Robredo Admits Defeat in Philippine Presidential Election

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Leni Robredo, the outgoing vice president of the Philippines, acknowledged on Friday her loss in one of the most consequential presidential elections in the country’s history, urging her supporters to accept the results of the vote and to keep fighting disinformation.

Speaking at a rally at the Ateneo de Manila University, where thousands of her supporters had gathered, Ms. Robredo did not mention the apparent winner, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator.

Protests against Mr. Marcos erupted after preliminary results on Monday night showed that he had won by the biggest margin in more than three decades. But the election had been marred by complaints of vote buying and broken ballot-counting machines.

Ms. Robredo said that her team was still looking into the reports of voter fraud but stressed that “as the picture becomes clearer, we need to start accepting that the results of the elections did not go according to our plan.”

“We need to accept the majority’s decision,” she said. “I plead that you join me in this cause.”

Ms. Robredo then criticized the “massive machinery to spread hate and lies,” without elaborating. “This stole the truth, as it also stole our history and future,” she said.

Disinformation isn’t unique to the Philippines, but it has flourished in recent campaigns. The outcome of this election shows how the Marcos family has been successful, at least in part, in rebranding its legacy. It has told Filipinos to “move on” from its sordid past and emphasized that the violent 20-year rule of Ferdinand E. Marcos was marked by dozens of infrastructure projects and strong economic growth.

“I will channel all my energy in fighting lies,” Ms. Robredo said. “And I ask you to join me in this fight.”

Many of the young supporters in the crowd cried when they saw her take the stage. In the months leading up to the election, hundreds of thousands of them had mounted an unprecedented grass-roots movement, going door to door to campaign for the only woman in the race. Her supporters saw her as the antithesis to Mr. Marcos, touting her as a leader with a track record who could bring about change.

Ms. Robredo’s remarks came after her running mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who ran for vice president, told their supporters that “the fight is still far from over, especially at this point when lies and deceit are gaining ground.”

Though Ms. Robredo didn’t offer a formal concession her remarks acknowledged her almost certain defeat. Official results of this week’s election are expected by the end of the month.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping both congratulated Mr. Marcos. His victory capped a remarkable comeback for a family who was hounded out of the country 36 years ago after millions of Filipinos poured into the streets of Manila in peaceful protests known as the “People Power” revolt.

Mr. Marcos’s critics say that they fear democratic norms will erode further under him.

But Ms. Robredo ended her speech on a hopeful note. She said that she would set up a nongovernmental organization focused on helping the marginalized with “the widest volunteer network in the history of our country.”

Ms. Robredo acknowledged that while her supporters were upset about the loss, “What I’ve learned from difficult situations is that healing does not come while you’re sulking on your own. It comes when you start focusing on other people.”

“Allow yourself to cry,” Ms. Robredo said. “But when you’re ready to wipe away your tears, prepare yourself, strengthen your heart because we have work to do.”

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