By ALFRED G. GABOT and BETING LAYGO DOLOR
MANILA – The political cauldron heated up further in the Philippines as the race for president to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte by June 30, 2022 officially started on February 8 with big and colourful proclamation rallies mostly in the candidates’ bailiwicks.
Duterte has not selected his candidate for president as of press time.
National candidates are given three months, or until May 7, to present their platforms and convince voters to support them come election day, May 9.
Earlier, the Commission on Elections released guidelines on campaign activities to ensure public health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic following the start of the printing of the ballots.
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Thousands of supporters joined the rallies and the caravans before or after by the presidential aspirants – former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Vice President Maria Leonor Leni Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco Isko Moreno Domagoso, Sen. Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and labor leader Leony de Guzman.
The candidates for vice president and senators joined the rallies in person or by video message as they woo the voters to their side with their respective party’s platform of government.
The Unity Team of Marcos and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte who are leading the surveys held their proclamation rally in the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan with a capacity of 50,000 but whittled down to 30,000 due to social distancing, but thousands more waited at the arena until the program ended.
Joining Marcos and Duterte on stage with host Toni Gonzaga were 11 senatorial candidates former defense secretary Gilbert Gibo Teodoro, former Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, former senator Jose Estrada, former presidential spokesman Harry Roque, former senator Gringo Honasan, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Deputy Speakers Loren Legarda and Rodante Marcoleta and lawyer Larry Gadon.
During the proclamation rally, Marcos affirmed his message of unity and movement to make the country strong again while Sara vowed, “we shall move forward…bounce back like never before,” adding they are offering to the electorate a tandem endowed with “wisdom and experience.”
Marcos vowed to “unify the country,” saying: “This is not the time and place to be arguing about the history of the Philippines.”
Vice President Robredo — a former congresswoman and lawyer for the disadvantaged and second in voter surveys, kicked off her pink-coloured campaign in Lupi town in f Camarines Sur and in Naga City, her hometown, with vice presidential bet, Sen. Francis Pangilinan and a handful of senatorial bets led by former Ifugao Rep. Ted Baguilat, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, former senator Antonio Trillianes IV, lawyer Alex Lacson, and senators Richard Gordon and Risa Hontiveros.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, meanwhile, gave a video message for the event. She was represented by her counsel Dino de Leon.
Other senatorial candidates who were adopted by the tandem are labor leader Sonny Matula, former Makati mayor Jejomar Binay, Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero, and senators Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri
Based on the surveys, Robredo is ahead of celebrity Mayor Domagoso, boxing superstar and Senator Pacquiao and ex-police chief and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
In their proclamation rally, Robredo and Sen. Pangilinan vowed to uphold a culture of transparency and participatory governance if they win the May 9 elections.
“Ito ang diwa ng ating laban. Nasa katapatan ang susi ng tagumpay sa layuning ito (This is the essence of our battle. Honesty is the key to success in this endeavor),” Robredo said in her speech during the Team Robredo-Pangilinan (TROPA) proclamation rally.
Robredo said she chose to launch her presidential bid in the Bicol region as she saw how it witnessed a significant shift in governance for the betterment of the people.
“Dito ko sa Naga nakita na ang luma at bulok na klase ng pulitika, kayang talunin ng matino, mahusay, masipag, at makataong pamamahala. Dito nagtiwala ang tao sa lider na nakikiisa sa kaniya. Dito may tinig ang karaniwang mamamayan, hindi lamang tuwing halalan kundi sa mismong pamahalaan. Dito ang puwang para sa katiwalian, aktibong pinatitigil ng pakikilahok at bayanihan (Here in Naga, I saw that the old and rotten class of politics could be defeated by sober, efficient, hardworking, and humane governance. Here, the people trust the leaders who are one with them. Here, the common people have a voice, not only during elections but in the government itself. Here, corruption is actively stopped by participation and bayanihan),” she said.
