ABS-CBN News : What voters say: Ilocanos expect Marcos Jr. to solve gut issues if he wins as president

20 February 2022

By Mico Abarro | ABS-CBN News

ILOCOS NORTE - In a farm within the town of Bacarra, north of the Ilocos Norte capital Laoag, 33-year-old sharecropper Angelo Soriano complained of high fertilizer prices.

Soriano told ABS-CBN News that four months' worth of work looking after his corn plot would yield P2,000. That's after paying to have the soil tilled and fertilized, on top of paying his farmhands and giving part of his harvest to people who own the land.

He said he is voting former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. for president in May, and wished he will somehow lower the price of fertilizers.

"Basta ibaba lang yung presyo ng abono at saka i-ano ng mga produkto natin para umangat naman yung magsasaka," Soriano said while trying to cover small stalks of corn with hay. He had run out of insecticides, so this was the only way to keep insects from eating his crops.

(I hope the price of fertilizers will be brought down and our products are promoted so that farmers' lives will improve.)

Soriano said Marcos was fine during his term as governor from 1998 to 2007, having implemented irrigation projects in the area. His sister though, Imee, was more active in boosting agriculture in the province when she was governor from 2010 until 2019, the sharecropper said.

"Pumupunta siya dito sa barangay namin," he said.

(She visits us here in our barangay.)

Another farmer in Bacarra, 62-year-old Roque Ponce, said all the Marcoses who became governors of Ilocos Norte have given farmers in the province free seedlings and even free fertilizers. These days, though, fertilizers come in small amounts because of high prices, he said.

If Marcos becomes president, Ponce expects him to make irrigation free of charge, as well as help the poor.

"Sa ngayon, privatized yung mga irigasyon dito. May take-crop po eh," Ponce said, explaining that irrigation owners take up to 15 percent of his harvest in exchange for water.

He believes that the Philippines will become rich once Marcos, currently the survey frontrunner, distributes the "Tallano Gold" in case he wins the presidential race.

When told about news reports that the Marcos camp has belied the Tallano Gold, he said, "Ganon lahat sabi."

(Everybody says that.)

A member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), Ponce said his church has yet to decide who among the presidential candidates they will support.

He noted though that the INC has been a friend of Marcos, supporting his vice presidential bid in 2016.

In Pagudpud, one of the northernmost towns in Ilocos Norte, Melanie Lagundino, 40, and her family waited for Marcos and Sara Duterte-Carpio's UniTeam's caravan to drive by last Feb. 16.

"Number 1 po kami," Lagundino said of her whole family's support for Marcos.

(We're number 1 supporters.)

Part of the reasons, she said, were the programs the Marcoses initiated, such as free capital for a barbecue business they ran before the pandemic. The business has died down, however, due to the lack of tourists in Pagudpud brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, all Lagundino wanted Marcos to do is address high energy prices in the province if he becomes president.

"Sa amin, mahigit P1,000 [per month]. Ang appliances lang namin, ilaw lang at electric fan at TV. Yun lang eh," she said.

(We are paying P1,000 per month, even though we only use an electric fan, TV and home lighting.)

For Lagundino's sister, 23-year-old student La Suerte, the "Solid North" provinces consisting of the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordillera Administrative Region that strongly supported the Marcos family is as solid as ever.

"Kase every time po na may event or something ang Marcos, lagi po kaming pumupunta," she said. "Like, for example, pupunta po si Sir [Gov.] Matthew [Marcos-Manotoc] dito sa Pagudpud, always po kami going to their event para po makita and marinig po yung mga platforms po ni Sir Matthew. Just any Marcos."

(Every time the Marcoses have an event or something, we always attend. Like, for example, if Gov. Matthew Marcos-Manotoc comes to Pagudpud, we always go to their event to see him and listen to his platforms.)

She believes that the Marcoses made certain promises come true, like the windmills near the town of Bangui. Marcos had said in 2010 that the windmills were a "private commercial enterprise", not a government project.

If Marcos wins in the May 9 polls, La Suerte wants him to provide scholarships to poor students like her.

"Kasi marami po gustong mag-aral ngayon because of lack of financial [resources]," she said.

(Many want to go to school.)

