ILOILO CITY, Philippines – It was sentimental and symbolic campaign rally for presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe, whose roots, although being questioned before the Supreme Court, could be traced back to Jaro in Iloilo.
Poe led the rally of the Partido Galing at Puso in Iloilo, a province widely believed to be the stronghold of the ruling Liberal Party.
So she made a promise to her fellow Ilonggos: if she gets elected president, she will take her oath in June in front of the Jaro Cathedral, where she was found abandoned as an infant. It was, after all, where her journey began.
“'Pag ginusto ng Diyos at ginusto ng ating mga kababayan at ako ay nabigyan ng pagkakataong maging pangulo sa ating bansa, ako ay babalik dito sa Jaro, sa harap ng katedral, at manunumpa bilang pangulo ninyo sa Iloilo,” Poe said, drawing cheers from the crowd at the Jaro Plaza.
"If God wills it, and if our countrymen want it, and I'm given the opportunity to become president, I shall return to Jaro, in front of the cathedral, and will take my oath as your president here in Iloilo.)
“Kung hindi dahil sa inyo, wala ako rito, kaya muli maraming salamat sa inyong pagtanggap at pagmamahal,” she added. (If it were not for your, I wouldn't be here, so again thank you very much for your acceptance and love.)
Poe thanked Ilonggos for adopting and supporting her. In the middle of the rally, rains started to pour, but the crowds stayed and waited until Poe delivered her speech.
“Taos puso akong nagpapasalamat – sa mga pamilyang kumupkop sa akin, sa inyo na tumanggap sa amin na sinasabi nila na hindi 'nyo raw ako kikilalanin dito. Pero nakikita naman nating lahat kayo naririto,” Poe said.
(I thank you from my heart – the families who took care of me, you who welcomed us despite the claim of other camps that you wouldn't acknowledge me here. But we all see, you're here.)
Who dominates Iloilo?
Days before Poe’s sortie in Iloilo, Liberal Party stalwart and Senate President Franklin Drilon downplayed the potential effect of the event.
Drilon, who hails from the province, maintained that Western Visayas is “very supportive” of the administration and its standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
“Western Visayas region is very supportive of Secretary Roxas. Whatever shortcoming we may have in other areas, I’m sure we will be looking at Region VI in order to recover his deficiencies,” Drilon earlier said.
Poe’s running mate, Francis Escudero, for his part, blasted those saying Poe and her team would not get votes in the province.
Escudero said the crowd turnout would disprove that.
“Dito raw sa Iloilo [City] at sa lalawigan ng Iloilo ni hindi daw makakapulot ng boto rito si Senator Grace Poe. Sumasang-ayon ba kayo dun?” Escudero said, drawing nays from the crowd. (They say that here in Iloilo City and in Iloilo province, Senator Grace Poe wouldn't garner even a single vote. Do you agree?)
He replied: “Ako rin hindi eh. Hindi naman marapat angkinin maski na sinong tao, gaano man s'ya makapangyarihan, ang boto ng lalawiagn. Di tama na sabihin ng isang tao na kung ano sinabi n'ya 'yun na lang ang masusunod parati,” Escudero said.
(I don't agree either. It's not right for some person, no matter how powerful he is, to control the votes in the province. It's not right for one person to say that whatever he says goes all the time.)
Poe's popular mother, actress Susan Roces, also came to the defense of Poe’s team and thanked local government officials for not giving in to outside pressures.
“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,” Roces said.
(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.)
In 2013, Poe topped the senatorial race in Iloilo City, and captured the 4th spot in the province with 366,596 votes.
But her opponent now, Roxas, also won in the vice presidential race in the province in 2010, with 503,959 votes.
Iloilo is the 9th most vote-rich province in the country with 1,347,514 registered voters as of December 31, 2015. – 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 email@example.com