Can Mar Roxas win Cebu anew?

Bea Cupin
Can Mar Roxas win Cebu anew?
The Liberal Party tandem brings the campaign to vote-rich Cebu, where standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II dominated during the 2010 elections. Can he stage a repeat in 2016?

CEBU, Philippines – It’s the province where he won the biggest during his failed bid for the vice presidency in 2010, but if there’s one thing that crushing loss taught Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, it’s to never take leads for granted.

Roxas and running mate Leni Robredo bring their campaign to the vote-rich province of Cebu on Thursday, March 3, for a series of events and 2 major rallies in Daanbantayan town and Mandaue City.

President Benigno Aquino III, LP chairman, will be joining the two and the LP-led “Daang Matuwid” coalition senate slate during the last rally.

The campaigning continues on Friday, March 4, with campaign rallies in 3 different towns and cities across the province, home to over 2.7 million registered voters.

At a glance:
Cebu province has 2,722,288 registered voters for the 2016 elections, making it the most vote-rich province in the country.
In 2010, Mar Roxas clinched 1,054,708 votes in the province, compared to Jejomar Binay’s 414,417 votes.
Senator Grace Poe ranked 4th in Cebu when she ran in 2013, with 580,447 votes.

Roxas will be speaking to shipbuilding workers in Lapu-Lapu City while Robredo will be attending a dialogue with urban poor families before attending Lihok Pilipina’s Women Forum.

The two will then attend a campaign rally in Daanbantayan town, along with members of their senate slate.

Aquino will then join them for a proclamation rally in Mandaue City.

“Cebu is obviously very important not only because it has the highest voter population but also since it is a key constituency in the Visayas – Mar’s home island group,” Roxas’ spokesman Akbayan Representative Ibarra Gutierrez told Rappler in a text message.

Most of the regions and provinces in the Visayas are considered to be Roxas’ bailiwicks, and Cebu is where he dominated during the 2010 national elections. Roxas cornered more than one million votes, compared to just over 400,000 votes cast for his chief rival, Jejomar Binay.

He also won in practically all cities and municipalities in Cebu, including its capital Cebu City, where Roxas got more than 240,000 votes compared to Binay’s 91,000 votes.

Roxas’ wins in the vote-rich province, however, were not enough to secure him a victory. Binay won the vice presidency, although this was contested by Roxas. The two are rivals once again, 2 of 5 candidates in a tight presidential race. (READ: Roxas warns vs ‘malubak na nakaraan’ and ‘untested’ bets)

But the Cebu of 2016 isn’t quite the same province it was in 2010. While many politicians here are either members or affiliates of the ruling party, the entry of other presidential candidates has caused shifts in allegiances.

Cebu 5th District Representative Ace Durano, who ran under the LP in the 2013 mid-term elections, is now the campaign manager of independent presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe. Durano also happens to be related to another presidential aspirant: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who traces his roots to Danao City in the province.

Duterte may be another spoiler for Roxas in the province. The Davao mayor is the only Bisaya in the 5-way race. When he campaigned in Cebu earlier in January, Duterte tapped into regionalistic pride, pitching the possibility of a Bisaya president. It’s a message that resonates among Bisaya-speaking areas.

Roxas also traces his roots to the Visayas, but in Hiligaynon-speaking Negros Occidental and Capiz.

Binay, meanwhile, is allied with the politically-entrenched Garcia clan. His United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is allied with the Garcias’ One Cebu party. Binay has been aggressive in courting the vote-rich province, making several trips to various towns and cities long before the election season heated up. 

“We acknowledge that the other candidates are doing all they can to gain votes in Cebu, but we are reasonably confident that Mar can repeat his decisive 2010 victory here,” said Gutierrez.

According to a January 2016 Laylo poll, Duterte is the most preferred candidate in the Central Visayas region, which Cebu is part of. Thirty-two percent of 250 respondents said they were going to vote for the Davao mayor. Roxas followed with 26%, in a poll that had a 6% margin of error.

The same poll said Roxas was still the leading candidate in the Visayas area, with 35% of 700 respondents saying they would pick the LP standard-bearer. The Visayas poll had a 4% margin of error.

Aquino has joined Roxas and Robredo in proclamation rallies in at least 5 provinces since the official campaign period began on February 9. The President was with his anointed bets in Capiz, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Bulacan, and on Wednesday, March 2, in Bohol.

The outgoing President also won in Cebu province in 2010, although Roxas garnered more votes than he did. Aquino has vowed to campaign hard for the LP duo and starred in the latest political advertisement for the two. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.