OFFLINE: The Southern Tagalog battleground

The vote-rich Southern Tagalog region has become a key battleground for the coming presidential election.

Specifically, the provinces of Cavite and Batangas could deliver the votes that will spell the difference between victory and defeat.

Unfortunately, the governors of the two provinces have given strong indications that they will do everything to guarantee a win for Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

I am ashamed to say that Hermilando Mandanas is the governor of my home province. We Batangenyos have always prided ourselves in being ‘magiting’ or honorable, which is something our governor is not.

Unfortunately, I do not vote in Batangas. I’m a registered voter in the city of Makati. But I know for a fact that my kabayans will NOT deliver the vote for Junior. He may get a chunk of the total vote, but he will not win the majority, or even a substantial plurality.

Incidentally, Senator Ralph Recto had earlier endorsed Isko Moreno, and the husband of the popular Vilma Santos is also going to eat his words that our province will go for the Manila mayor. There are strong indications that Ate Vi is siding with Leni Robredo, and her implied endorsement carries greater clout than her husband.

My friends and relatives on the ground tell me that it is the vice president who will likely win the Batangas vote. In a recent visit, she received the same rock star treatment she’s been getting everywhere she goes with not only large crowds but with ecstatic supporters not afraid to openly display their love for Robredo.

In fact, it is the ever growing public support that tells me that the surveys indicating a win by Junior are false.

But while Mandanas has only supported Robredo, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla is worse. By his actions last week, this former media practitioner has shown that he is a trapo of the first order.

He had been expected to support Senator Ping Lacson, who is proud of his Cavite roots. But Lacson does not have the money that Marcos has, so the governor of his home province preferred to back the half-baked Ilocano to be the country’s next chief executive. I say half-baked because the guy doesn’t even speak his province’s dialect.

Remulla promised Junior that he would win by a huge majority in Cavite, even if there are strong indications that the province is Leni country.

This was proven by the massive crowd that greeted her last week, a gathering that no other candidate has been able to match.

Remulla even had the road leading to the venue of the Robredo rally closed, but this did not deter the candidate. She hopped on a motorcycle in order to make it to the site, and this only endeared her more to the Cavitenyo crowd.

It should be noted that when the office of Remulla conducted an online survey, Robredo won over Junior by a mile. But the camp of the sole woman candidate for the presidency has precious little funds, and this has admittedly hampered their ability to mount a well-organized campaign. On the plus side, however, she has countless volunteers who are not only unpaid, but usually donate their own money for Robredo’s quest for the presidency.

Sorry to say that when the likes of Mandanas and Remulla endorse a candidate who has no qualifications for the presidency but has all the money to buy an election, I can only surmise that they must have received tens of millions of reasons why.

The Southern Tagalog pair are not alone, either. In fact, the camp of Junior has been concentrating on getting endorsements from entrenched politicians because it is the only way they can create some sort of bandwagon effect.

This is also old style Philippine politics, which also engages in paying the poor to attend rallies, not just with money but also free food, cheap t-shirts, and tarps which can be recycled for use in house repairs.

There are many things going Robredo’s way these days.

One of the survey firms that earlier said Junior was some 30 points ahead of Leni came out with an analysis last week that said she had closed the gap and the son of the dictator’s lead had diminished to 10 points. One reason they surmised is his unwillingness to attend the presidential debates, where Robredo has been shining.

In all of her sorties anywhere in the archipelago, Robredo has also been drawing massive crowds. Aerial shots prove this, which is why Junior’s camp has banned drones from taking photos of his bussed crowds. The better and easier to Photoshop them, no?

Support from star celebrities? Robredo has it in spades. Junior, not so much, save for a handful of has-beens and never weres. It’s interesting to note that the great Kuh Ledesma was offered big bucks to sing at a Marcos-Duterte rally. She said no, but performed at a Robredo-Pangilinan campaign event for free.

Finally, there are the countless organizations that have endorsed Robredo compared to nearly none for Junior. Besides the trapos, the only large organization that has endorsed Junior and his running mate Sara No H is a Davao-based church whose leader is wanted by the FBI.

Even the endorsement of El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde was disowned by the Catholic Church, which must have been humiliating.

Hundreds of Catholic bishops, priests, nuns, and lay leaders have voice their support for Robredo to the extent that Junior’s camp has complained that the principle of the separation of church and state is not being respected.

Leni supporters retorted by asking why it was alright for Junior to seek and receive the support of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, Mike Velarde, and Ang Dating Daan’s Eli Soriano, but not for the Catholic Church to back Robredo without her even asking.

Somewhat ominously, the Iglesia ni Cristo has not come out in full support for Junior and members of the Philippine-based church have not been shy in airing their support for his main opponent.

There may or may not be a Solid North backing Junior, just as there may or may not be a Solid Bicol that Leni can count on. But if those two really exist and thus negate each other, then there is good reason to believe that the Southern Tagalog along with the central Visayas vote will spell the difference.

There is little that the governors of Batangas and Cavite can do to turn the tide. But as trapos, they can be expected to say that they were secretly supporting Robredo if she wins.