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ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The tandem of presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago and running mate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr held a sortie at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) on Wednesday, April 13, gathering thousands of supporters from all over Western Visayas.
The sortie – only their third time together on the campaign trail since the campaign period started – finally pushed through at Santiago’s alma mater.
Local organizers had two failed attempts before pulling off the event. The first was supposed to be at the Central Philippine University on February 6, and the other, at the West Visayas State University on March 15.
Marcos arrived on Monday, April 11, and held his own grand rally at the Jaro Plaza. He traveled to Negros the following day. On Wednesday, he returned to Iloilo to meet with Santiago for their scheduled campus tour and caravan.
A known Liberal Party bailiwick, Iloilo is a shared hometown of Santiago and two other presidential candidates: Senator Grace Poe and former interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
Santiago’s campaign team, however, believes she has the advantage among the two, having been born and raised in the La Paz district in Iloilo City.
Crowd’s mixed emotions
Tighter security protocols were also reinforced: guards frisked and searched the bags of those attending the event.
“As organizers, we wanted to make sure that our guest are treated properly. We are trying to avoid any scenario similar to what happened in the vice presidential debate in UST,” Mark Aranduque, Secretary General of the People’s Reform Coalition, said.
While Marcos was jeered by protesters upon his arrival, the voice of over a thousand Santiago supporters – all clad in red and raising their hands in Santiago’s signature peace sign – welcomed the senator inside the auditorium.
During the introduction, a representative of the UPV Halalan Committee reiterated that any attempt to disrupt the program will not be tolerated, and hecklers will be escorted outside of the venue.
However, after Marcos went to the podium, two unidentified UP students tried to get through the security to air their protest against the vice presidential candidate. They were immediately intercepted and pacified by the authorities.
Marcos said he was honored to be chosen by Santiago as her running mate and praised Miriam in his entire speech. He shared that Ilocanos were similarly warm to Santiago during their first sortie as a tandem in Ilocos Norte.
“Napakainit ng pagtanggap ng mga Ilocano kay Miriam, at nagpapasalamat ako na ibinalik niyong mga Ilonggo ang pagtanggap na iyon sa akin (The Ilocanos were so warm in welcoming Miriam, and I would like to thank Ilonggos for returning the favor to me),” he said.
Santiago was introduced as one of UPV’s pride. She occasionally smiled at the praises and intently listened as the crowd cheered during the nearly 10-minute rundown of her achievements.
She opened her speech with her usual pick-up lines and said that among the candidates claiming to be Ilonggo, she’s the only legitimate one, since she can actually say, “I used to shop at the La Paz market.”
She went on by questioning the intelligence of her rivals through humorous jabs as “they should have entered the entertainment industry instead.”
“If it were up to me, presidential candidates would be taking an IQ test,” she said, switching between English, Filipino, and Ilonggo.
She spoke a mix of Hiligaynon, Filipino and English as she bared her plans, and defended her health condition. She later said that she believes the Ilonggos are educated voters, so they should vote wisely this coming elections.
She ended her speech with an excerpt from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley, “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll.” As she prepared to give the final verse, the crowd joined in a chorus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
The open forum did not push through to avoid possible confrontations and conflict between some students and Marcos.
Santiago, born in Iloilo City in 1945, is the eldest among 7 children. Her father, Benjamin, was a district trial judge while her mother, Dimpna, was a college dean. (READ: 15 things to know about Miriam Santiago)
She graduated valedictorian from La Paz Elementary School and Iloilo Provincial National High School, and was magna cum laude when she finished her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at UPV.
Miriam first ran for president in 1992 under the banner of the People’s Reform Coalition, and won 98% of the votes in Western Visayas, but lost to Fidel Ramos.
In 1998, she ran again for the presidency but lost to Joseph Estrada.
This year, her campaign team hopes to repeat her 1992 Western Visayas landslide victory.
3% voter preference
While the surveys rule against Santiago’s favor, members of her camp are far from alarmed. They said that Santiago still dominates most university mock polls, so they are hopeful that this would translate into good numbers come May 9. (READ: 3 ways Miriam Santiago can revive her magic at the polls)
She received more than 50% of the vote in the following schools:
- UP Los Baños (86%)
- UP Baguio (78.2%)
- Philippine Normal University (76%)
- De La Salle University Manila (75%)
- University of Santo Tomas (66%)
- Polytechnic University of the Philippines (64%)
- Adamson University (64%)
- UP Manila (59.5%)
- Colegio de San Juan de Letran (58.5%)
- Malayan Colleges Laguna (54.7%)
“Miriam attracts the young and the old. You can see that with the audience turnout today. We even came all the way from Aklan to support her, because we believe that she is the most qualified to be the president to run this country,” said Jiji Flores, a volunteer in the Santiago campaign who spreads her posters across Western Visayas. – Rappler.com
Russel Patina is one of Rappler’s lead Movers in Iloilo.