LP officials pressured to cancel Poe-Escudero event in Tawi-Tawi?

MANILA, Philippines – Days before the supposed event to be attended by senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero in Tawi-Tawi, local officials cancelled their invitation reportedly for “political reasons.”

The tandem was invited to be the guests of honor and speakers at the Kamahardikaan festival on Sunday, September 27, by Governor Nurbert Sahali and Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali, both members of the ruling Liberal Party, which is fielding another tandem in 2016.

In a joint statement sent to the media on Thursday, September 24, Poe and Escudero called the issue “unfortunate.” 

“It is unfortunate that the invitation to attend the Foundation Day of Tawi-tawi on Sunday was withdrawn for political reasons. We know that the people of Tawi-tawi have been preparing for our visit. We understand that it must have been very difficult for them to withdraw the invitation,” Poe and Escudero said.

One of the reasons supposedly given to the camps of Poe and Escudero was the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, September 29, or 2 days after Poe and Escudero. But a source from Malacanang privy to Aquino’s schedule said they are still unsure if the President would push through with it.  

Rappler tried to reach Representative Sahali through her personal and office numbers but to no avail.

Despite this, Poe and Escudero assured the people in the province that they would visit them in the coming days.

Tawi-Tawi is one of the provinces belonging to the so-called FPJ country, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Despite attempts by the camp of then President Gloria Arroyo in 2004 to cheat Poe's father Fernando Poe Jr in the Muslim-dominated provinces, FPJ won in Tawi-Tawi.

Senator Poe also topped the 2013 senatorial polls in the province, with 30,619 votes.

Aquino and his running mate Mar Roxas, however, won in the province in the 2010 elections. 

This is not the first time an event of Poe was changed last-minute by authorities. In August, Poe and the media accompanying her were barred from entering the University of San Carlos in Cebu where she was scheduled to speak, on the same day Aquino and Roxas were in the city to campaign. 

Poe, however, was eventually allowed to speak before 21,000 students in the end. (READ: Cebu school officials 'pressured' to bar media from Grace Poe event

In Iloilo, LP standard-bearer Roxas was asked about the move of his party mates in Tawi-Tawi. "I don't know, I wasn't there," he said. – Rappler.com 

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