Poe banks on 'consolidated' Luzon votes in the homestretch

In the homestretch to the May 9 presidential election, Rappler #PHvote runs a daily blog by multimedia reporter Camille Elemia, who has been following Grace Poe. Get insights into the candidate's character, trusted people, and campaign decisions. 

CAMPAIGN. Presidential bet Grace Poe holding a motorcade in the province of Bataan. Photo by Jay Morales

CAMPAIGN. Presidential bet Grace Poe holding a motorcade in the province of Bataan.

Photo by Jay Morales

MANILA, Philippines – With only a week to go before the elections, presidential bet Grace Poe has concentrated her campaign efforts on where she’s strongest – Luzon.

Poe has seen her numbers plateau nationwide as she trails Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte even after the latter made a controversial rape joke that inflamed netizens. While this is the case, Poe has maintained her strength in the provinces outside Metro Manila.

In the last two weeks of the campaign, she has visited the Ilocos and Bicol regions and Central Luzon and Southern Luzon. Most of these provinces she already visited a number of times.

Case in point, Pangasinan, the hometown of her father, the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. Since 2015, Poe had been to the vote-rich province 7 times and to FPJ’s hometown of San Carlos City twice. There’s no stopping yet, as the senator is set to return to her supposed “home province” this week.

Asked why she keeps on coming back to Pangasinan, Poe earlier said it was among the first to openly accept her as a foundling.

Commission on Elections data also showed that Poe topped the senatorial polls in the province with 818,598 votes.

“Siyempre, nagbibigay din sa akin ng lakas ang mga taga-Pangasinan eh. Kasi nung umpisa pa lang, 'di ba, ampon nga lang ako, sabi nila, pero dito sa Pangasinan ni minsan hindi ko naramdaman 'yon, at sa maraming parte ng Pilipinas din ngayon ay ganoon. Kaya ako’y bumabalik-balik sa maraming lugar at siyempre dito sa Pangasinan,” Poe said on March 30.

(Of course, people of Pangasinan gives me strength. Since the start, even if I'm just adopted, Pangasinan never made me feel that, and neither did other parts of the country. That's why I keep on coming back to these places and, of course, to Pangasinan.)

The recent ABS-CBN survey showed Poe leading the race in Luzon – except Metro Manila – with 29%, followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay with 24%, Duterte with 20%, and administration standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II with 15%.

Team Galing at Puso campaign manager Ace Durano said it is important that Poe solidifies her votes in Luzon, where she is leading.

“One of the goals is for Senator Grace to consolidate her support in Luzon,” Durano said.

Poe has also visited the Visayas a good number of times (Cebu, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Samar, Leyte, and Capiz) and Mindanao a few times (General Santos, Zamboanga City, and Agusan Del Norte, among others).

But unlike in Luzon, Poe only ranked 3rd in Visayas and 4th in Mindanao. In the National Capital Region, Poe only ranked 2nd to Duterte, who recently experienced a dip in ratings in the capital after his rape remark.

Local leaders, defections

With no machinery like Binay and Roxas and no massive groundswell like her closest rival Duterte, Poe mostly relies on defections and local leaders to deliver votes for her.

In the Bicol region, 5 of the 6 governors are supposedly backing her, with Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who just recently quit the ruling Liberal Party to shift to Poe. (Right after the announcement, however, two of these governors – Raul Lee of Sorsogon and Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte – hosted other presidential bets in their sorties.)

In Negros Occidental, supposed stronghold of Roxas, Representative Albee Benitez, the former provincial chairman of the Liberal Party, now actively campaigns for the neophyte senator. 

However, reliance on some local leaders may not be prudent because loyalties may change easily. (READ: Repeat of 2010? Binay confident he will win in Sorsogon

Political analyst Edmund Tayao said local politicians are helpful in terms of strengthening of votes. They are no longer effective in getting votes for a candidate, Tayao added.

“Local leaders are significant only for consolidation. It’s not like before that they have some ability to martial votes. If there’s not much to consolidate, they won’t be as significant. At the least they only give semblance of a political machinery in place,” Tayao said.

This is something that Poe may have recognized to a certain extent. Asked if she believes in political support to deliver the votes for her, Poe said the decision ultimately lies on the voters.

“Ako naniniwala ako 'yung tao lang talaga ang makakadetermina. Kahit na kakampi mo pa lahat ng local government, kahit na nasa iyo pa ang pinakamagandang makinarya, ang tao pa rin ang magdedesisyon,” she said in an interview in Bataan.

(I believe that it is the people who would really determine [the outcome]. Even if you're allies with all local government units, even if you have the best machinery, it's still up to the people.)

Roxas, for example, has the resources of the administration, but the recent ABS-CBN poll showed he is only statistically tied to Poe for 2nd place.

Durano, for his part, believes politicians’ endorsement of Poe could deliver the votes for Poe and, more importantly, to help her if and when she wins as president.

“Political leaders, just like other people of influence and authority in our communities, have endorsement powers,” Durano said.

“But more than their support during the campaign, the good working relationship established with leaders from various sectors during the campaign period is also an important preparation for what comes after the election – governing,” he added.

With only 7 days left, an 11-point lead of Duterte over her, and the corruption allegations thrown at the Davao mayor, it remains to be seen if Poe’s “consolidated” votes in Luzon will pull her through the hottest presidential race ever. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

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 camille.elemia@rappler.com

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