that it was VP Leni who was asking them to withdraw. She never did anything and in fact, in all of her public statements she has been very very clear, we are no longer pursuing active efforts in this regard. Although we remain open to having conversations if you know, people will talk to us.

    KAREN DAVILA: Alright. Now, let’s talk about the campaign strategy as a whole. One Cebu has recently endorsed the candidacy of Mr. Marcos, and we do know the role that Cebu plays in presidential elections. They're able to deliver at least 2 million solid votes once a province or once Cebu carries them. Overall, how are you seeing this to affect the Vice President's chances of even beating Mr. Marcos?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know we’re not too concerned. And the reason for that is, we never really factored in as part of our general strategy, from the beginning, endorsements coming from local officials. We knew that running as opposition, running not as the official candidate of the administration would already put us at a disadvantage in so far as local endorsements are concerned. This is familiar terrain for VP Leni, when she ran for congresswoman of the Third District Camarines Sur, she was in the same position, she was running against the incumbent, she had not– she did not have a single endorsement from any of her mayors.

    So, her strategy at that point, which is the strategy we have adopted from the start here, is to go directly to the people. And so far, we feel that that is the strategy that has paid off. Even in places where– in provinces where we do not have local government support, the outpouring of ordinary people coming to her rallies, volunteering to campaign for her has been tremendous. Yesterday in Bataan, we did not have the support of the local government, but we had 65,000 people from Bataan coming to her rally, expressing their support. And after she left, they continue to actually campaign for her house to house, conversations within their own networks and so on. And that's really been the approach. So, while we are happy when local officials come forward to say that they are supporting VP Leni or supporting the tandem, that’s on top of the strategy that we are already pursuing.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Are there areas at this point that you're considering are the Vice President’s bailiwicks?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well obviously, Bicol will be her biggest bailiwick. In 2016, she was running in a field with several candidates from the Bicol region and yet she was able to garner upwards of 60, 70% in that area. Now that she is running as the sole Bicolano for President, we expect that that percentage will improve. So, definitely we expect much from her home region in terms of vote delivery. Looking at areas where she also did well last election, you have Western Visayas and considering in Western Visayas, it's one of the few places where strong local government support has actually partnered with a strong grassroots support. So, again these are two areas where we expect the Vice President will get a lot of support for on May 9.

    KAREN DAVILA: How does your camp explain the results of the recent surveys, with the Vice President showing in NCR for example, where you have Mr. Marcos at a tremendous lead and yet you have Robredo's rallies, you know, attracting that much people?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, one of the things that we have had to struggle with, not just from the start of the campaign but over the last six years, has been the massive disinformation effort targeting the Vice President on social media. And in urban centers, like Metro Manila, this has had the most effect, because people in urban centers tend to spend the most amount of time online, on Facebook, on Twitter, Youtube, all these other platforms. And we have had really to work double time to overcome the disinformation wall as I call it, that they have built around the Vice President. People really have very very flawed opintions about what she has done, what she stands for, what she has said, and so on and so forth. So, part of the tack has always been engage, ideally outside of social media, bring out the truth, talk to people about who the Vice President really is. And I think that the recent surge in her numbers, in all of the surveys, is proof positive this is an approach that is slowly working. Now with 19 days to go until election day, this is really something that we are working double time on and hopefully her numbers will continue to increase in areas like Metro Manila and the other urban centers around the country.

    KAREN DAVILA: Barry, has your team ever discovered the true person behind that supposed sex video linking the Vice President's daughter?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: No. The problem with anonymity on social media, it's very very difficult to actually find out the true identities of people posting behind anonymous accounts. At first, PNP said that they would investigate but now they are asking for us to file a formal complaint and the Vice President has already–

    KAREN DAVILA: And will you–

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: –well, she's– the lawyers are looking into it. We have a large team of lawyers and they are pursuing that particular track but as VP Leni said, para sa kampanya mag-focus na lang tayo doon sa importante. We look at this really as yet another attempt to try and derail the momentum we have managed to generate over the last few weeks and we don't want to be sidetracked by it. We have a team looking into it, they will pursue it but in so far as the VP herself and the main campaign is concerned, we will utilize every second of the remaining 19 days to actually push our message, continue what we have been doing and raise our numbers all the way up to election day.

    KAREN DAVILA: Now many stars have come out to support Vice President Robredo, do you believe that can be convertible into votes? I've heard some analyst say that stars are one thing, but mayors, kingpins, local offcials are the ones that really deliver and they call it command voting on the day itself. So what, based on– I think you've seen enough in terms of the Vice President running, are you seeing this to– I mean have a big conversion on election day?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: The conversion doesn’t come in the form of command votes obviously, you know, command votes are one thing, that's a completely different phenomenon. But conversion in terms of persuasion, I think that the celebrity endorsers and the proxies of the VP, her daughters for example, going house-to-house, going to markets, talking to people face-to-face. I think that's where the conversion happens. As I said earlier, I think the biggest problem we have had to confront over the last six months has been getting past all the disinformation that the social media has generated around the Vice President, and the best way we have found to get around that is you know, real conversations. Take the fight, take the conversation outside of social media, so, if people talk face-to-face, if people talk to people that they know within their own networks, then you know it's possible for conversion to happen and we have seen that. The huge leaps in the Vice President's numbers are proof positive that this is an approach that actually works and you know, the celebrity endorsers getting on that train, also going house-to-house, I think is a huge boost to these efforts.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Barry the analysis that this 20 to 24 percent of Leni Robredo, that's the cap, that's it. They say she can't go any higher than that.

