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PANGASINAN, Philippines – It was the first of the ruling coalition’s two-day campaign in the third vote-richest province in the country, but only 4 of the senatorial bets showed up with President Benigno Aquino III.
It was good, nevertheless, according to Team PNoy campaign manager Franklin Drilon. This northern province of 1.65 million voters is important exposure for the candidates who are lagging behind in surveys.
Former senators Jamby Madrigal and Ramon Magsaysay Jr, former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros, and Aurora Rep Sonny Angara had the opportunity to address a large and responsive crowd at the CSI Stadia on Friday, March 15.
Drilon understood the significance of the province, and expressed confidence of Aquino's influence here.
"This is a big province. In 2010, Aquino won here that's why we consider this Team PNoy country. We will work hard to win big here in Pangasinan," Drilon told reporters.
In 2010, Aquino received a total of 537,533 votes in Pangasinan while the 2nd placer, Sen Manny Villar, garnered 318, 533. Former President Joseph Estrada, an UNA stalwart, only managed 223,441.
In the vice presidential race, Roxas also received the most number of votes at 517,563, ahead of now Vice President and UNA head Jejomar Binay, who received 441,055 votes.
Despite the overwhelming support that Aquino got in 2010, and at the Liberal Party-led rally on Friday, the dominant party here isn't the administration's but the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).
While the LP and the NPC are allied under Team PNoy on the national level, the two parties are bitter rivals on the local level here.
Re-electionist Governor Amado Espino is an NPC member. Of the 44 towns, LP is fielding only 29 mayoral candidates compared to NPC's 43. Of LP's 29, only 3 are seeking re-election while NPC has 28 re-electionists.
A key battleground for both the LP and the NPC, Pangasinan was declared a free zone by the administration.
"We knew since the beginning there would be places we couldn't avoid local contests so we emphasized that in local races, when we have candidates, we would allow them to fight but we're allied in the national level," said Drilon.
‘Every town is important’
Knowing this, Aquino did not hold back in pushing for LP's bet, and using his popularity in the province to gather support.
"I have full faith and trust in Nani Braganza (Espino’s rival). Unlike other, he will not gamble away your future, he will not use power and force to stay in power," said Aquino in his speech.
Espino is the subject of an investigation, initiated by LP stalwart and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, for his alleged involvement in the illegal numbers game jueteng.
Aquino also pushed for his slate in Pangasinan, not just in Dagupan but also in Alaminos, the city where Braganza was mayor.
Angara, who was just outside the Magic 12 in the latest Pulse Asia survey, said it was important to value not just the province, but every town.
"Each vote matters especially if you're talking about 12th and 13th (spot). I think in the 2010 elections between Migz Zubiri and Koko Pimentel you're talking a difference of 12,000 or 15,000 votes. So each town matters, not just province," he said. – Rappler.com
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