Roxas, Robredo visit 'bailiwick' Visayas in lead-up to campaign period

MARKET VISIT. Mar Roxas visits the Tacloban City Public Market.

Photo from the Facebook page of Korina Sanchez-Roxas

MANILA, Philippines – With roughly two weeks to go before the official campaign period, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II will be visiting several provinces in the Visayas, the island group he considers his bailiwick.

Roxas visited Tacloban City in Leyte on Friday, January 22, dropping by the Tacloban City Public Market and the Burauen Gymnasium for a gathering of barangay officials and local leaders, according to a media advisory from his camp.

"Natutuwa ako na unti-unti nakakabalik na sa regular, sa normal, ang pamumuhay ng mga kababayan natin dito," Roxas said during the Tacloban visit, as quoted from a release by his camp. (I'm happy because, slowly, things are going back to normal, the lives of our fellow Filipinos are going back to normal.)

The city market is a project under the Recovery Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) of the interior department. 

A visit to Eastern Visayas and Tacloban City, in particular, is interesting for the ruling party’s presidential bet. Tacloban bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, a tragedy which political adversaries say the ruling party mismanaged. Roxas, who was interior secretary then, was among the Cabinet officials who led relief efforts in the area.

On November 8, 2015, the 2rd anniversary of the tragedy, members of the opposition flocked to Tacloban City. Roxas and President Benigno Aquino III, who is also chairman of the LP, skipped visits to the region but dropped by Eastern Samar on October 30, or more than a week before the anniversary.

On Thursday, Roxas also dropped by nearby Tanauan and was joined by incumbent Mayor Pel Tecson, who used to belong to the opposition United Nationalist Alliance. Tecson has since shifted allegiances to the ruling LP. 

In the afternoon, the LP presidential bet was scheduled to visit Dulag, Leyte, for another multi-sectorial assembly with civil society leaders. By Saturday, January 23, Roxas will be in Southern Leyte for another series of engagements.

His running mate, Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, is in the Visayas area as well. Robredo was in Iloilo on Thursday, January 21, and was set to visit the provinces of Capiz and Aklan on Friday.

By Sunday, both Roxas and Robredo will be in Iloilo City to attend the Dinagyang Festival.

Roxas traces his roots to the Visayas. His father, the late Senator Gerry Roxas, is from Capiz; his mother, Judy Araneta Roxas, is from Bago City, Negros Occidental.

Roxas’ first elective position was as Capiz representative.

The Visayas visit comes a week after Roxas visited several provinces in Muslim Mindanao and weeks before the campaign period kicks off on February 9.

The Bisaya- and Hiligaynon-speaking areas of the Visayas are traditionally bailiwicks of Roxas and the ruling LP. In the province of Cebu, which has one of largest voting population outside of Metro Manila, Roxas won by a landslide when he ran for vice president in 2010.

Negros Occidental, another vote-rich province, is also considered a Roxas bailiwick.

But if the recent Pulse Asia survey is to be believed, Roxas’ numbers have dipped in the Visayas while rival and opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay is getting the upper hand.

Pulse Asia’s December 2015 survey gave Roxas 27 percentage points in the Visayas, 7 points down from the 34% he got in September 2015.

However, a survey by Laylo Research Strategies shows that 34% of respondents from the Visayas preferred Roxas. This was a surprise even for the LP, whose internal polls had established that Roxas has at least 30% preference in the Visayas. –