Manila Standard : The race is on

10 February 2022

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

“Did it look like a proclamation rally to you?”

Last Tuesday, the campaign for national electoral posts in the May 9 polls officially kicked off. Leading their tickets in their respective proclamation rallies of course were their standard bearers – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Inday Sara Duterte for PFP-Lakas CMD; Francisco “Isko” Domagoso and Willy Ong for Aksyon Demokratiko; Manny Pacquiao and Lito Atienza for Promdi-Buhay; Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Tito Sotto for Nationalist People’s Coalition; and, Leni Robredo and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan for the independent Pinklaw (I’m not sure if the other candidates had their kickoff rallies as I never got wind of their announcements in the media mainstream or social).

Anyway, the proclamation rally is intended to set the tone for their grueling 90-day campaign because each candidate (I’m referring to the standard bearer as they are the ones expected to call the shots here) has to make sure they put on their best shows. And a surefire ticket is to kickoff their campaign in their own bailiwicks (That is assuming they have their own or if they still have).

The Domagoso-Ong tandem held theirs in Kartilya ng Katipunan in Manila where Isko failed to score a landslide victory in 2019 when he beat former President Joseph Estrada who was then seeking a third term as city mayor (So how can he claim Manila is his bailiwick?); the Lacson-Sotto pairing held theirs in Ping’s hometown in Imus, Cavite where the Remullas, the acknowledged political power in the province, have pledged support for the Marcos-Duterte team; the Robredo-Pangilinan pair held their own presidential campaign launch in Leni’s turf in Naga City.

Noticeably, it was only the BBM-Sara Uniteam which held their proclamation rally outside of their comfort zone. BBM is from the Ilocos Region in the North while Inday hails from Davao city in the South. The Uniteam launched their bid at the “jampacked” Philippine Arena in Bocaue in Bulacan. While Philippine Arena has a capacity of no less than 55,000, event organizers have to abide by the strict IATF protocol and settled for a one-seat apart seating arrangement and registered a 30,000 attendance, excluding the hordes of BBM-Sara supporters who watched the event on a wide screen outside the venue.

A friend, who operates an IT business, monitored the traffic on social media viewership and said that at the peak of the BBM-Sara rally, they registered 145,000 viewership compared to Leni-Kiko’s measly 1,000 views. Of course, this hardly represents the final figures as they are expected to increase as more people, social media subscribers would be viewing them at a later time and day. But more or less, that would be the trend of the media as I see it.

Now the question: If Leni really beat in BBM in 2016, where then are her hordes of supporters?

She supposedly got 14,418,817 votes as compared to the 14,155,344 votes thrown in BBM’s way in 2016, something us in the media who covered the elections then never expected (I was then covering Team UNA headlined by former VP Jojo Binay and former Senator Gringo Honasan). As the ones who were on the ground, we were expecting BBM to be a runaway winner in the VP race with Chiz Escudero placing a distant second. We were astounded beyond our senses when the final results were revealed with Leni beating BBM by such a close margin.

While the results were eventually placed under protest, we would never know the real outcome, thanks but no thanks to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal which sat on the protest for the whole duration of Leni’s term.

Anyway, videos and photos posted in the social media of the BBM-Sara Uniteam kickoff rally were electrifying. The dimly-lit jam packed arena illuminated by thousands of lights emanating from cell phones, chanting BBM and Marcos pa rin! (The same slogan people were chanting during the time of BBM’s father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.). It was as if they were making a statement; “We are rejecting your anti-Marcos narrative. We want them back.”

For the other rallies, all I have seen and monitored so far are tight shots of their events. Maybe it’s deliberate on their part to make it difficult for anyone to determine the number of people who attended their events.

With the campaign period officially kicking off, they say the race is on, it’s time for serious business and kick their opponents’ a*ses. But as far as the images circulating in the social media from their respective events, and from the various survey results conducted leading to last Tuesday’s events, this could hardly be considered a race at all.

As my soon-to-be-kumare Rose Lacierda Uy says, it didn’t look to be a proclamation rally at all. From the looks of it, she says it was more of a victory party. For the BBM-Sara Uniteam.