By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga: With just over a week left before Election Day, presidential frontrunner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. mounted another show of force in the North, securing the endorsement of political bigwigs in the bailiwick of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Thousands of supporters from all over the province showed their all-out support to Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio during a jam-packed rally on Friday here at Robinsons Starmills Grounds in San Fernando City, where the tandem earned the endorsement of more local officials.
Organizers have estimated the Pampanga crowd at 250,000, higher than the number of people who attended Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo's grand rally at the very same venue.
During the Friday's rally, Arroyo, who is a Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party-mate of Duterte-Carpio, said that the whole Pampanga is behind the UniTeam as she introduced Marcos to the huge crowd as "the next president of the Republic of the Philippines."
The former speaker, who earlier supported the vice presidential bid of Duterte-Carpio, said that Marcos was also endorsed by the influential Pineda clan led by the mother-and-son tandem of Gov. Dennis Pineda and Vice Gov. Lilia Pineda.
Four lawmakers and 20 mayors of Pampanga are also backing the BBM-Sara UniTeam.
"Sa ngalan ni Governor Delta Pineda, sa ngalan ni Vice Governor Nanay Baby Pineda, sa ngalan ng apat na congressmen ng Pampanga, sa ngalan ng 20 mayor ng Pampanga, heto na po ang susunod na pangulo ng Republika ng Pilipinas, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. (On behalf of Governor Delta Pineda, on behalf of Vice Governor Nanay Baby Pineda, on behalf of the four congressmen of Pampanga, on behalf of the 20 mayors of Pampanga, here is the next president of the Republic of the Philippines, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr.)," Arroyo told her fellow Kapampangans.
The former president, who brokered the Marcos-Duterte tandem, is eyeing a return to the House of Representatives in the elections, which will take place on May 9.
Dubbed as a "GMA Country," Pampanga is one of the country's vote-rich provinces, with a voter population of 1,580,473.
During the 2016 vice presidential election, Marcos garnered 434,235 votes in Pampanga compared to Robredo's 293,420.
In his speech, Marcos thanked Arroyo as well as the local officials of Pampanga backing his presidential bid.
He said he was speechless upon seeing the large gathering in San Fernando, overwhelmingly supporting their political bid.
The rousing reception given by supporters repeatedly interrupted the speech of Marcos, shouting "Panalo ka na (You already won)!" and "Hindi kami bayad (We are not paid)!"
Marcos told the massive crowd, "Magiging totoo 'yan basta't walang iwanan. Walang iwanan dahil tayo ay nagkaisa na (My victory will come true as long as you stay with me until the end. Stay with me because we are united)."
The former senator also renewed his call for unity as he vowed to continue the plans and projects of the Duterte administration, as well as the battle against criminality and the Build, Build, Build program which generated over 6.5 million jobs.
He also reiterated that his partnership with Duterte-Carpio is a great example of how to unite the country.
Confident of their bet's victory, Marcos read one of the placards from a supporter stating "Excited na ako pumuntang EDSA para sa victory party (I am excited to go to EDSA for the victory party)."
"Sa EDSA ba tayo (Are we holding it in EDSA)?" Marcos said, referring to the venue of the People Power Revolution, also known as the EDSA Revolution.
Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio thanked the Kapampangans as she expressed confidence of winning the race because of their very warm support to UniTeam.
The President's daughter also asked their supporters to vote straight for the 11 UniTeam Senate candidates.
"Kapag sinabi na ng Kapampangan na panalo na ang Bisaya, malakas ang loob ko mananalo ako. Maraming salamat!" Duterte-Carpio said.
The 11 UniTeam Senate candidates, namely Herbert Bautista, Sherwin Gatchalian, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gilbert Teodoro, Harry Roque Jr., Larry Gadon, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, Gregorio Honasan 3rd, Mark Villar and Robin Padilla attended the rally.
Even Deputy Speaker and Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, who withdrew from the Senate race, delivered his speech, reassuring his continued support for the entire UniTeam.
"Kahit ako po ay nag-withdraw, ang akin pong pakikisama sa UniTeam ay nanatili sapagkat ako po ay naniniwala sa adhikain, sa simulain ng UniTeam sapagkat sila lamang ang nagtataguyod sa kilusan ng pagkakaisa (Although I have already withdrawn from the senatorial race, my belief in the UniTeam and their advocacy for unity stays)," Marcoleta said amid cheers from supporters repeatedly shouting "sayang!"
"Kahit nag-withdraw ako, hindi ko iiwan si Bongbong Marcos at Sara Duterte para pagsilbihan ang bansa (I will not turn my back on Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte)," he added.
The UniTeam is entering its final week of campaign wherein they are expected to go all-out in consolidating support from local officials.
Marcos, a former senator, is the standard-bearer of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas party.
Duterte-Carpio, on the other hand, is the incumbent Davao City mayor and chairman of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party.
The tandem, dubbed as the BBM-Sara UniTeam, has consistently led pre-election surveys for their respective positions.