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Leni Robredo looking for a people-powered Philippine election upset

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Leni Robredo looking for a people-powered Philippine election upset
Around 780,000 supporters turned out for the final rally of Robredo's presidential campaign on Saturday, according to organizers. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

MANILA, May 8 (UPI) -- On the eve of the Philippine presidential election, supporters of candidate Leni Robredo are hoping she will be able to pull off an upset victory driven by a "pink wave" grassroots movement.

Robredo, the current vice president, is trailing frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by a large margin in most surveys, but advocates say that the numbers don't capture the energy of what has turned into a full-fledged people's campaign.

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"The surveys seem to contradict the momentum on the ground," Neri Colmenares, a Senate candidate allied with Robredo, told UPI.

On Saturday, some 780,000 supporters dressed in pink -- the Robredo campaign's signature color -- filled the central business district of Makati in Manila for a final rally that featured speeches and performances by musicians and celebrities.

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"There has never been such a spontaneous mass movement, except during the time of [the] 1986 [uprising]," Colmenares said.

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The 1986 People Power revolution brought millions to the streets to oust former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. -- the father of Robredo's opponent.

Robredo, 57, rallied her supporters on Saturday night for a final push as she looks to repeat her own come-from-behind victory against Marcos Jr. in the 2016 vice-presidential election.

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'It's our right to have a future with dignity, and it's our duty to fight for it," Robredo said in the final speech of her campaign. "We've learned that nothing is impossible."

"Trust that at the end of all the sweat, time and sacrifice, there is a victory waiting for us," she said.

The mood at the campaign event was festive, as a sea of supporters chanted, danced and waved pink flags and balloons from early afternoon until late in the evening.

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"You can see the love," Angelo Pedrosa, 35, said. "This is the first time there's ever been so many thousands out for a candidate. [Robredo] has the values, she has the morals to be a good leader and help the whole country. She is not corrupt like her opponent."

Robredo, a former human rights lawyer, is running as a champion of democracy and decency against Marcos Jr., the scion of a family dynasty that plundered as much as $10 billion from the country.

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Her supporters are also looking for an end to six years of democratic backsliding under current strongman President Rodrigo Duterte, whose tenure has been marked by a brutal war on drugs and attacks on the media, critics and government watchdogs.

Robredo has picked up a slew of endorsements from major celebrities, athletes, officials and over 1,200 members of the Roman Catholic clergy.

Some rally-goers said that Monday's election is not just a contest between candidates but an existential battle for the future of the Philippines.

"I came to be part of this historic event," said 18-year-old student Rafael Valix, a first-time voter who campaigned door-to-door for Robredo.

"Not just the next six years are at stake," he said. "We're fighting against the dictator's son. We're fighting for the good of our country."

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Monday in the Philippines. Voting hours were extended due to COVID-19 distancing protocols that remain in place.

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