Roxas asks Cebuanos: Can your birthday gift be a vote for Otso Diretso?

Mara Cepeda
Otso Diretso senatorial bet Mar Roxas celebrates his 62nd birthday on May 13, when Filipinos will also go to polling precincts to vote

BIRTHDAY VOTE? Otso Diretso candidate Mar Roxas (2nd from L) and the slate's other bets do the Otso Diretso hand sign for the cameras in Cebu City on April 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of Otso Diretso media

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Former interior chief Mar Roxas has one wish when he turns 62 years old on May 13: that Cebuanos vote for him and the rest of Otso Diretso on election day.

Facing a crowd composed of sectoral representatives gathered at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City on Sunday, April 28, Roxas said it seems fate wanted his 62nd birthday to fall on the same day as the midterm elections.  

“Si Mar Roxas, ‘pinanganak Mayo 13, 1957. Parang nasa tadhana na, ‘di ba? Puwede bang i-birthday [gift] ‘nyo na sa akin ang inyong boto? Pupuwede?” Roxas asked the audience, who shouted “yes.”

(Mar Roxas was born on May 13, 1957. It feels like it’s written in the stars, right? Can your birthday gift for me be your vote? Can you do that for me?) 

“Eh papaano ang Otso Diretso, kasama ba sila? So 8 birthday [gifts] ‘yan, puwede? Puwedeng-puwede (How about Otso Diretso, are they included too? Can you give 8 birthday gifts? Definitely you can)!” Roxas added, eliciting the same response from the crowd.

It was the first time for the former standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) to rally support for the rest of the members of the opposition ticket while delivering his campaign speech.

It was also just Roxas’ second time to share the stage with the 7 other Otso Diretso candidates – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, ex-solicitor general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, and ex-Quezon congressman Erin Tañada. (READ: This Cebu barangay is ‘not afraid to support Otso Diretso’)

Roxas was last seen campaigning with the opposition ticket during their proclamation rally in Naga City, Camarines Sur, on February 13. Roxas’ speech then focused mostly on what Naga City means for him. He was close friends with the late interior chief and longtime Naga mayor Jesse Robredo, Vice President Leni Robredo’s husband who died in a plane crash in 2012.

After Naga, Roxas has been going around the country on his own, often inviting the media to cover only his visits to various public markets. 

Given Roxas’ vast experience in public service, he is considered to be the most veteran among the Otso Diretso bets. This is why his absence during past Otso Diretso sorties has been apparent, with voters often looking for Roxas whenever the slate goes to a certain area without him. 

In February, Roxas told reporters in Naga that “the candidates of Otso Diretso are very different individually,” which means they also have “different challenges” when it comes to how they will run their respective campaigns.

But with two weeks left in the campaign period, it seems Roxas had a change of heart.

“Naniniwala ako na dito mismo sa ating bansa, maaari tayong bumangon kung ang gobyerno magiging totoong kakampi ng mga Pilipino. ‘Yan ang dahilan kung bakit tayo nandito…at ang Otso Diretso, para magkaroon ng mga taong susulong sa kapakanan ng ordinaryong Pilipino,” said Roxas.

(I believe that here in our country, we would be able to rise up if our government is truly for the Filipinos. That’s why we’re here…and so is Otso Diretso, so there would be people who will push for the welfare of ordinary Filipinos.)

Cebu was once a stronghold of the LP. In the 2010 elections, then-senator Benigno Aquino III and his then-running mate Roxas won in Cebu with 980,000 and one million votes, respectively. Aquino went on to win the presidency, while Roxas bowed to then-longtime Makati mayor Jejomar Binay.

In the 2016 presidential election, then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was number one in Cebu and got 1.133 million votes. Roxas was second to Duterte with 586,091 votes. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.