Korina, Alcala campaign for LP in Leyte farmers' forum
LEYTE, Philippines – It was supposed to be a forum on agriculture and climate change, but it sounded more like a rally for the Liberal Party (LP).
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who brought along Korina Sanchez-Roxas and LP senatorial bet Mark Lapid, campaigned for the party's standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, his running mate Leni Robredo, and administration senatorial candidates at a "stakeholders' consultation" attended by about 5,000 farmers from Leyte and Biliran.
Sanchez-Roxas, wife of the administration candidate, addressed the crowd before the program began. She praised the gains of the "Daang Matuwid" (Straight Path) philosophy of the current administration.
"Dati ninanakaw ang pera, kaya walang 4Ps, kaya walang benepisyo sa magsasaka kasi ninanakaw daw dati ang pera. Pero ngayon, sa Daang Matuwid, hindi ninanakaw ang pera. Napupunta sa inyo ang benepisyo. Gusto ba nating ituloy ang Daang Matuwid?" she asked the farmers.
(The reason why there were no 4Ps, no benefits for farmers before, is because the money was stolen. But now, with the Straight Path, money is not being stolen. Benefits go to you. Do you want to continue the Straight Path?)
Then, she segued to the elections.
"Candidates these days flatter you and promise you a lot of things. Isn't it confusing? Aside from that, there's your neighbor convincing you to just support their candidate. It's confusing. But don't be confused. When the question is simple, the answer becomes simple," she added.
Who will you hire as 'driver'?
Sanchez-Roxas told a story about 5 kinds of applicants aspiring to be the family driver assigned to the children. Each applicant alludes to one of Roxas' opponents: one driver who is a thief, another who is just a new driver, the third has terminal illness, the fourth who is hotheaded and a confessed killer, or the last, a professional driver with a lot of experience. She asked the farmers who among the applicants they will hire as a driver.
Roxas had made a similar pitch in one of the presidential debates.
Sanchez-Roxas arrived and left separately in a yellow helicopter before Alcala and his party arrived.
During the program proper, Lapid introduced himself as a senatorial candidate and talked about agritourism.
Alcala, after jumping from topic to topic about agriculture, campaigned for the other LP bets. He said it was a "request" from President Benigno Aquino III to support the candidates.
He made an easy pitch for former energy secretary Jericho "Icot" Petilla for senator, since he used to be governor of Leyte. He then proceeded to ask support for another Visayan, Roxas, who is running for president.
Alcala rehearsed the audience to answer back and forth in a chant commonly used in DA-related activities:
Magandang buhay – "Magandang ani!" (Good life, good harvest!)
Magandang ani! – "Magandang buhay!" (Good harvest, good life!)
Leyte at Biliran – "Buhay na buhay!" (Very alive!)
And he added two more chants:
Mar Roxas – "Panalo na 'yan!" (He will win!)
Leni Robredo – "Panalo rin 'yan!" (She will win too!)
Ten motor bancas (boats) and two carabaos were initially raffled off during the forum, but Alcala announced 20 more boats and 10 more carabaos would be given away because the crowd cheered for Roxas and Robredo.
The Regional Field Unit-8 of the Department of Agriculture (DA) organized the Technical Consultation for Agri-Pinoy Stakeholders in Eastern Visayas event and invited Alcala as keynote speaker. Farmers and fisherfolk organizations from Eastern Visayas were invited to the forum, through their respective LGUs.
The theme of the event was "Sapat, Tama at Akmang Agrikultura Tugon sa Pagbagu-bagong Klima (Sufficient, right and suitable agriculture as answer to a changing climate)."
The forum also comes after a protest involving some 5,000 farmers asking the government for rice in Kidapawan City which ended in a violent clash with the police. (READ: Between good and evil in Kidapawan)
Alcala, however, made no mention of the Kidapawan tragedy or of climate change, which was the theme of the forum. Sanchez-Roxas had been previously critized for regularly showing up in DA events but her husband defended her, saying there is no rule that forbids her to campaign.
About 5,000 farmers waited for hours for the program to start, which was originally scheduled at 10 am. Sanchez, Alcala, and Lapid arrived via separate helicopters after lunch. – with reports from Prince Darius Lina/Rappler.com
A faculty member at the Visayas State University, Jed Asaph Cortes is one of Rappler's Lead Movers in Eastern Visayas.