2022 PH presidential race

Isko asks Bicolanos to spare votes for him, harks back to Naga-born Raul Roco

Pia Ranada
Isko asks Bicolanos to spare votes for him, harks back to Naga-born Raul Roco

HEADWAY IN BICOLANDIA. Presidential aspirant Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso meets with supporters during his campaign rally in Albay, Bicol Province on March 15, 2022.


Isko Moreno and other Aksyon bets manage to attract big crowds in what they call 'yellow-pink' territory

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor and presidential bet Isko Moreno was heartened that enthusiastic crowds still gathered in public to see him even in Bicolandia, bailiwick of Vice President Leni Robredo, one of his rivals for Malacañang.

In a three-day swing in the southern region with nearly four million registered voters, Moreno promised infrastructure projects like the continuation of the Bicol railway and improved internet connectivity.

From March 13 to 15, Moreno, running mate Willie Ong, and their senatorial slate visited three towns in Masbate (Cawayan, Placer, and Aroroy); Sorsogon, where he led the ribbon-cutting of an Isko Moreno for President volunteers group and spoke before a packed provincial gymnasium; and finally Albay where he visited Daraga, Oas, Ligao City, and Cruzada.

All these visits involved town hall meetings that were well-attended and motorcades that drew Bicolanos of all ages into the streets. In Masbate, one resident even handed him the skull of a carabao as a gift.

Supporters brought tarps asking voters to “Switch to Isko!” a new messaging strategy from the team given his third-place ranking in recent surveys, behind the Bicolana Robredo and “Solid North” leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

WOOING BICOLANOS. Isko Moreno speaks before a crowd that gathered in a park in Ligao City. Rappler

Speaking at a crowd gathered in a park in Ligao City, Moreno acknowledged that Bicol has consistently showed up for Robredo. But he asked residents to save some votes for him, if they can.

Alam ko naman may kandidato kayong kapitbahay ninyo. Bagay lamang na mahalin ‘nyo ang tao kung nagmahal din sa inyo,” said Moreno.

(I know you have a candidate who is also your neighbor. It’s just right to love someone if they also love you.)

Pero kung saka-sakali lang, tutal nandito lang din tayo sa damo, pagulong-gulong lang tayo sa damo, baka sakali lang, ‘Nay, halimbawa, ilan ang botante mo? Lima ang botante mo. Ibigay mo sa kanya yung tatlo, sa akin yung dalawa. Puwede? Bigyan ‘nyo lang ako ng kaunti. Ok na ‘yon,” said Moreno.

(But if ever, since we’re here rolling around on the grass, Mom, how many voters in your family? For example, you have five. Give her three, give me two. Okay? Just give me some of the votes, I’m okay with that.)

Bicol connection: Mrs. Domagoso and Raul Roco

The Manila Mayor didn’t have to stretch far to find a connection with Bicolanos. His wife, Diana “Dynee” Ditan Domagoso, comes from Sorsogon.

Talagang masarap magmahal ang Bicolana. Alam mo bakit? Kasi ex-girlfriend ko Bicolana. Alam mo bakit ex-girlfriend? Kasi asawa ko na,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.

(Bicolanas are good at loving. You know why? My ex-girlfriend is a Bicolana. You know why ex-girlfriend? Because she’s already my wife.)

Moreno is also running under the party of another famous Bicolano, the late Raul Roco, who was a senator, education secretary, and presidential candidate in the 1994 and 2004 elections.

Like Robredo, Roco was born in Naga, Camarines Sur.

EYEBALL TO EYEBALL. Isko Moreno is greeted by Albay residents as he goes around Bicol on March 15, 2022. Rappler

Bo Roco attended Moreno’s townhall meeting in Sorsogon and praised him during a press conference afterwards.

“This exercise is light for our family because we have a qualified candidate to be leader of the country and his running under Aksyon. We are all proud of Isko and we believe he can do it,” said Roco.

Moreno was elected Aksyon president in August 2021, after he pitched to Roco’s party why he would make a good standard-bearer. His Aksyon membership laid the groundwork for his presidential bid, which he launched in September.

The Manila Mayor is Aksyon’s first presidential candidate since 2004.

Roco is confident that Moreno would be able to get Bicolano votes.

“I believe all the candidates can promise good governance [and what-have-you]. But only Isko can promise he can do it again,” said Roco.

Promises for Bicol

In Albay City, Moreno told reporters his plans for Bicol should he win the presidency.

“One thing happening here is the diversion road, I want to continue that for the whole of Bicol. Second is the train, rest assured, because I used to be the chairman of NorthRail (North Luzon Railways Corporation) this Clark-Malolos-Tutuban-Calamba-Bicol [train], I will continue that,” said the Aksyon Demokratiko presidential bet.

Moreno was referring to the North-South Railway project, which currently seeks to connect Clark, Pampanga to Calamba, Laguna, but could be made to go further south into Bicol. Phase 1 of the project, linking Manila to Malolos, Bulacan, is currently under construction.

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) Bicol project is slated to begin construction this year. Its first package will connect Banlic, Calamba in Laguna to Daraga, Albay in Bicol.

Moreno had served for a few months in 2017 as chairman of the North Luzon Railways Corporation, under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Manila chief also said his plan to establish a national fiber optic network would greatly improve Bicolanos’ access to fast internet. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.