Team PNoy’s challenges in Mindanao

Will Northern Mindanao, which supported the opposition's stalwarts in 2010, go for Team PNoy this time?

MANILA, Philippines – After hitting election hot spots in Luzon and Visayas, Team PNoy, the coalition of President Benigno Aquino III, heads to northern Mindanao on week 3 of the campaign period.

On Tuesday, February 26, the administration slate will stop at Misamis Oriental, before heading to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) City in the afternoon where they will be joined by the President. They are scheduled to visit Bukidnon the next day.

It’s opposition country, gauging from the 2010 votes. The President lost in these 3 areas which voted for then candidate former president Joseph Estrada.

To campaign manager Franklin Drilon, the choice to visit Mindanao is a given, starting off in CDO, a natural kick-off point being one of the region’s major cities.

Misamis Oriental has 784,485 registered voters, CDO has 289, 772 while Bukidnon has 743,737.

Drilon said the slate will visit Mindanao the same way it worked its way through southern Luzon and western Visayas, but the work may be cut out for Team PNoy compared to its previous stops.

In the 2010 presidential elections, Aquino lost Misamis Oriental, CDO and Bukidnon to Estrada, who now heads the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). Aquino’s vice presidential candidate and now Interior Secretary Mar Roxas also lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay in all 3 places. Binay is also a stalwart of UNA.

But Team PNoy comes to Mindanao with a strategy that it hopes will sway voters towards Aquino’s slate, despite its underwhelming support 3 years ago: focus on the peace process.

Anchored on Aquino

Team PNoy spokesperson Miro Quimbo told Rappler that on its visit to Mindanao, it will emphasize the Bangsamoro peace process that has been put forward by Aquino, which the government considers one of its greatest achievements thus far.

“The primary issue in Mindanao is the peace process. The south corridor of Mindanao is the only area in Asia where a living and strong successionist movement is taking place and we are at the threshold of genuinely ending it in a peaceful manner… But it is all anchored on the single message that is tuwid na daan,” he said.

Quimbo expressed confidence that Aquino’s track record has gained the trust of Mindanao — something that may not have been the case in 2010 — and emphasized that only the President could lead such a feat.

Aquino’s visit to Misamis Oriental is packed with activities that highlight his commitment to the region’s development — a schedule relatively different from past sorties that have seen Aquino come in and out of provinces only to deliver speeches.

Upon landing, he is scheduled to inspect the La Guindignan Airport Development Project which aims to establish an international-standard airport in the province. Aquino will then conduct an aerial inspection of the CDO river basin project constructed for flood control, before visiting resettlement sites also in CDO.

Koko country?

But yet another challenge awaits one of Aquino’s bets, specifically Sen Koko Pimentel, who is a son of Misamis Oriental, specifically CDO.

In the 2007 senatorial race, Pimentel emerged only 4th in his home province and city, while a rival candidate from North Mindanao topped the polls there — Bukidnon’s Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Zubiri emerged first in the region, while Pimentel placed only 5th.

While the Senate Electoral Tribunal eventually proclaimed Pimentel as the 12th winning senator over Zubiri after the latter resigned, the fact remained that Pimentel’s home city, province and region chose Zubiri over him. Pimentel accused Zubiri of manipulating votes.

Zubiri is running again under UNA.

Whether Pimentel will be able to reverse or at least improve his 2007 results will be a challenge, and it remains to be seen if being with Team PNoy will help or hurt him. –

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