Robredo vowed to form a government that would lead by example, especially in going after those who abuse their power and in prioritizing the people’s welfare, through their campaign slogan “Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat” (Honest Government, a Better Life for All).
Pangilinan rallied the people to use their votes in the May 2022 polls to elect leaders who have a track record of honest public service and who will lead Filipinos out of the pandemic and uplift both economic recovery and public health.
He said Robredo, through her Angat Buhay Program, has helped hundreds of thousands, while the Sagip Saka Law that he passed, used billions of pesos worth of government funds to buy directly from farmers and fisherfolk to increase their income.
“Yan ang aming record na kung kami’y palarin ay palalawigin pa natin. Iyong mga naiiwanan, uunahin natin. Iyong mga kapos, uunahin natin (That is our record. If we win, we will extend the programs. Those who are being left behind, those who are lacking, we will prioritize them),” Pangilinan added.
Domagoso held a city-wide caravan where he was mobbed by Manilans before his proclamation rally at the Kartilya on Mehan Gardens beside the Manila City Hall.
Domagoso called on the voters to give him a chance to lead the nation, saying he gets things done.
At the Aksyon Demokratiko proclamation rally near the City Hall, Domagoso wooed the crowd gathered at the Kartilya ng Katipunan on the first day of the campaign for national bets, telling them that he always fulfills his promises.
“Maaaring mas magaling sila sa akin, pero (They may be better than me but) I get things done,” he said. “Kung sakaling ako ang pinili nyo, ang pinili nyo ay bahay, eskwelahahan, kapanatagan, at pantay-pantay na pagtrato sa bawat isa (If you chose me, you have chosen housing, schools, peace of mind, and equal treatment for everyone).”
Domagoso, who is serving his first term as mayor, said he was running for the highest post because he was “tired” of erring political families that failed to improve the lives of Filipinos.
“Ang tanong, kumusta po kayo after 39 years? Kamusta ang Pilipinas after 39 years? Sapagkat ‘yan ay isa sa mga naging dahilan kung bakit ako sumali sa halalang ito. Tutal nagbakasakali na kayo ng 39 years, ano ba naman magbakasakali kayo sa akin ng six years (The question is, how are you after 39 years? How is the country after 39 years? That is one of the reasons why I joined this election. Because you have taken your chance for 39 years, why don’t you take your chance on me for six years),” he said, referring to the Marcoses and Aquinos who have been political rivals since the 1970s.
The party’s Senate bets also threw their support for Domagoso and his running mate, Dr. Willie Ong.
Also spotted during the rally were lawyer Jopet Sison, Samira Gutoc, and Carl Balita who presented themselves and their plans should they get elected as senators.
Other supporters who came to the proclamation rally were Pateros Mayor Ike Ponce, Caloocan City District Rep. Edgar Erice, Taguig Mayor Lino Cayetano, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, and former secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform John Castricciones who is running for senator under PDP Laban.
Sen. Pacquiao renewed his vow to fight corruption and poverty provide basic services such as housing, jobs, livelihood, health and education as he launched his campaign for president before a big crowd in General Santos City.
Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza was unable to join the proclamation rally due to sprain but sent his message as candidate for vice president. He called the voters to send Pacquiao to Malacanang.
Senatorial candidates under Pacquiao and his PROMDI ticket led by broadcast journalist Raffy Tulfo, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian represented by girlfriend actress Bianca Manalo, and former Senate secretary Lutgardo Barbo, were present at the rally while others sent video messages.
Pacquiao stressed he is running on an anti-corruption platform, saying the reason why Filipinos are still poor and why the country’s economic growth remains stunted.
If elected president, Pacquiao said Filipinos will receive a lot of freebies from the government – free housing, free gadgets for students and teachers, free education, among others.
Earlier, Pacquiao vowed to run after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses if he wins the presidency in the May 9 elections.
