By CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS | Mindanao Times
BULUAN , Maguindanao (MindaNews / 29 March) – The man from the north, the frontrunner nationwide among 10 presidential candidates, arrived in the south on Sunday, Day 48 of the 90-day national campaign, bringing with him a message of a “better life for all” under a Marcos-Duterte administration during his rallies in South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.
Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has visited several areas in Mindanao since he filed his certificate of candidacy in October last year but this is his first Mindanao sortie since the national campaign period began on February 8.
That Marcos’ first stop in Mindanao is South Cotabato is symbolic. It was in the town of Tupi in September last year when the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) headed by South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, nominated Marcos to be its candidate for President.
South Cotabato is part of Region 12 or Soccsksargen, along with the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani. In the 2016 election for Vice President, Marcos won in only one of Mindanao’s six regions and this was Region 12.
Mindanao has 27 provinces and 33 cities, a population of 26.3 million Moro, Lumad and settlers from the Visayas and Luzon, including Marcos’ fellow Ilocanos. Its voting population is 15.7 million, according to the Commission on Elections’ regional summary as of December 23, 2021.
In 2016, Marcos’ rival for Vice President, Leni Robredo, won in 14 Mindanao provinces and 16 cities. Seven provinces and seven cities voted for Marcos while six provinces and 10 cities voted for Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. Marcos won in the four provinces of Region 12, in Zamboanga del Sur, Dinagat Islands and Sulu.
In 2022, Marcos has taken the lead in Mindanao against Robredo, who defeated him in the vice presidential race. This time, the two are running for President.
According to Pulse Asia, if the election were held during the survey dates on February 18 to 23, 60% would have voted for Marcos nationwide, with his highest percentage in Mindanao, at 68% against Vice President Robredo’s 5%.
Nationwide, according to the survey, 15% would have voted for Robredo then.
A review of previous Pulse Asia surveys, however, shows that from December 2020 to September 2021 or just before the October 8, 2021 deadline for filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs), preference for Marcos among voters in Mindanao was single-digit, between 4% and 8%. He was second choice for President after Sara Duterte during this period.
Duterte as first choice topped the geographical areas overall, particularly in Visayas and Mindanao while second choice Marcos topped in Luzon – in both the National Capital Region and the Balance of Luzon.
Marcos’ numbers in Mindanao significantly improved after the filing of COCs and the announcement of the Marcos-Duterte tandem.
“Clearly it was Sara who pulled him up in Mindanao,” an election campaign strategist told MindaNews. The strategist noted that while the percentage increase in voter preference for Marcos in Mindanao was high, this was “not reciprocal” as there is only a slight increase in voter preference for Sara in Luzon.
From his highest of 8% in Mindanao in September last year, voter preference for Marcos in Mindanao reached 66% in January 2022 and 68% in February.
RoSa Mindanao, Partido Reporma switch
New developments in March will likely affect the votes for Marcos in Mindanao: the launching on March 21 in Cagayan de Oro City of RoSa Mindanao which is pushing for a Robredo-Sara (Duterte) tandem in Mindanao and the declaration of support for Robredo by former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, President of Partido Reporma on March 24 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Before the switch, the party’s standard bearer was Panfilo Lacson.
But Tamayo told MindaNews last week that they are unfazed by these developments and are confident of Marcos’ numbers in Mindanao.
RoSa Mindanao was launched by Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, with RoSa national convener Joey Salceda, of the 2nd district Representative of Albay.
Davao del Norte has nearly 700,000 registered voters but Alvarez said he could push for about a million votes for Robredo, to include Davao de Oro which has half a million votes.
Zamboanga City has 445,000 registered voters.
Marcos arrived at the South Cotabato Sports Complex in Koronadal City at around 3:20 p.m. on Sunday. An hour earlier, in Villanueva town in Misamis Oriental, Rep. Juliette Uy, who is running for Governor, her husband and their Hugpong Panaghiusa (Team Unity) party which is allied with the National Unity Party (NUP), declared support for the RoSa tandem.
The NUP was earlier reported to have thrown in its support for Marcos-Duterte but Uy said she “did not defy the NUP because the party never endorsed Bongbong Marcos.” She said even NUP party president, Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of the 4th district of Cavite, declared support for Robredo.
Uy is the second gubernatorial bet in Misamis Oriental to declare support for Robredo. Three-term Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno on Friday declared support for the Robredo-Pangilinan team. Senator Francis Pangilinan, running mate of Robredo, graced the proclamation rally of Moreno and his slate in Balingasag town on Day 1 of the local campaign on March 25.
Misamis Oriental has a million votes.
Rally crowd estimates
In South Cotabato on Sunday, Marcos also visited Tupi, the national headquarters of PFP which was established in early 2018 and accredited by the Commission on Elections that same year. Marcos was nominated as PFP standard bearer in September 2021 and became a member and PFP chair the following month.
