Team PNoy snubs Bukidnon but is confident of win

Only 3 Team PNoy bets showed up in Bukidnon, which is opposition country and has the second highest voters' population in Northern Mindanao

CHALLENGE FOR PROXIES. Former actress Sheryl Cruz came as proxy for Grace Poe and answered questions for her cousin. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez.

BUKIDNON, Philippines – Where have the Team PNoy bets gone?

The absence of Team PNoy candidates was felt in opposition country on Wednesday, February 27, where the coalition held a symposium for students at the Bukidnon State University.

Only 3 of the 12 administration candidates showed up — Las Piñas Rep Cynthia Villar, former youth commissioner Bam Aquino, and former senator Jamby Madrigal. Another 3 sent proxies and one, Sen Chiz Escudero, sent a video.

It was an interesting place for the Team PNoy candidates to skip. Bukidnon, with more than 700,000 voters, has the second highest voting population among the 5 provinces in Northern Mindanao.

But it is also the home province of Migz Zubiri, a bet of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). His father is the vice governor after serving as governor for 3 terms.

Additionally, the stalwarts of UNA, former president Joseph Estrada and vice president Jejomar Binay, garnered more votes than president Benigno Aquino III and his vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas in the province when they ran against each other in 2010.

Despite this, campaign manager Franklin Drilon expressed confidence in Team PNoy’s chances in the region. 

“Our own polling indicates a very good chance of victory of Team PNoy in Northern Mindanao,” he told reporters.

Drilon attributed his faith in victory to Aquino’s work in the past two and a half years of his presidency, saying he has proven himself and his dedication to Mindanao to the people.

The reception was warm for Team PNoy, who was welcomed by university students and other Bukidnon residents.

Voters cheered upon the spread out arrival of candidates and proxies, although not more than two bets were there at the same time.

Koko’s absence noticed

Voters also noticed the significant absence of Sen Koko Pimentel, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City of the neighboring province of Misamis Oriental. He is the only Mindanao-born candidate in the 2013 senatorial race.

Pimentel chose to skip Bukidnon despite it being his biggest rival Zubiri’s territory. In the 2007 elections, Zubiri ranked higher than Pimentel in Northern Mindanao, even beating him in his hometown of Cagayan de Oro.

JUST POSTERS. Posters of Sen Koko Pimentel was present, but the re-electionist missed the event in Bukidnon. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez.

When asked whether Drilon recommends certain candidates to appear in particular areas where they either need more work or have a significant history, Drilon said he leaves the choices up to candidates.

Read: Why Koko skipped Zubiri country 

Villar, who skipped Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro a day earlier due to a media interview, said she made it a point to come to Bukidnon, acknowledging the need for more exposure in the region.

“if you’re a candidate there are regions where you are weaker, and that’s where you want to try to be stronger. One of them [for me] is Northern Mindanao,” Villar said. “I’m happy to hear (Drilon’s confidence) because I’m lowest at Northern Mindanao so if Team PNoy is able to lift me in Northern Mindanao, I’ll be very happy.”

Ineffective proxies?

Pimentel sent his cousin Astra in his place, former censors chief Grace Poe sent her cousin Sheryl Cruz, while Sen Loren Legarda sent her son Leandro Leviste. 

Pimentel’s absence was further felt when a voter approached Astra, asking what reforms Pimentel could promise for the people of Mindanao, especially because he is not well-loved in the region.

While Astra tried to answer for her cousin, it would have been the perfect space for Pimentel to respond.

Cruz too was unable to expound on and provide specifics to students asking about Poe’s platforms. The former actress also committed a faux pas when she mentioned the wrong college Poe graduated from, and admitted to Rappler that she needs more work when representing her cousin in symposiums.

“When it comes to more forums, they should let me know more. But I am comfortable when it comes to my cousin when it comes to helping her out,” she said. “I just hope that people who are actually listening will not be too critical of whatever it is that I say.”

The request is ironic, considering scrutiny is the main point of senatorial forums. Even campaign manager Drilon admitted the presence of proxies was not enough — especially for the question-and-answer format of the event.

PIMENTEL ABSENT. Koko Pimentel's cousin Astra represented him in Bukidnon, the hometown of his biggest political rival, Miguel Zubiri. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez.

“You know, as we go along, we learn these lessons, I will relay to them what happened here with the very warm exception of the youth and the fact they missed it,” he said. “I am only the campaign manager I cannot bring the horse to the river.”

Drilon said he would continue pushing and convincing bets to attend sorties, especially the 3 that have yet to make the Magic 12 — Madrigal, former senator Jun Magsaysay, and former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros.

Madrigal, who has attended all of the coalition’s sorties and has seen her rankings in surveys steadily climb, said she will continue to come to all of Team PNoy’s events.

“As much as possible I would like to go myself because it is very important for voters to see you…. I’d much rather come myself as much as I can. If I can’t, then I don’t have a presence there, but at least the people whose hands I shook and whom I saw, I was able to give my whole self to,” she said.

She added jokingly, referring to bets who send representatives, “Then they can vote for you by proxy also.” – 

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