With stamping out corruption in government as the centerpiece of his campaign, Pacquiao said it is proper to pursue the funds, which were stolen by the Marcos family.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson launched his official campaign for president before a big crowd in his hometown of Imus City in Cavite, promising to strengthen the government, fight corruption, among others.
Lacson and his team urged the voters to select the right candidates to lead the country in the next six years who can lift the country to greater heights.
With him were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Lacson’s candidate for vice president, and senatorial candidates led by former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Manny Pinol, former Makati congressman Monsour del Rosario, former PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Dr. Minguita Padilla and former Senator JV Ejercito.
Former Vice President Jojo Binay, and former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista failed to join the Imus City rally. Bautista instead joined the Marcos-Sara proclamation, prompting Lacson to remove him from his ticket as guest candidate. Lacson also removed Sen. Gatchalian from his Senate team.
Re-electionist Senator Richard Gordon and former Senators Loren Legarda and Francis “Chiz” Escudero joined the proclamation rally physically through their video messages.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and former Senator Gregorio Gringo Honasan were represented by their wife and sister, respectively, at the Lacson-Sotto proclamation rally.
Cavite, a vote-rich province, is considered Lacson’s bailiwick as the presidential aspirant was born and raised in Imus.
The tandem’s campaign slogan is “Aayusin ang Gobyerno, Aayusin ang Buhay ng Bawat Pilipino” (Fix the Government, Fix the Lives of Every Filipino) and “Uubusin ang Magnanakaw” (Get Rid of the Thieves).
By Beting Dolor
MANILA – Based solely on attendance figures, presidential candidate Leni Robredo had the far more impressive official launch of her candidacy this week, drawing one of the largest crowds ever seen in Naga City, which the Philippine National Police estimated at between 200,000 and 400,000. The Associated Press estimated the Robredo crowd at between 300,000 and 600,000.
Local media said Robredo’s rally at Plaza Quezon was “the biggest campaign rally in the history of Philippine politics.”
By comparison, the launch of Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s candidacy at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan could not fill up the coliseum’s 30,000 seats. Photos of the event showed that less than half the seats at the Iglesia ni Cristo-owned arena were occupied.
Even in social media, Robredo had more views, with her rally covered by Facebook live garnering more than 1,700,000 views.
In the live feeds of both events in another social media site which occurred at roughly the same time, Marcos Jr. had some 20,000 views compared to Robredo’s 80,000.
Analysts wondered why Marcos Jr. did not hold his launch at his home province of Ilocos Norte, unlike Robredo who held hers at her Bicol region stronghold.
His disappointing crowd size was not the only problem for Marcos Jr., as local media showed pictures of his motorcade where government vehicles with red plates were used.
In the battle of endorsements, Marcos Jr and running mate Sara Duterte were considered big losers last week since they personally received the blessings of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who days later was tagged by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as among its most wanted. Quiboloy is wanted in the US for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; sex trafficking of children; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling.
The Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem, meanwhile, received the endorsement of one of the country’s most respected retired Supreme Court justices, Hilario Davide. He called the pair “the best tandem for president and vice president in our history” since he first voted back in 1957.
The other presidential candidates held their respective launches in their own strongholds, with Senator Manny Pacquiao holding his event in General Santos City, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno at the Philippine capital, and Senator Ping Lacson in Cavite province.
As one analyst said, “Going back to your hometown and starting your campaign there us more than symbolic.”
One possible reason why Marcos Jr. did not speak in Ilocos Norte is because he is not fluent in the Ilokano dialect.
It can be noted that last month, the Marcos Jr. camp said that at least 11 mayors from the Bicol region were endorsing their candidate. This was not only denied by all 11 mayors, but almost all candidates for governor, congressman, and mayor in the Bicol region have endorsed Robredo, even those competing against each other.
Of the five, it was only Robredo whose followers held simultaneous rallies not only all over the Philippines, but also in other parts of the world where there are large pockets of Filipino workers and residents.