Lines of cars stretching across three towns in Iloilo province and all the way to Iloilo City greeted Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Kiko Pangilinan during their visit to the Western Visayas regional center on Friday, December 3.
“We’re so overwhelmed,” presidential aspirant Robredo told Ilonggo supporters in Filipino. While she knew there were preparations, Robredo said she did not expect the level of welcome shown on Friday.
Shortly after Robredo landed from the airport, she was greeted by supporters in Sta. Barbara town with band and dance performances.
Santa Barbara town mayor Rema Somo also personally thanked Robredo and gave her a gift.
She then proceeded along the Old Iloilo-Capiz Road, which was also filled with avid supporters showing their love through cheers and dance performances.
From there, she met with barangay captains at the Don Francisco Village in Jaro district, where she thanked Ilonggos for their support in 2016 in Hiligaynon.
Senator Franklin Drilon, who was also present at the event, asked the barangay captains to support Robredo and increase the city’s votes for her “from 68% [in 2016] to 100%.”
At the provincial capitol, where she met Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. and many of local chief executives, Robredo mentioned getting more than 700,000 votes in Iloilo while her closest rival got less than 200,000 votes.
Noting the presence of important public officials, the vice president thanked the many politicians whose names Defensor announced proudly.
“Sobrang pasasalamat po kami kasi alam po namin, alam po namin na hindi sya madali. Hindi siya madali given the current political realities, so yung hayagang pagsuporta spelled a lot of difference para po sa amin,” Robredo said. (We are very grateful because we know this is not easy. It is not easy given the current political realities, so this open show of support spells a lot of difference for us.)
The warm welcome for the 2022 tandem continued on their way to the Iloilo City Hall, where supporters lined up Iznart and J.M. Basa streets with gleeful color.
Support for rural development
Robredo said she would prioritize rural development. But she did not shirk from sharing the bad news that the planned bridge connecting Guimaras island to the Panay mainland and Negros island would be delayed because its Chinese contractor has backed out.
She quoted Senator Franklin Drilon as saying the timetable for completion of the project is now 2028.
“If Senator Kiko and I get lucky, we will wholeheartedly support this project,” Robredo promised, calling the potential of the project “life changing” for residents of the three islands. The vice president earlier expressed support for uniting Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental under a single island region.
Robredo was asked what Filipinos could expect from her on the issue of the West Philippine Sea.
She pointed out that most candidates will say what they think voters want to hear, referring to surveys showing voter concern for the issue.
Voters, she said, should be more discerning and check how consistent a candidate is on his or her stance on the WPS.
“If you look at my record, from Day One, from the time that we received the favorable ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal, I have been very, very consistent about my stand on the West Philippine Sea, and we should not expect any less from the next President.”
Robredo said she believed the insurgency cannot be resolved by military force.
“And the AFP agrees with us,” she said. “In fact, noong prinesent nila sa atin ‘yung kanilang plano sa insurgency, 100% ay tayo, fully supportive na kailangan whole of nation approach, na matatanggal mo lang iyong insurgency pag ang inaddress iyong core issues. Pagkatapos mo maadrress iyong core issues, kailangan mong ma-address iyong peripheral issues.” (When they presented their plans on the insurgency, I was 100% supportive that we need the whole of nation approach. We can end the insurgency only if we address core issues. After you address core issues, then you go to peripheral issues.)
Without any prompting, the vice president mentioned the Jalaur Dam, which has been linked to human rights violations, including the extra judicial killings of peasants and indigenous groups opposed to its development.
She said the dam, which is expected to be completed in two years, will benefit many small farmers.
“And it won’t just be a source of irrigation for farmers but also a source of power, and source of water for the whole of Iloilo province. This is the kind of program that we should push,” she said, to spur rural development, which she called the long-term solution to insurgency.
The vice president did not directly address the aerial bombing in Miag-ao, which the military called a successful and legitimate operation and rights group Karapatan called “a carnage”. But Robredo stressed the need for a platform where complaints over rights violations can be heard.
“We can’t brush this aside, because if we brush aside these complaints, that will just fan rage,” the vice president said. She said she backed a mechanism where human rights abuses can be investigated with the aim of punishing culprits.
“Kasi pag hindi sya maging accountable ay magiging pamantayan siya pasa sa susunod na mga engagement,” she pointed out. (If perpetrators are not held accountable, their actions become a standard for future engagements.) – Rappler.com
Joseph B.A Marzan is a Visayas-based journalist from Iloilo City and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.