CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. led his Uniteam ticket in a rally in Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, April 26, at the exact place where his late father last campaigned for reelection in the city shortly before a popular revolt forced their family out of Malacanang and go into exile 36 years ago.
It was Marcos’ first and biggest rally in Cagayan de Oro so far since the start of the campaign period in the city where his elder sister, Senator Imee Marcos, said they were considered the “opposition” a day earlier.
The mayor of Cagayan de Oro, Oscar Moreno, is a staunch supporter of another presidential candidate, Vice President Leni Robredo, and her running mate Senator Francis Pangilinan.
Despite this, Moreno gave the Uniteam ticket a special permit to hold the rally until 11 pm, and ordered streets near the Misamis Oriental Integrated Sports Complex closed to vehicular traffic.
Two other local groups, one led by reelectionist 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez and another by gubernatorial bet Representative Juliette Uy of Misamis Oriental’s 2nd District, have also declared their support for Robredo earlier.
But unlike Moreno, Rodriguez and Uy have thrown their support for the vice-presidential bid of Mayor Duterte.
Cagayan de Oro was a bastion of the anti-Marcos movement in Mindanao in the ’80s. The city’s mayor at that time, the late senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., was arrested at least four times in the ’70s and ’80s for being a staunch critic of the Marcos dictatorship.
The Marcos-led rally on Tuesday brought back memories of the 1986 snap elections when his late father and namesake Ferdinand E. Marcos campaigned in Cagayan de Oro for reelection against another widow, the late president Corazon Aquino.
The fraud that took place during the February 1986 snap elections was one of the events that led to the EDSA People Power Revolution.
It was the last time for the elder Marcos to campaign at the sports complex, then named Marcos Sports Center, and to be in Cagayan de Oro City. The Marcoses lost their power days after the rigged snap presidential and vice-presidential elections, and the dictator subsequently died while in exile.
Now, Marcos Jr. has campaigned at the same place where his father addressed thousands in a similar rally in Cagayan de Oro for the last time nearly four decades ago.
Marcos Jr. has also found an ally in Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano whose late father Vicente rose to power and established a political dynasty after being appointed officer-in-charge of the provincial government after the 1986 EDSA revolt.
The Uniteam grand rally in Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday was organized by Emano and his gubernatorial bet, former Misamis Oriental 1st District representative, and Gingoog City Vice Mayor Peter Unabia.
Emano, who is serving his third and final term, is running for his old congressional post in the province’s 2nd District.
Misamis Oriental provincial board member Gerardo Sabal III, one of the rally organizers, said they estimated the crowd from 180,000 to 200,000.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Surki Serenas, however, said the Tactical Operations Center of the Cagayan de Oro City police only placed the crowd at 70,000 as of 7 pm.
The crowd estimates dwarfed the more than 10,000 people that took part in the rally of Marcos’ rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, in the city in late February.
By noon, thousands were already seated and packed the main grandstand of the sports complex in downtown Cagayan de Oro, and thousands of other political supporters were queuing outside and waiting to get in under the heat of the sun.
It started to rain early in the afternoon but more came and lined up on Don Apolinar Velez Street.
By late afternoon, the lines snaked through a nearly three-kilometer stretch – on Velez and Luna streets up to Corrales Avenue – around the capitol-run sports complex despite the light rain.
Busloads of Marcos-Duterte supporters flooded the streets of downtown Cagayan de Oro from late in the morning till late afternoon.
Rappler first counted five buses arriving and dropping off people near the sports complex around noon. More came after that and by 6 pm, at least five more buses dropped off rally participants at the same spot.
Many of those who came were from Misamis Oriental’s component cities and towns, Iligan City and the neighboring provinces of Bukidnon, and Lanao del Norte where Marcos and his group were earlier for a rally at the jam-packed Mindanao Civic Center in Tubod town.
In his Lanao del Norte and Cagayan de Oro rallies, Marcos reiterated his message of unity which, he said, the country needs so that it could recover quickly from the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marcos told a press conference in Cagayan de Oro before the grand rally that his call for unity was not just about politics.
“Ipagkakaisa natin yung gobyerno, yung private sector, yung maliliit na employer, yung labor component – lahat yan. Kailangan sabay-sabay natin tinutulungan yan para gumanda ang ating ekonomiya,” he told reporters.
(We will unite the government, the private sector, the small employers, the labor component – all of them. We need to help all of them at the same time so that the economy would become better.) – Rappler.com