2022 Philippine Elections

10 days to go, Marcos targets bases in vote-rich Central Luzon

Lian Buan

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10 days to go, Marcos targets bases in vote-rich Central Luzon

BASES. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. visits San Fernando, Pampanga, in the homestretch of the campaign on April 29, 2022.


(2nd UPDATE) Can Marcos hold on to his lead in Luzon, making up half of total voting population, or will the pink wave catch up?

PAMPANGA, Philippines – The chant has grown ever so loudly, especially in the homestretch with only ten days to go. “Panalo ka na! (You already won)” a massive crowd in San Fernando, Pampanga yelled to a giddy Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Friday, April 29.

That will be true, the son of the dictator says, if they stay with him until the end.

Based on the latest Pulse Asia survey taken from March 17 to 21, Marcos has a comfortable lead in Central Luzon, 66-13, over closest rival Vice President Leni Robredo. Central Luzon has seven provinces with a total voting population of 7.28 million, which makes up 11% of the country’s overall voters.

That survey had Robredo moving one point, and Marcos staying put.

What the Pulse Asia March survey does not reflect is the April 9 rally of Robredo and running mate Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan in the same venue – a rally with no local politician but 220,000 warm bodies.

In San Fernando on Friday, even Geraldine Roman, representative of neighboring province Bataan was there. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who’s again running for representative of Pampanga, declared that politicians here were throwing their lot with Marcos.

“Sa ngalan ni Governor Delta Pineda, sa ngalan ni Vice Governor Baby Pineda, sa ngalan ng apat na congressmen ng Pampanga, sa ngalan ng dalawampung mayor ng Pampanga, heto na po ang susunod na Pangulo ng republika ng Pilipinas,” said Arroyo, a power broker whose party Lakas-CMD is carrying the candidacy of Sara Duterte.

(On behalf of Governor Delta Pineda, on behalf of Vice Governor Baby Pineda, on behalf of the four congressmen in Pampanga, on behalf of 20 mayors in Pampanga, please welcome the next president of the Republic of the Philippines.)

250,000 strong

Lakas-CMD said the crowd count in San Fernando on Friday is estimated to be 250,000. It was an answer to Robredo’s rally, which, in a lot of ways, showed pink cracks in the so-called Solid North.

In the 2016 vice presidential race, Marcos won almost all of the provinces north of Manila – except Batanes and Tarlac.

Marcos’ lead in Pampanga in 2016 was formidable – 434,235 votes against Robredo’s 293,420. Pampanga has 1.58 million voters.

Marcos told the crowd: “Magiging totoo ‘yan (na mananalo ako) basta’t walang iwanan. Walang iwanan dahil tayo ay nagkaisa na.” (My victory will come true as long as you stay with me until the end. Stay with me because we are united.)

On Friday, Marcos declined a challenge by Robredo to debate one-on-one, with his spokesperson saying Filipinos don’t like to see their leaders fight.

Reporters who tried to ask a follow-up could not get any answer, even though Marcos claimed over an earlier CNN Philippines interview that he was not difficult to ask questions to during sorties. Marcos did not face reporters who were cashing in on that claim, telling him: If you say you’re easy to interview, then we have a few questions.

Marcos thanked his Kapampangan supporters and again talked about unity in his speech

Rappler spoke with some of the Uniteam supporters from the crowd. They said they were not paid to attend the rally but refused to provide their names nor have their photo taken.

BBM kami. Ali mi ya talaga buri y Leni. Biglaan lang to. Yung mga dati kong kaibigan nakita ko din diyan (We are for BBM. We really do not like Leni. This is spontaneous. Even some of my friends are here),” said one supporter.

Muli ta na. Ala tamu man akwa keni. Di bale sana nung kalukluk ng Bongbong Marcos makwalta ta na (Let’s go home. We won’t get anything here. It’s not like we will all get rich when Bongbong Marcos gets elected),” said another Kapampangan supporter to his friends.

Pampanga has 19 municipalities and three cities under four congressional districts where the Uniteam is supported by 20 mayors and each of the congressmen. It is the 10th most vote-rich province with 1.58 million voters.

The Uniteam grand rally was also attended by senatorial bets Migz Zubiri, Sherwin Gatchalian, Harry Roque, Loren Legarda, Larry Gadon, Herbert Bautista, Jinggoy Estrada, Robin Padilla, Gringo Honasan, and Mark Villar. 

Rianne Cuevas for Marcos

Marcos stopped by Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija first Friday afternoon before he headed to Pampanga. That was his third grand rally in the province, with a voting population of 1.54 million.

The second rally drew an unimpressive crowd, whereas Robredo, who visited days after, gathered 50,000. Marcos won Nueva Ecija in 2016 with a big 325,000-margin.

On Friday, Marcos had more visible local support. Palayan City Mayor Rianne Joson Cuevas, running for governor, has categorically endorsed Marcos. Cuevas is with PDP-Laban.

“Nakita niyo, kasama ng ganda ko ang susunod na presidente, kaya puwede ba ako naman ang maging gobernador niyo,” said Cuevas, campaigning for herself opposite the incumbent Governor Aurelio “Oyie” Umali.

(You see, my beautiful face is with the next president, so please, can I be your next governor?)

Umali had not given any categorical endorsement yet.

Still the local support was visible. Buses clearly marked property of the local government of Gapan City were among vehicles which ferried supporters in Cabanatuan.

A long line of buses and jeepneys clogged the roads to San Fernando Friday, all going to the rally site, including several vehicles marked properties of the city government of Tarlac.

Marcos’ sorties reveal a plan to consolidate his base in Luzon, with Robredo also barnstorming the island, holding a rally on the same day in Laguna of most vote-rich Calabarzon.

Confident of their bet’s win, Marcos read a placard among the crowd that said: “Excited na ako pumuntang EDSA para sa victory party.” (I am excited to go to EDSA for the victory party.)

Sa EDSA ba tayo? (Are we holding it in EDSA?,” Marcos asked while grinning.

The irony of that suggestion did not escape him. EDSA was the venue of the people power revolt that toppled his dictator father.

Can Marcos hold on to his lead in Luzon, making up half of total voting population, or will the pink wave catch up? – with reports from Joann Manabat/Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.