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, when we were at 20 they said the cap was 20. Now we're at 24, they say the cap was 24. I don't think so. I think that there are enough studies to indicate that she can go much higher, mid 30s, high 30s, low 40s and it's a matter of–

    KAREN DAVILA: You believe that? You believe you have enough time for that?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes. Well, that's really the big question. It's now a question of effort versus time. But I think that in the remaining three weeks, the efforts that have so far already been done will continue to snowball. Because after all this is not a linear progression. You're talking about an exponential progression here. Every person that gets convinced also campaigns, so two people become four, become eight, and so on. So, it's really going to accelerate and we feel that three weeks is enough time to actually catch up.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay, because you have Mr. Marcos at least at a lead of 30 percent, I mean, do you still believe that you can break that?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you have to remember that the 30 percent is anchored on surveys that were conducted in March, so that was two months from the election. That's one of the problems we have right now, surveys come out a month later. So, they talk about things that were– that happened a month a go, that were true a month a go, a snapshot from a month back. More recent surveys I have seen, some even indicate that the gap is much narrower, maybe as narrow as 15 percent. So, well of course you will say, well you know, surveys are surveys and every survey says a different thing. But I think that the more realistic range will be somewhere between 15 to maybe 20-25 percent and that is certainly doable in the remaining– in what remains of the time for the campaign.

    KAREN DAVILA: I'm curious. Will the Vice President be attending the last townhall debate that the COMELEC is sponsoring this Sunday?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes. We have committed to actually attending all the COMELEC debates. There have been two so far and the last one as you said is Sunday.

    KAREN DAVILA: And does that help her? I wanted to ask you, strategically does that help her because the Marcos camp has done the Math and they felt that with so many candidates, there's not enough time to really present your platform. So, they feel that it's not a plus to Mr. Marcos, he'd rather spend his time really campaigning outdoors. But I'm curious, do you believe that these debates have helped the Vice President?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, I think that the debates are actually a very very good example of their approach to leadership. The VP does not go to the debates because she thinks that they will help her. She goes to the debates because she thinks that it's her responsibility to actually go to the debate, participate, let the people know about her platforms, answer questions that they think are important to be answered and so on. Mr. Marcos looks at it as, well, "Wala akong magiging benefit diyan so hindi ko gagawin," so, that's the difference. From the start, our perspective on the debate was not whether or not meron ba tayong makukuhang boto dito but whether it is the responsible thing to do for a candidate. Because after all, there will be a far harder challenges as President of the Republic than you know, going to a debate. So, kung ngayon pa lang hindi ka na willing na gawin, I think that's a reflection of the kind of leader you will be and the VP more than anything else, wants to demonstrate this early on, the kind of leader she will be.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay. I'm curious, April 23 there's a– I read a schedule on Twitter is that pushing through, this supposedly Makati rally on the 23rd?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: There's– the 23rd is the schedule for this big, well it's a birthday rally, although the VP does not want to call it that, it's her birthday on the 23rd so there will be a big rally on along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay. There are groups in Makati, the volunteer groups that will assemble in Makati and then march, travel to the final venue in Pasay.

    KAREN DAVILA: 'Yun Barry, anong reaksyon mo, sinasabi ng ilang, marami ang nakikita sa crowds ni VP Leni pero pare-parehong tao lang daw. 'Yung nasa Pasig, 'yun din ang pupunta sa Makati, 'yun din ang pumupunta sa ibang lugar?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, while it may be true that particularly for Metro Manila, there might be people who will go to multiple rallies, I think that the huge numbers themselves tell you that it's more than just a small core of people. Particularly if you look at the rallies in Mindanao, in the Visayas, in Northern Luzon, it's not just– it's definitely not just the same 40,000 people flying everywhere. Clearly wherever she goes, there's really a strong groundswell of support and I'll remind everyone, it's not just the rallies, it's what happens before and after the rallies. The house-to-house campaigns, the grassroots campaign that volunteers do, that happens virtually 24/7 and has been happening for the past few months. So, I don't think anymore that it can be denied that this is not just a small core but really a nationwide grassroots movement which has coalesced around the Vice President's candidacy for the Presidency.

    KAREN DAVILA: Okay. Now before we end, I wanted to ask you about Senator Manny Pacquiao, of course, many have said that it's too late to withdraw at this point, it's a few days to go. Even Buddy Zamora said that, but then he also said, if you look at the body language of VP Leni and Manny Pacquiao you'll see that they're warm towards each other in the debates, he said that on the show. Are you giving up on Manny Pacquiao at this point or does the Vice President believe that there's still a possibility to unite or to win Manny Pacquiao over to your side.

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well it's true that they really have a good relationship and I think they have a lot of respect and affection for each other. But you know at this point, as we've said, the priority is really our own campaign but we remain very open to any conversations. But at the end of the day, the decision has to be with Senator Manny. We respect the statement that his camp has issued. We respect ultimately whatever decision he makes. So, we'll see. 19 days, still a long time and still a lot can happen.

    KAREN DAVILA: Alright. Anything you want to add Barry before we go?

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, just one last thing, everywhere that I have gone over the past few days I have been asked about surveys. And you know, one thing that I want to emphasize is that you know, surveys are a snapshot. They are not an indication of inevitability. If anything, the sequence of snapshots we have seen over the past few weeks indicates that the VP’s numbers are going up, the momentum is with her, and we are very very confident going into the last 19 days until election day that that momentum will carry her forward to a victory on May 9.

    KAREN DAVILA: Alright, on that note thank you very much Mr. Barry Gutierrez. Goodluck with the Vice President's campaign.

    BARRY GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much Karen. Always a pleasure to be here, and stay safe.

    [END 27:54]


    Posted in Transcripts on Apr 20, 2022