ROXAS CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The tandem of senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero was allegedly barred from campaigning in the Liberal Party's stronghold in Roxas City, Capiz, on Wednesday, February 17.
Hinting that the camp of Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II of causing local hosts to be unaccommodating, she said the developments were "suspicious."
Poe and Escudero were supposedly barred from conducting a students’ consultation at a school in the city. They decided to transfer the event to a nearby mall, but they were not given a permit to do so, for unknown reasons. The event was scheduled instead at CAP Development Center in the city.
“Basta di kami sa isang school, di ko alam kung pati sa mall di na tuloy. Kung saka-sakaling di natuloy sa paaralang iyon, ito'y kaduda-duda kasi SOP na namin 'yun. Madami na rin naman kami napuntahan na paaralan," she said, refusing to give the name of the school.
(We will not do it in a school, I am not sure if the mall was also cancelled. If ever the school event is not pushing through, that's suspicious because it's our SOP. We have visited a lot of schools already.)
In most, if not all, of their sorties, Poe and Escudero would go to universities and colleges to meet students and answer their questions on issues and policies.
Poe said being given difficulties in her sorties in supposedly unfriendly territories is not new to them. The same incident happened to them in Cebu when Poe had not declared her candidacy yet.
“Sana nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon na kausapin ang mga estudyante. Ginawa na nila sa akin noon sa isang paaralan din na hindi pinapasok na lang ang media. Pero pinayagan ako magsalita nang dalawang minuto. Naaawa ako sa mga school officials at sa mga estudyante dahil di naman sila nagpasya noon kaya lang naipit sila. Sana pagkakataon na nila na ang Daang Matuwid ay bukas sa lahat at di lang sa iilan,” Poe said in a press conference in the city, referring to the administration's slogan.
(I hope we were given the chance to talk to students. They did this to me before in another school when media were banned from the event. But they eventually allowed me to speak for two minutes. I feel for the school officials and students because it was not their decision but they are caught in the middle. I hope it's their chance to show that Daang Matuwid is open to all and not just to a select few.)
Roxas City is considered a bailiwick of the ruling LP and Roxas, whose paternal side of the family hails from here. LP is banking on the city and the whole Western Visayas region to deliver the votes for them. They launched their campaign in Roxas City on February 9.
The presidential bet hit the administration’s Daang Matuwid policy for allowing such incidents to happen. She maintained citizens have the right to hear candidates talk about their platform of governance.
In August, officials of a university in Cebu, another area which LP claims to be its stronghold, were allegedly “pressured” to ban media from covering the sports event that Poe was visiting.
Media were already inside the gymnasium but had to be escorted outside the university gates. In the end, Poe was allowed to speak for two minutes.
In September, Poe and Escudero were suppose to attend a town fiesta in Tawi-Tawi upon the invitation of LP leaders there. The tandem, however, was eventually disinvited from the event.
If she wins, Poe said she would not condone such acts by her people.
“Ang Daang Matuwid di dapat pinapayagan ang mga ganyang bagay. ‘Pag ako ay nabigyan ng pagkakataon, ang ganitong uri ng pulitika ay di ko papayagan sapagkat ang Pilipinas ay para sa bawat Pilipino. Ang bawat estudyante at bawat mamamayan ng bawat lungsod at probinsya ay may karapatan na pakinggan ang mga kandidato para mayroon silang kaalaman sa kung ano ba ang tamang plataporma,” Poe said.
(The Straight Path should not allow such things. If I am given the chance, I will not allow this kind of politics because the Philippines is for every Filipino. Every student and every citizen of each city and province has the right to listen to candidates so that they would know what are good platforms.)
On Tuesday in Iloilo, another area supposedly dominated by the LP, Poe's mother, actress Susan Roces said: “Napakaimportanteng pasalamatan ang lahat ng namumuno ng local government dito dahil hindi sila nag-alangan na bigyan ng permiso na magdaos ng rally dito, at salamat sa inyong lahat hindi kayo nagpasindak sa kanila.”
(It is very important to thank all local government heads here because they did not hesitate to issue rally permits. And thank you all that you didn't allow some people to threaten bully you.)
“Sabi nila walang pupunta rito dahil may ibang kandidato ang Iloilo. Hindi po totoo 'yan sa nakikita kong dami 'nyo rito,” she added. (They say nobody will show up here because Iloilo is supporting another candidate. It's not true, based on the huge crowd I'm seeing here.)
Roxas, for his part, denied having a hand in the incident, saying Capiz has always been open to an candidate.
"Palagay ko walang katotohanan iyon. Wala naman kayong sinabi na kung sino nagsabi o kung ano man yun. Hindi ko pinagbabawal at bukas ang Capiz para sa kahit sinong kandidato na maghayag ng kanilang plataporma," he said.
(I think that is not true. You did not say anything on who said that and what was that. I am not banning anyone and Capiz is open to any candidate who wants to explain his or her platform.) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org