2022 PH presidential race

Robredo pledges priority for infrastructure, agriculture needs of Samar provinces

Inday Espina-Varona, Mara Cepeda
Robredo pledges priority for infrastructure, agriculture needs of Samar provinces

CATARMAN PEOPLE'S RALLY. Catarman pulled out all the stops for the Rayhak: Northern Samar Peopleu2019s Rally for presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo at the University of Eastern Philippines in Catarman, Northern Samar on March 28, 2022.

Photo courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau

Over 70,000 people flock to the Leni-Kiko rally in Catarman, and thousands more attend the rallies of the tandem and their Senate slate in Calbayog and Catbalogan

Presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo and running mate senator Kiko Pangilinan barnstormed two provinces of Samar island on Monday, March 28, promising to prioritize their infrastructure and agriculture needs.

“Dito sa Northern Samar, lalo na po dito sa tatlong probinsya dito po sa Samar, napakahalaga kung sino ‘yung pipiliin natin sa susunod na eleksyon, dahil ito ‘yung magsasabi, ‘Mapapansin ba tayo ng susunod na administrasyon?’” Robredo told a crowd estimated at over 70,000 who had waited for seven hours in Catarman, the capital of the province.

(Here in Northern Samar and the three provinces of Samar, your choice is crucial because it will answer the question, “Will the next administration pay attention to us?”)

She said Samar and her home region, Bicol, are “cousins” because they share many socio-economic problems like poverty and direct hits from typhoons. 

Poverty, violence

Bicol and Eastern Visayas, which includes the three provinces of Samar island and the Leyte provinces, are among the top five poorest regions of the country.

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Robredo and Pangilinan kicked off their visit to Samar with a meeting with religious groups in Calbayog City, followed by a courtesy call on Calbayog City Mayor Diego Rivera, who has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate.

She also met with Gandara town supporters, including recipients of 15 carabaos and livelihood cash aid in 2018, before attending the people’s rally at the Calbayog City Sports Complex.

Former mayor Mel Sarmiento, also a former interior secretary, introduced the presidential candidate.

Sarmiento shared why the Robredos are close to the hearts of Calbayognons: “When Mayor Ining (Reynaldo Uy) was killed in 2011, only [then] DILG secretary Jesse Robredo came. When Mayor Onald (Ronaldo Aquino) was killed last year, only Vice President Leni Robredo came.”

Nine police officers linked to the March 8, 2021 slay of mayor Aquino surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on February 15.

From Calbayog, to Catbalogan, the capital of Samar, to Northern Samar capital Catarman, Robredo promised to prioritize the development of Samar should she win as president. 

The biggest crowd, which the provincial government said was 73,000 strong, was in Catarman. Rally organizers in Calbayog estimated the audience at 7,000 and the Robredo People’s Council-Catbalogan said they gathered 5,000.

The youth sector delivered for Robredo, also bringing their witty slogans.

CATBALOGAN STOP. Supporters from all over Catbalogan and nearby towns gather at the Samar province capitol grounds for presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo, running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan, and their senatorial slate. Photo courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau

Robredo trounced vice presidential rival Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Northern Samar in 2016, getting 111,461 votes to his 73,214 votes. Northern Samar has 453,620 registered voters for the 2022 polls.

Of the 24 mayors of Northern Samar, 21 endorsed Robredo’s presidential bid. They are the following:

  1. Allen Mayor Jose Arturo Suan
  2. Biri Mayor Antonio delos Reyes Jr.
  3. Bobon Mayor Clara Gremio
  4. Capul Mayor Teresita Bandal
  5. Catarman Mayor Francisco Rosale
  6. Catubig Mayor Galahad Vicencio
  7. Gamay Mayor Clarita Gomba
  8. Laoang Mayor Harris Christopher Ongchuan
  9. Lapinig Mayor Ma. Luisa Menzon
  10. Las Navas Mayor Arlito Tan
  11. Lavezares Edito Saludaga
  12. Lope de Vega Mayor Ana Palloc
  13. Mapanas Mayor Francisco John L. Tejano
  14. Mondragon Mayor Mario Madera
  15. Pambujan Mayor Felipe Sosing
  16. Rosario Mayor Gerardo Miranda
  17. San Isidro Mayor Ferdinand Avila
  18. San Jose Mayor Clarence Dato
  19. San Roque Mayor Don Abalon
  20. San Vicente Mayor Tito Luneza
  21. Silvino Lobos Mayor Leo Jarito
PEOPLE’S RALLY. Pink confetti fille the air at the end of the Rayhak: Northern Samar People’s Rally in Catarman, Northern Samar, on March 28, 2022.

Roads, telecom signals

Robredo also stressed the need to improve Samar’s roads – described by locals as “hellish.”

She got loud cheers with her promise to complete the circumferential road connecting Las Navas in Northern Samar, Matuguinao in Samar, and Jipapad in Eastern Samar.

The cheers got louder when she pledged to improve telecommunications in the three Samar provinces.

“Kanina po, nagbiyahe kaming sasakyan, mula Catbalogan hanggang Catarman. Meron pa akong isang nadiskubre. Maraming lugar walang signal. Ang hirap, ‘di ba? Mahirap sa mga estudyante, mahirap sa mga nagtatrabaho. Kaya po ang isang ipapangako ko sa inyo, sisiguraduhin po natin lahat gagawin natin, para ‘yung mga lugar na wala pang signal, magkakaroon na.”

(While traveling from Catbalogan to Catarman, I discovered something. Many places have no signal. That’s really difficult, right? Difficult for students, difficulty for workers. So one of my promises to you is we will do everything we can so that those places without signal would get signal.)

‘Waray 100k’

In Catbalogan City, Robredo’s afternoon rally was on the grounds of the Samar province capitol. 

Governor Reynolds Michael Tan is backing the vice president’s rival, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. But Samar Vice Governor Angelica Gomez is for Robredo and welcomed the candidate during the rally. 

Also present were  Eastern Samar governor Ben Evardone and Northern Samar governor Edwin Ongchuan, who have endorsed Robredo; Paranas Mayor Eunice Babalcon; Motiong Mayor Renato Cabael; and city councilors Tonton Bolastig, John James Honrales, and Alma Uy.

As Robredo spoke at the Catbalogan rally, her audience broke into chants of “Waray 100K (There’s no 100K).”

It was a reference to the governor’s pledge to provide a 100,000-margin for Marcos in his province. The Vice President laughed as the chant was explained and quipped that they should say “100K minus one.”

Robredo also recalled her Angat Buhay projects in Northern Samar and on the entire island, saying she pushed these despite her office’s small budget.

“Pero bakit po namin ito nagagawa? Nagagawa po namin ito dahil maayos ‘yung pag-asikaso namin ng pera ng aming opisina, ‘yung maliit, napaparami natin. At napakahalaga po na may tiwala sa atin ‘yung tao,” she said. (How were we able to do this? We achieved it because of our careful handling of funds. So we managed to stretch the little we had.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.