Presidential bet and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s first stop on the campaign trail was Batangas, the seventh most vote-rich province in the country, where he was hosted by one of its most prominent politicians, Senator Ralph Recto.
Recto, proudly sporting the same Adidas Superstar sneakers patronized by Moreno, asked Batangueños to vote for the 46-year-old Tondo native for Philippine president. Based on 2019 data, there are 1.7 million voters in Batangas.
“Maraming pupunta dine, manliligaw. Pero maliwanag na mayroon na tayong sinagot na nanliligaw sa atin,” he said on Friday, October 15, before an audience that, sitting one seat apart, filled the Claro M. Recto Event Center in Lipa City.
(Many will go here, to court us. But it’s clear we have already given an answer to someone courting us.)
Recto’s wife, superstar and House Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto, was notably absent.
In his 20-minute speech about Moreno, the senator praised the latter’s pandemic response as Manila mayor – from putting up a COVID-19 field hospital in Rizal Park within 60 days to its aggressive vaccination program that was at one point criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In 2016, Duterte was the presidential bet who won in Batangas, with a slim lead over Grace Poe. In third place was Jejomar Binay.
Confidence in Isko
Recto’s main line of messaging was that Moreno outdid the national government in addressing the crisis within his sphere of influence, and that that success can be replicated on the national scale if the mayor became president.
“Si Mayor Isko, tawagan ninyo kapag mayroon kayong kamag-anak na nagkasakit sa COVID, may handang gamot. Wala sa national government. Sabi ko, Mayor Isko, gawin natin ‘yan sa buong Pilipinas,” said Recto.
(If you call him because your relative is sick with COVID, Mayor Isko has medicines ready. The national government has none. I said, Mayor Isko, let’s do that for the entire Philippines.)
Moreno’s initiative of providing tocilizumab and remdesivir, even to non-Manileños, has been hugely popular, especially in social media groups of persons desperately in search of COVID-19 medicines for their loved ones.
Back in September, Manila distributed 600 tocilizumab vials to other Metro Manila cities, areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Recto expressed admiration for Moreno’s famous rags-to-riches story, calling the mayor “tunay na galing sa hirap” (truly from poverty) and an “inspiration” to young Filipinos.
Standing before local officials in an event center named after his own grandfather, Recto said, “I have no doubts that Batangas will deliver votes for Isko.”
In the same event, the Lipa City Council declared Moreno an “adopted son” of the city for “his invaluable assistance to the people of Batangas” diring the 2020 Taal Volcano eruption and pandemic.
They also authorized Lipa Mayor Eric Africa to enter into a “sister cities” agreement with Manila. Sister cities exchange best practices and expertise, expand business relations, social ties, and cultural understanding. It’s also a way for one local politician to strengthen their clout with another locality.
Takes swipe at Robredo, Marcos
Moreno exuded energy and youthfulness in his first campaign stop, gamely bumping elbows with anyone who would and holding up his pointer finger to symbolize both his slogan “God first” and the first letter of his name.
He started his speech with both offense and defense, saying with solemn determination: “Ang tunay na kalaban ng tao ngayon ay ang pandemya.” (The real enemy of the people now is the pandemic.)
As he went on, it became clear that he was simultaneously stating his priority as a presidential candidate – the COVID-19 crisis – and hitting his political rivals for supposedly being more focused on bickering and settling scores.
“Ang gusto nila ay marinig din sa akin ‘yung gusto nilang mangyari para sa paghihiganti nila. Sila, tumatakbo upang paghigantihan ang isang pamilya, paano na ang pamilyang Pilipinong nagdidildil ng asin?” said Moreno.
(They want to hear from me that I will also exact the vengeance they want. They want to take revenge on one family, how about the Filipino families who have to make do with rice and salt?)
“Thirty years na kayo magkaaway, umunlad ba ang Pilipinas? (You’ve been fighting for 30 years, did the Philippines prosper?)” said Moreno.
It was a reference to criticisms he received after he admitted admiring some aspects of Ferdinand Marcos’ leadership. Vice President Leni Robredo, in an interview that angered Moreno, said one factor that pushed her to run for president was Moreno’s Marcos stance.
Moreno, however, said abuses of the past would not be forgotten and that his administration would hold any person accountable for any wrongdoing.
“Papapanagutin natin ang mga nagnakaw ng yaman ng ating bansa. Papapanagutin natin ang nanggahasa sa loob ng pandemya. Anak ka man ng dating presidente, presidente ka man, senador ka man,” said the presidential bet.
(We will hold accountable those who stole wealth from our country. We will hold accountable those who exploited the pandemic, whether you are the child of an ex-president, a president, a senator.)
COVID-19 protocols violated?
Batangas is currently under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions in which mass gatherings in conference venues are prohibited.
Despite this, Moreno said the local officials who hosted him did their “due diligence” in following health protocols.
While people in the event center were one seat apart and officials only took off their masks when they spoke on the podium, the crowd outside the venue were close to one another as Moreno and other politicians made their way inside. – Rappler.com