By Michelle R. Guillang | Daily Tribune
Energized by the recent endorsement of One Cebu party in the vote-rich Queen City of the South. Frontrunning Bongbong Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Wednesday returned to Batangas and are set to revisit every province in Southern Luzon.
Sara, who also received a resounding backing from her father, President Rodrigo Duterte said they will continue to reach out to voters and spread their message of unity, healing, hope, and peace until the end of the campaign period on 7 May, two days before the elections.
The older Duterte, however, will not join Sara’s campaign sorties, according to her daughter herself. She said they have yet to speak anything about politics.
During a recent campaign sortie of the ruling PDP Laban party, the popular Philippine leader has appealed to the public to vote for his daughter on 9 May.
He did not endorse former senator the younger Marcos, however.
Bongbong and Sara are the leading candidates in the presidential and vice-presidential races, respectively, based on pre-election surveys less than a month before the polls.
Batangas Governor Hermilando “Dodo” Mandanas reaffirmed his support to the UniTeam, saying that the two are the “best candidates to lead the country” in the next six years.
“The whole country knows it is BBM and Sara who can bring genuine service and solve national woes,” Mandanas claimed.
“They have the capability to unite the country and improve the lives of every Filipino. We need leaders whose vision is to unite the Filipinos,” he added.
Vice President Leni Robredo, meantime was unfazed by One Cebu Party’s endorsement of Bongbong since her strategy for the presidential race is to court voters and not politicians, her camp said Wednesday.
Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of the Office of the Vice President, said Leni’s campaign team had anticipated that several local officials would not favor her as the opposition’s de facto leader.
“We are not too concerned and the reason for such is we never really factored in — as part of our general strategy since the beginning — endorsements coming from local officials,” he said in an interview with ANC.
“We know that running as opposition already puts us at a disadvantage insofar as local endorsements are concerned,” Gutierrez added.
He added that the situation was a “familiar terrain” for Leni, recalling that she did not also earn the backing of incumbent officials when she first pursued a government post in 2013.
“She was running against the incumbent, not a single endorsement from any of the mayors,” Gutierrez said, referring to Leni’s congressional bid in Camarines Sur.
“Her strategy there was to speak directly to the people… And we think that this strategy has paid off. Even in places where we do not have local government support — the outpouring of support of the people, coming to her rallies volunteering for her — has been tremendous,” he added.
One Cebu, an affiliate of administration party PDP Laban, announced last week that it would throw its weight behind Bongbong following “weeks of extensive consultations and discussions with provincial, municipal and barangay leaders.”
Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia said that the “interests of the Cebuanos are best served if we unite behind the leadership of BBM as president and, as we have earlier announced, Mayor Sara Duterte as vice president.”
Cebu is the most vote-rich province in the Philippines with 3.28 million registered voters. The endorsement of the influential political group is expected to carry some two million votes for the BBM-Sara tandem.
“While we are happy when local officials come forward to say that they are supporting VP Leni or the (Leni-Kiko) tandem, that’s on top of the strategy that we have pursued,” Gutierrez said.
Leni and her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan were scheduled to return to Cebu on Thursday, 21 April, to hold campaign rallies, a day after their visit to Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
In Tacloban City, Aksyon Demokratiko presidential aspirant Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso on Wednesday dared Leni to deny that she had asked him to withdraw from the presidential race.
Isko made the challenge in an ambush interview at the provincial capitol of Bohol here.
Asked why, Isko said he wants the people to know the real character of Leni and his men whom he claimed were bullying them on the pretext of unification to beat former Bongbong.
“I will not let up on them because they are rude, insolent and has no respect. Senator Lacson is right. He doesn’t believe that 60 percent of Filipinos are loyalists to the Marcoses as the survey shows. Most of them just hate the yellows so much that they have shifted to Bongbong. And it’s all because these yellows think they are above all else,” he explained.
Isko even when to the extent of challenging the Leni camp to deny that they have asked him to withdraw from the race on three occasions in three different venues.
“I challenge Bam Aquino to deny my claims so the people will know the truth. It is an issue of character of a person who wants to be the leader of the country. When you allow bullying, you are the biggest bully, godmother bully,” Isko said.
Bohol Governor Arthur Yap on Wednesday warmly welcomed the Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer at the provincial capitol as he expressed the gratitude of Boholanons for the kindness shown by Isko during the province’s time of need.
WITH MJ BLANCAFLOR, PAT SANTOS AND JOM GARNER