By Michelle R. Guillang | Daily Tribune
For presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, his continuous rise in pre-election surveys could only mean that his call for “unity” has already turned from a “whisper” into a public “clamor.”
“Our call for unity has been heard by the people. We started with a whisper and now, we hear the same call far and wide,” Bongbong told his supporters during his campaign rally in Mandaluyong City on 13 February.
Organized by his national campaign manager Benhur Abalos Jr., Bongbong held a sortie in what has been dubbed as the “Tiger City” with his senatorial bets.
The entire length of Martinez Street in Barangay Addition Hills was closed off to accommodate thousands of his supporters.
Mandaluyong City is home to Abalos, who recently resigned as chairperson of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to help Bongbong in his presidential campaign.
In the latest Pulse Asia nationwide survey held from 19 to 24 January 2022, Bongbong continued to enjoy the majority of the Filipinos’ support, obtaining 60 percent. Vice President Leni Robredo, his closest rival, only got 16 percent.
The surveys were held before the campaign season started last 8 February 2022.
Bongbong’s big lead in the presidential race barely four months before the elections is unprecedented. It was the first time that a presidential candidate obtained such a rating in the history of Pulse Asia.
In his speech in Mandaluyong, the presidential frontrunner also stated his proposed solution to some national issues should he win in the May polls.
“We will do a lot. We need to fix different sectors of our society and the government,” Bongbong said.
He said he will “fix” the agriculture sector to ensure food security in the country but did not point out specific measures to accomplish it.
Bongbong also proposed to build more hospitals to “fix” the country’s healthcare system.
He added that he will “revive the tourism industry” and “address the needs” of small business owners who were hit by the pandemic.
To achieve this, he said he will first “unify the people.”
“This is my advocacy — advocacy of unity. I believe that through unity, we can surpass every trial that will come our way,” he said.
Moreover, the former senator hailed Filipinos for being “loving and helpful in nature”.
“The most important trait of Filipinos is being loving. Filipinos are helpful. Filipinos do everything to help his fellows,” Bongbong said.
In what appears to be a response to his critics, Bongbong said he is not “looking for a fight”.
“We are not saying that they are wrong, and we are the right ones,” he said, and went on praising Filipinos for being “helpful”.
On Monday, Bongbong’s spokesperson Vic Rodriguez confirmed that Bongbong will not attend the presidential debate to be hosted by CNN Philippines on 27 February, citing “conflict of schedule”.
Out of the 10 presidential candidates invited to the debate, Bongbong is the only one who opted not to participate.
Like Bongbong, out of nine vice-presidential candidates, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is the only one who declined to participate in the CNN vice-presidential debates on 26 February.
Sara’s spokesperson Liloan, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco, refused to comment when asked why Sara decided not to join the event.
Bongbong has skipped several major media interviews in the past, including an interview with veteran journalist Jessica Soho and the forum organized by the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the biggest media organization in the Philippines.
He attended the DZRH presidential interview and the one-on-one interviews with entertainment talk show host Boy Abunda and veteran journalist Korina Sanchez.
Bongbong, however, will attend the live debate hosted by SMNI, scheduled on 15 February.
SMNI is owned by sect leader Apollo Quiboloy, who is wanted by the FBI for the sex trafficking of children.
Quiboloy has endorsed Bongbong and Sara for the 2022 elections.
Labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman is set to face off against Bongbong at the televised debate after Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Manny Pacquiao, Ping Lacson, and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso have declined to participate in it.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has urged the candidates to participate in the debates, especially the ones it organized.
Under Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act, the Comelec is mandated to require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice-presidential candidates.
The law, however, does not require candidates to attend the debates organized by the Comelec.