MANILA, Philippines – With only over 10 days to go before elections, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno barnstormed Western Visayas in a span of four days, drawing large crowds in daily rallies.
This is Moreno’s third time visiting this region with 5 million registered voters. He arrived in Panay Island on Monday, April 25, and held his last campaign event in the region in Bacolod City on Thursday, April 28.
The mayor’s packed itinerary took him first to Iloilo, then Antique, Aklan, Capiz, and finally Bacolod City. In Iloilo, he held three rallies and a town hall meeting as he visited Pototan and Carles town, Passi City, Iloilo City, and Guimaras island.
In Antique, birthplace of his late father Joaquin, he met with local Aksyon Demokratiko candidates and staged a rally at the Binirayan Stadium.
In Aklan, he embarked on a motorcade, a town hall meeting in New Washington municipality, then headlined a rally in Pastrana Park.
In Capiz, after a motorcade around Roxas City, he led a rally in Villareal Stadium and met with Aksyon candidates and volunteers.
Finally, in Bacolod City, he spoke at a mini rally in Binalbagan town then ended the Western Visayas trip with a “grand rally” in the Bacolod Public Plaza.
During the four-day affair, six mayors met with him – including Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia. Two governors – Aklan’s Florencio Miraflores and Guimaras’ Samuel Gumarin – also met with him.
THe 47-year-old presidential bet consistently drew big crowds in all areas he visited, though not as large as mega rallies typically staged for Vice President Leni Robredo or former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
His visits to local government officials also consistently involved an enthusiastic welcome by local government employees and supporters. In Bacolod City Hall, for example, photos captured a sea of people in red or green, Mayor Leonardia’s colors, flocking to Moreno.
The turnout is a heartening sign for Moreno and his team, given Robredo’s dominance in this region. According to Pulse Asia’s March voter preference survey, the Vice President was leading in Western Visayas with 49%, followed by Marcos with 26%. In contrast, Moreno got support from only 10% of respondents. Mindanaoan Senator Manny Pacquiao got a 12% rating here.
Messaging: Peace of mind
In his speeches, Moreno was determined to get one message across to the people of Western Visayas: He is the candidate who can offer them “peace of mind.”
“Kung gusto ‘nyo peace of mind, walang away, walang higantihan, walang bawian, available ako. Maiba lang. Tutal, binigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon. Ang tanong ko sa inyo, kamusta kayo?” he asked the crowd at his rally in Carles town, Iloilo.
(If you want peace of mind, no fighting, no retaliation, no taking things back, I’m available. Just try something different. Anyway, we already gave them a chance. My question is, how are you faring?)
It’s a recent simplification of an earlier campaign messaging of his asking voters to stop choosing from among the “pulahan” and “yellow-pink” – or the camps of the Marcos and Robredo-Liberal Party.
Moreno’s team had recently released a new political ad also carrying this “peace of mind” messaging and asking voters to reject the “toxic” politics of his two top rivals’ supporters.
But the Manila-born-and-bred Moreno’s second message in Western Visayas was his Bisaya roots, something he has pointed out from day one of his presidential bid.
Both his parents come from the Visayas – Joaquin from San Jose Buenavista in Antique and Rosario from Allen, Northern Samar. Moreno even visited his father’s hometown during the trip.
Calling himself a “full-blooded Bisaya,” Moreno said, “Wala naman kandidatong Ilonggo na presidente. Sino? Nasa harapan ‘nyo na. Basta Ilonggo, guwapo ano?”
(There is no presidential candidate who is Ilonggo. Who? He’s in front of you. As long as one’s an Ilonggo, he’s sure to be handsome, right?)
This narrative has actually caught on in parts of the Visayas, with Ilonggo and Antiqueño supporters using the phrase “Aton ini!” to promote Moreno. Supporters in Cebu also often refer to Moreno’s lineage when promoting him.
Shadow: Local party leader resigns
But on Thursday, April 28, after Moreno ended his Panay Island campaigning, his party’s Iloilo chairperson announced his resignation.
Bryan Eric Cerebo wrote to Aksyon Demokratiko chairman Ernest Ramel to say he was vacating his leadership post in the party but wished to remain a member.
His reason? “Poor coordination” of Moreno’s national campaign team and “differences with the principles and stand” of Moreno, who is Aksyon party president.
Cerebo’s resignation somewhat casts a cloud over Moreno’s Western Visayas sojourn but he had been dealing with some supporters switching to Robredo weeks before.
The Manila mayor maintained his resolve to finish the race, despite defections, criticism, and even withdrawal calls. – with a report from Joseph B. Marzan/Rappler.com