DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte was a no-show at the Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s (HNP) miting de avance on Thursday, May 9, in Davao City.
His daughter, HNP chairperson Sara Duterte, announced he was not going to be there at the end of the program.
All senatorial candidates had already given their speeches when Sara took the podium to say the President watched the event via livestream but couldn’t make it in person. She provided no explanation but former aide Bong Go later told reporters Duterte was resting as he was “very tired.”
Many in the venue were visibly disappointed, especially those who had waited hours under the strong rain.
One Davaoeña this reporter spoke to said she had been a Davao resident for 30 years without seeing Duterte and was hoping to see him there.
All 13 HNP senatorial candidates were present for their last campaign rally with Sara. While her father was a no-show, her siblings Paolo and Sebastian were there.
Paolo is running for the city’s 1st District Representative while Sebastian is running for vice mayor unopposed. Sara is seeking reelection as mayor.
Also lending her star power to the event was House Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had been a staunch supporter of HNP since day 1 of the campaign.
Sara left the miting de avance without granting ambush interviews. Reporters had hoped to ask her about her father’s non-appearance.
Soaking but still standing
Despite the rain, Davaoeños packed the covered venue set up at San Pedro Square and stayed until the end of the program.
Young and old, men and women who did not fit under the venue’s roof, held up umbrellas for hours just to see HNP candidates and watch the performances.
Some let themselves get soaked, holding their arms around themselves against the cold.
But the rain couldn’t dampen their spirits. The crowd’s energy stayed high thanks to interactive rap performances by Andrew E and senatorial candidates’ staff giving away a large supply of campaign shirts and souvenirs.
The candidates also did not disappoint. Cheers were particularly loud for Davaoeño candidates Ronald dela Rosa, who regaled the crowd with jokes, and Bong Go, who brought actors Robin Padilla, Cesar Montano, and Bayani Agbayani.
Bong Revilla and wife Lani Mercado, as in past rallies, sang for the crowd.
All candidates devoted parts of their speech to thanking Sara for being such a “hardworking” and patient “campaign manager.”
Aquilino Pimentel III thanked HNP for being a great boost to his candidacy. He said HNP, a Davao regional party, is helping increase Mindanao representation in the Senate.
“Thank you for the help you gave to a brother who’s a fellow Mindanawon. HNP’s support has been a big help to our candidacy. To my brethren, our mission is to add the voices of Mindanao in the Senate. Right now, we have 3 Mindanawons. But if we succeed with what we’re doing, it’s possible there might be 6 Mindanawons in the Senate,” he said.
Sara had her own words of thanks to give.
“I want to thank – because they are not here – the local partners in different provinces, municipalities, and cities all over the country that helped us hold 76 campaign rallies to present our senatorial candidates,” she said in Bisaya.
She rallied Davaoeños to support HNP-backed candidates if they wanted to help President Duterte.
“We wish them good luck and know that Davao City will always support those who support President Duterte,” she said. – Rappler.com
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