In November 20221, PFP teamed up with the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, Mayor Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago, and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) to form the UniTeam Alliance behind Marcos-Duterte.
The publicity materials shared by the Marcos-Duterte team on the rallies on Sunday in South Cotabato and on Monday in North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, gave huge estimates of the expected crowd in the venues listed, ranging from 5,000 to 250,000: in Polomolok town on Sunday for a mini-rally, the organizers’ published expected crowd was 5,000 and in the South Cotabato Sports Complex, the crowd estimate expected was “100K – 250,00K participants;” for Monday, the expected crowd at the Kabacan Sports Complex in North Cotabato, according to the organizers, was 50,000; another 50,000 in the Buluan Capitol Gym in Maguindanao and in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, “100K – 250K participants.”
The Kabacan rally, however, did not push through. It was instead held at the Municipal Park in Carmen, North Cotabato, the turf of former Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza (Nacionalist Party) who is seeking to reclaim the gubernatorial post from incumbent and reelectionist Governor Nancy Catamco (PDP-Laban).
Catamco and Talino-Mendoza are both supporting Marcos-Duterte.
North Cotabato has 771,000 votes.
In the rally in Koronadal City, South Cotabato on Sunday, Mayor Duterte was represented by her brother Sebastian, the Vice Mayor who is now acting mayor of Davao City. Sebastian is running for mayor.
South Cotabato has 975,000 votes.
In Buluan, Maguindanao, there was no activity in the gym, the venue mentioned in the posters passed around via social media. The rally was held at the provincial capitol grounds, where umbrella tents were set up for delegations from municipalities.
The crowd, many of them led by their mayors and other town officials, endured the rain and the heat.
It had rained earlier in the afternoon but the weather improved at around 2 p.m. when Mayor Duterte gave the audience glimpses into what the Marcos-Duterte tandem would do for economic recovery, education and peace, among others. Duterte also spoke about how under a Marcos-Duterte administration, there will no longer be political colors, no red, no green, no pink, no blue but only one color for the Philippines, “ang kulay ng isang Pilipino” (the color of the Filipino).
It rained again by the time Marcos spoke shortly before 5 p.m. His 12-minute speech here was basically a repeat of what he said in South Cotabato and North Cotabato on the importance of unity. Duterte and Marcos, however, did not say how they intend to achieve unity once they win.
Buluan is his first sortie in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) but Marcos said nothing about how he would address the issues in the Bangsamoro.
“Kami sa UniTeam ay aming kinakalat at pinagsisigaw adhikain ng pagkakaisa, pagkakaisa ng sambayanang Pilipino ngunit ang isa sa magandang halimbawa ay ang tambalang Marcos-Duterte” (We in the UniTeam, we are spreading the word about our aim for unity, unity of the entire Filipino people but one of the good examples is the Marcos-Duterte tandem),” Marcos told the crowd here.
He said he comes from the north while Duterte is from the south, but they joined forces and “kaya naman namin siguro na ipagkaisa ang sambayanang Pilipino” (and I think we can unite our Filipino people).
He cited as a “magandang halimbawa” (good example), the unity of big political clans in the province under the “Family Alliance.”
Mangudadatu vs Mangudadatu
Ironically, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces are contested by a divided family: the Mangudadatu cousins.
Maguindanao Governor Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu is the wife of Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu, Governor of neighboring Sultan Kudarat province.
Teng Mangudadatu is the cousin of Maguindanao 2nd district Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, governor of Maguindanao from 2010 to 2019 who is seeking to return as Governor against reelectionist Bai Mariam (Nacionalista Party). Toto is running under the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP).
Toto Mangudadatu’s wife, Sharifa Akeel is running for Governor of Sultan Kudarat under Aksyon Demokratio, against Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu (Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats), son of Mariam and Teng Mangudadatu.
Teng and Mariam Mangudadatu are supporting Marcos-Duterte while Toto Mangudadatu is supporting Isko Moreno. Moreno’s rally on February 20 in an open field within the compound of the Buluan Gymnasium, drew a bigger crowd than Marcos’ at the provincial capitol grounds.
Buluan is the hometown of Toto Mangudadatu.
But Sultan Kudarat province, which has been ruled by the Mangudadatus (the patriarch Datu Pax and son Suharto) since 1998, gave the Marcos-Duterte tandem the biggest crowd in the first two days of Marcos’ Mindanao sortie and the biggest crowd thus far, among rallies for Presidential candidates who have had sorties in Mindanao – Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao who hails from Sarangani province, Moreno, Robredo and Marcos. Lacson and Partido ng Lakas Masa candidate Leodegario de Guzman, came for town hall and sectoral meetings.
Sultan Kudarat has 498,000 registered voters while Maguindanao has 819,000. Maguindanao is the vote-richest province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)