In case Marcos loses, the Lagundinos said they will still be right behind him.

In Pagudpud's town square, 68-year-old retired police officer Serafin Dumaguin said he hopes Marcos will run the Philippines as he did in Ilocos Norte, and make sure there will be less criminals.

"Sabi niya [Marcos Jr.], lahat ng Pilipinas babaguhin daw eh. Ganon," he said.

(He said he will bring change in the entire Philippines. So, he should do that.)

In the city of Laoag, a few minutes away from the provincial capitol, a house was adorned with pink parols or star lanterns. When ABS-CBN News asked 44 year-old Claire Castro if this meant she supports Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, she said that was only the case for the house owners. She said she was only there to work as a caregiver.

Despite her employer's political persuasions, Castro said she is going to vote for Marcos in the elections.

"Kasi marami naman po silang nagawa sa amin. Lalo na yung Port Irene eh, sa kanila naman yun," she said, referring to Port Irene in Cagayan, where she comes from.

(Because they did a lot for us. Port Irene is their project.)

As with Soriano, the farmer in Bacarra, Castro thinks Imee did more for Ilocos Norte than her younger brother.

"Si Madam po kasi, marami naman po siyang mga projects na nagawa dito," Castro said. "Tapos matulungin po naman po siya sa mga magsasaka."

(Imee accomplished many projects here. And she helps farmers.)

Castro said she had seen this first-hand, having previously worked in an agricultural cooperative that helped farmers secure loans.

"Si Ma'am Imee dati ang halos sumuporta po sa amin," she said.

(Imee supported us before.)

Near the capitol, 44-year-old tricycle driver Silverio Tamayo said he will vote for Marcos because he is a fellow Ilokano.

"Siyempre, time na naman magkaroon ng bagong presidente ng norte dito sa Ilocos," he told ABS-CBN News while waiting for passengers.

(Of course, it's time again for another Ilokano to be our President.)

Another reason why Tamayo likes Marcos is what he called the former governor's approachability. For the tricycle driver, there was nothing different in this aspect between the administrations of Bongbong and Imee.

"Ganon din [si Imee Marcos], ma-approach din sa mga tao," he said. "Saka ganon, madaling kausap, katulad din ni Bongbong."

(Imee was also approachable. And just like Bongbong, she is easy to talk to.)

In front of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol, an 18-year-old student was getting ready to apply for limited face-to-face classes. When asked who he would vote for president this May, he did not hesitate in saying Robredo's name.

"Siya lang walang bahid ng korapsyon eh, si Leni. 'Di tulad ni Marcos, sinungaling na nga, pinepeke pa yung degree," the student said. "Tas convicted pa. O, what do you expect?"

(It's only Leni who is not tainted by corruption allegations. She's unlike Marcos who is a liar, and even faked his degree. He was even convicted.)

Marcos has faced controversy over his academic record at Oxford University. In 2016, he said he got a bachelor's degree in Social Sciences. When told this was a special diploma in Social Sciences, he said a special degree and a bachelor's degree are the same.

Last year, Oxford University told ABS-CBN News that a special diploma is not a full graduate diploma.

The Marcos camp has repeatedly said that the former senator has always been truthful about his academic record.

Meanwhile, petitions are still pending at the Commission of Elections against Marcos' presidential candidacy, with the petitioners saying that his conviction for non-filing of Income Tax Returns between 1982 to 1985 makes him ineligible to run for public office.

Although the disqualification petitions have been dismissed, some of the petitioners have moved to reverse the ruling.

"Madaming atrocities yung mga Marcoses eh," said the student. "Kaya medyo mahirap na. Baka ulitin ulit."

(The Marcoses have committed many atrocities. So, it's difficult to trust them. They may repeat those.)

When asked whether he believes there's a "Solid North" vote, the student said this isn't true.

"Kasi madami din against sa mga Marcoses dito eh," he said. "Pero low-key lang sila."

(Because there are many people here who are against the Marcoses. But they are just playing low-key.)

In the 2016 vice presidential elections, Marcos won in the "Solid North", although it wasn't enough to install him to the country's second highest post.

Whether it will get him a seat in Malacañang on May 9, and whether he'll live up to the expectations of his province mates if he does, remain to be seen.