By Michelle R. Guillang | Daily Tribune
BACOLOD City — Leaving the past behind, at least 29 Negros Occidental mayors are backing the attempt of another Marcos to return to Malacañang, or so one of them claimed.
Presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos earned the endorsement of almost all of the province’s mayors, two local officials here said.
Moises Padilla Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo said “more than 25” leaders signified their support, but Negros Occidental 5th district representative Marilou Arroyo gave a more specific figure.
“Twenty-nine out of 31 mayors,” Arroyo told reporters in a chance interview at the Stonehill Suites in Bacolod City.
She did not identify who these local chief executives backing Bongbong were but noted that all of them were present in their meeting.
Arroyo met the media after meeting Bongbong and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in the hotel where they held a dialogue with the sugar planters, who were mostly victims of malnutrition and starvation in the 1970s and 1980s.
Rep. Arroyo is the sister-in-law of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was instrumental in making Sara the running mate of Bongbong in the 2022 elections.
“We must support BBM (Bongbong Marcos) and Sara Duterte so that in the future we can go to them to help not only the big farmers but the small farmers, our beneficiaries,” the lawmaker disclosed.
“We have to help. Before we ask for help, we have to give them the votes,” she added.
Negros Occidental is the fifth province with the largest number of registered voters in the Philippines, with 1.6 million registered voters back in the last national elections.
Leni Robredo, Marcos’ rival, won big in the province during the 2016 vice-presidential elections.
For Garcia-Yulo, Bongbong and Sara would “dominate” the 2022 presidential and vice-presidential elections, citing the overwhelming support of the local officials and the backing of previous Philippine presidents.
“If you look at their team, it is unified,” she claimed.
Like Arroyo, she has high hopes that Bongbong and Sara would boost the sugar industry in the province.
“I believe, the BBM-Sara has special attention on the sugar industry right now in Negros because we don’t want the previous thing happened in the past, Marcos time…that they will do everything in their power what happened in the past won’t happen again. That’s why they have given a special friendship,” Garcia-Yulo said.
Unlike before, she recalled, sugar hacienderos were the only ones benefitting from the industry, leaving small farmers in crisis.
The Philippine sugar industry almost collapsed in the mid-80s with the majority of the planters indebted, particularly those from the sugar-producing central island of Negros.
The major decline of the Philippine sugar industry caused widespread malnutrition and the rise of communist insurgency in the province.
Meanwhile, in an ambush interview, Bongbong said this latest endorsement is “very important” for him since Negros Occidental is not his “bailiwick”.
“Of course, we thank them very much for their expressions of support. What else can we say? That is very, very important, especially in a place that has not been traditionally considered as our bailiwick,” Bongbong told the media.
“It’s a very, very good development for the UniTeam because it is not only for myself, Inday Sara but also to our senatorial candidates,” he added.
For her part, Sara vowed to address the problems raised by the sugar planters during their dialogue should she and Bongbong emerge victorious after the polls.
One of these problems, she shared, is the government’s policy allowing the importation of sugar.