BUKIDNON, Philippines – Reelectionist Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Thursday, March 31, went all-out for presidential survey frontrunner former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as he joined the UniTeam campaign sortie in his home province of Bukidnon.
Until Thursday, Zubiri has been campaigning for reelection without endorsing any presidential candidate. In a March 8 interview in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, he said he “wished them (presidential candidates) all well,” and “I love them dearly.”
But in Bukidnon, Senator Zubiri sang to a different tune, called Marcos “our president,” and thanked all the province’s mayors and vice mayors for coming to the Marcos-led rally, saying it was proof of their support for the UniTeam ticket.
“Karun lang ko nakakita nga in-ani ka daghan nga tawo who are here to support one person… Daghan tawo gapalangga sa atong presidente. Wala, uli na ta, daug na,” Senator Zubiri told a cheering crowd in Malaybalay, the capital city of Bukidnon.
(This is my first time to witness a crowd here as huge as this to support one person… Many people love our president. It’s over. Let’s go home, we have a winner.)
Before the UniTeam’s Bukidnon sortie, the senator’s father Jose Maria “Joe” Zubiri declared his all-out support for Marcos and his running mate Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, saying the late dictator’s son was the choice of his province’s mayors.
The 81-year-old Zubiri, the longest surviving local political kingpin in Northern Mindanao, played a gracious and vivacious host to Marcos and his group at the capitol grounds in Malaybalay City.
Governor Zubiri, who started his political career as a member of the Marcos Batasang Pambansa, was a member of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL).
A group opposed to the Zubiris, Team Bag-ong Bukidnon, also threw its support behind Marcos and Duterte. Its leader, Bukidnon 4th District Representative Rogelio Neil Roque, is running for governor against Joe Zubiri’s son Manuel, also an incumbent congressman.
People started flocking at the rally site as early as 3 pm where the governor spoke on stage and entertained the crowd with games while waiting for the arrival of Marcos, his son Migz, and senatorial candidates Sherwin Gatchalian, Herbert Bautista, and Jinggoy Estrada.
Marcos’ running mate Sara Duterte was a no-show, but Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa came to represent the Davao mayor and presidential daughter.
Provincial board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. told Rappler that the UniTeam rally in Malaybalay on Thursday served as the official endorsement of the Zubiri-led Bukidnon Paglaum Party (BPP) of the Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem.
“The BPP, from the mayors down to the councilors, and our candidates for provincial board seats are one with Governor Zubiri’s endorsement of BBM and Sara,” Beltran said.
In 2016, Beltran said Governor Zubiri supported the successful campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo. She won in Bukidnon that year with 211,512 votes against Marcos’s 127,688.
Bukidnon has 944,838 registered voters according to the Comelec data.
“The vice presidency and presidency are two different things. It was different then and now. The BPP members looked at the winnability of the candidates. The province will be provided with financial and project privileges if we pick and support a winner in the presidential race,” Beltran said. – Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship