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CEBU CITY, Philippines – Over a hundred thousand people trooped to the grand rally of Vice President Leni Robredo in Mandaue City, Cebu, on Thursday, April 21, in an apparent show of force against the ruling One Cebu party that has backed Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Walang One Cebu!” supporters of Robredo chanted as she appeared at the rally.
The organizers pegged the number of attendees at 150,000. The Mandaue City police had the same crowd estimate earlier, but lowered its count to 120,000 the following day.
While crowd sizes can be disputed, it is undeniable that the throngs of supporters who gathered in the country’s most vote-rich province was an expression of defiance against the One Cebu party, led by the Garcia dynasty. (READ: Incumbents bat ‘One Cebu Island’ for Marcos Jr, Duterte in 2022)
“Alam ‘nyo ang sinisigaw ‘nyo: “Walang One Cebu.” Siguro walang One Cebu ng mga politiko, pero may One Cebu ng ordinaryong Cebuano. Ngayong gabi, pinapakita natin na ang kapangyarihan nasa kamay natin,” Robredo said.
(You know, perhaps there is no “One Cebu” of politicians, but there is a “One Cebu” of ordinary Cebuanos. Tonight, we have shown that the power is within our hands. )
Aside from being the most vote-rich province with 3.2 million voters, Cebu is a battleground province with internal surveys shown to Rappler showing a significant undecided population.
2016 victory repeat?
In the 2016 vice presidential elections, Robredo won Cebu. Marcos Jr. placed third in the province.
But things are different this time around. Back then 90% of the 50 local chief executives in Cebu belonged to the then-ruling Liberal Party, which Robredo chairs.
Today, a majority of local chief executives belong to the ruling PDP-Laban.
Robredo, the opposition leader under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, has also been the main target of disinformation and black propaganda since she was elected in 2016.
While having the endorsement of a major local party would help Robredo’s bid, she told reporters during an ambush interview on the sidelines of the Bogo City rally that she’s confident of her chances of pulling off a 2016 repeat in the province because of her passionate volunteers.
“Optimistic ako. In the first place, ‘yung volunteerism nakikita ko ngayon sa Cebu – wala ito noong 2016 (I’m optimistic. In the first place, the volunteerism I see in Cebu was not here in 2016),” she said, and called the passion of the volunteers unprecedented.
“Yung mga local officials in 2016, kasama pa din natin ngayon (The officials who helped us in 2016, they are still with us today),” she added.
Another important note on her Cebu campaign stops is that she rallied supporters in several areas that are not in One Cebu bailiwicks including the cities of Bogo and Danao. Mayor Carlo Jose Martinez of the Martinez dynasty in Bogo City is not a member of One Cebu.
Bogo has a voting population of about 53,000 votes.
Danao City, home to the Durano dynasty and Bakud Party, a rival of the One Cebu party, has about 93,000 voters.
While the Durano family endorsed Marcos-Duterte in January, Robredo and running mate Senator Francis “Kiko”Pangilinan had met with the Duranos earlier on Thursday. Although they did not appear with her on stage at the rally held for her near Danao City Hall. (READ: Cebu’s BAKUD party, led by the Duranos, endorses Marcos-Duterte tandem)
In her speeches in Cebu, she emphasized how she was not only going to the big cities, but would come to see residents in areas even where voting populations are small.
Aside from her mini rallies, Robredo visited the towns of Santa Fe, Tabuelan, and Tuburuan, where the Office of the Vice President has Angat Buhay livelihood projects.
Robredo got the endorsement of a few local chief executives in the smaller towns: San Remigio Mayor Mar Martinez endorsed Robredo public on Monday, April 18, while Dumanjug Mayor Gungun Gica backed her on the same day as the rally on April 21.
Robredo thanked Gica for his support during her speech at the grand rally in Mandaue City. Dumanjug is a bailiwick of One Cebu and hometown of the Garcia dynasty.
Government away from the center
During Robredo’s first visit to the province last February 24, she went to Cebu City and the province’s southern area. In that visit, Robredo emphasized the “receipts” of her Angat Buhay projects as her way of convincing Cebuanos to vote for her again. (READ: Robredo on winning Cebu: I don’t just promise, I deliver)
This time, she promised Cebuanos that if she were elected president, she would continue to bring the government to the people, even in places where most politicians would not visit because they had small voting populations.
“Ito po ‘yung klaseng pamamahala na pinapanangako namin sa inyo. Pamamahala na hindi lang kami maghihintay sa Malacañang, hindi lang pupunta kami sa mga sentro. Pero mas malayo ‘yung lugar ‘nyo, mas pupuntahan namin kayo, dahil alam namin mas malayo ‘yung lugar, mas mahirap puntahan, mas kailangan ang pamahalaan,” Robredo told her supporters in Bogo City Thursday morning.
(This is the kind of governance we can promise you. A government that will not merely wait in Malacañang, and would not only go to the city centers. But the more remote your areas are, the more we would come to you, because we know that the farther away you are, and the more difficult it is to reach, the more you need the government.)
The message resonated with many attendees who came from other small towns near Bogo such as Medellin, San Remigio, Daanbantayan, and Madridejos, where no other presidential candidate has visited so far this campaign period.
Robredo repeated this message in her campaign stops in Danao, and later at the grand rally in Mandaue City.
She also made a last-ditch pitch to encourage Cebuanos to join the massive house-to-house efforts on Saturday, April 23, where the Robredo campaign hopes volunteers could reach at least 1 million voters in a day.
“Maipangangako ‘nyo ba ‘yan sa amin na sasamahan ‘nyo kami sa laban? Kaya pa bang humirit? Kaya pa bang kumumbinsi ng hindi pa kumbinsido? Handa ba tayong kumatok hindi lang sa pintuan pero sa puso ng ating mga kababayan?” she asked.
(Can you promise us that you’ll be with us in this fight? Can you still do that? Can you still convince the unconvinced? Are we ready to knock not only on doors but also on the hearts of our countrymen?)
While no Cebu politicians appeared publicly to support Robredo during her campaign stops, after her speech at the grand rally in Mandaue, she was joined on stage by different sectors such as health workers, farmers, and security guards who raised her hand.
On Saturday, April 23, the Vice President will celebrate her birthday with another grand rally in Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City. – Rappler.com