By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor
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.