CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Catholic Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, February 22, openly declared support for the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo, calling his choice something beyond the question of political partisanship.
“We are one with you, praying with you. We are supporting you with the hope that truth will prevail,” Cabantan told Robredo when she met with him at the Archbishop’s Palace in Cagayan de Oro.
Cabantan added, “From our discernment, priests have come out in the open because they said this is not just partisanship in terms of political parties, but this is partisanship in terms of truth over lies for the common good of the country. That is why priests and nuns are coming out in the open for truth.”
He called Robredo the embodiment of principles that they share.
Cabantan made the open declaration hours before thousands took to the streets and amassed at the city proper to punctuate the Robredo-led ticket’s campaign tour in Northern Mindanao on Tuesday.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, one of the most respected and influential Catholic leaders in the city, was in the rally, cheering for Robredo.
One of the biggest public transport sector groups in the region, the National Confederation of Transport Union – Northern Mindanao Transport, also threw its support for Robredo.
The group’s leader, Joel Gabutan, said they found Robredo’s public service record “impeccable,” and her brand of governance, “clean and good.”
People gathered in Divisoria, right in the heart of downtown Cagayan de Oro, and lined up on the streets in the afternoon, hours before the campaign rally started.
It was reminiscent of the years when Cagayan de Oro was the bastion of the anti-Marcos movement in the region. Only this time, they painted the town pink, and not yellow – the color associated with the resistance in the ’80s.
Major Sebastian Chua, chief of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office’s Station No. 1, estimated that more than 10,000 people, mostly wearing pink, took part in the Robredo rally.
One of the rally organizers, Carl Cesar Rebuta of Northern Mindanao for Leni volunteers’ group, said the crowd’s size at the historic Plaza Divisoria was more than what they had expected.
Mayor Oscar Moreno ordered major roads around the park closed to vehicular traffic as Robredo’s supporters came in droves hours before the rally.
Moreno is the first local chief executive in Mindanao to openly declare his support for Robredo’s presidential bid right after she filed her certificate of candidacy in October 2021.
Robredo’s running mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, campaigned separately in Luzon, and only three of her candidates for Senate seats joined her in Cagayan de Oro: Senator Richard Gordon, Teddy Baguilat, and Alex Lacson.
Earlier in the day, the Robredo party campaigned in other cities in Northern Mindanao.
In neighboring Iligan City, Robredo was welcomed by Catholic Bishop Jose Rapadas III, as well as priests, nuns, and lay workers at the Bishop’s Residence before a morning rally at Rizal Plaza.
“People came out and warmly welcomed her (Robredo) everywhere we went,” said Mayor Moreno, who met Robredo in Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental after her Iligan visit.
Robredo was in high spirits as she addressed a crowd during the Cagayan de Oro rally later in the day.
“Whenever I am here, it’s always a pleasant experience. So many of you have extended their help, but it is only now that you are this wild! … You surprised me!” Robredo told the cheering crowd that kept on chanting her name.
She added, “I believe that you also believe how important this coming election is for all of us… This fight is not my fight alone, but it is your fight. This is not just a contest of politicians. What we are fighting for is a kind of governance and politics that is different… What we aspire for is a government that is just so that all will have the chance for better lives.”
But Robredo cannot say the same thing about the other Mindanao regions.
In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the Soccsargen region, her rival Manila Mayor Isko Moreno has attracted large crowds this week, too. Isko started barnstorming Mindanao, starting with a bang in Maguindanao where thousands gathered to hear him campaign on Sunday.
Several other provinces were waiting to be won like Zamboanga Sibugay in the western part of Mindanao. There, the dominant local political group has committed to campaign only for Davao Mayor Sara Duterte who is running for vice president.
None of the presidential candidates will be officially carried by the group of Zamboanga Sibugay 1st District Representative Wilter “Sharky” Palma II.
Palma, who is seeking the gubernatorial post that his father currently holds, is leading the Lakas-NUCD ticket in Zamboanga Sibugay.
“I have not committed to any of the presidential candidates,” Palma said.
He said he and his party were only committed to helping Mayor Duterte get elected as vice president.
That means Zamboanga Sibugay is going to be a free zone as far as the presidential candidates are concerned.
“It is up to the mayors to decide who among the presidential candidates they will support,” Palma said.
“Officially, I am giving them the freedom to choose,” he added.
At least nine of the 16 municipal mayors of the province are aligned with Lakas-CMD, and most of them have kept quiet about their choice for the presidency.
Neither Palma’s opponent, Representative Dulce Ann Hofer of the 2nd District, nor the mayors supporting her gubernatorial bid, announced a choice for the presidency.
So far, only one of the Zamboanga town mayors has been vocal about her presidential bet.
Kabasalan Mayor Katrina Balladares said she would support the presidential bid of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
But most of the mayors have yet to announce their pick for the presidential race.
In Imelda town, for instance, Mayor Roselyn Silva has yet to announce who her presidential candidate is barely three months before the elections.
Arandy Silva, executive secretary of Mayor Silva of Imelda, said what is clear is that the mayor, just like most local chief executives, is committed to supporting Duterte’s candidacy for vice president. – Rappler.com