2022 Philippine Elections

‘This is Duterte country’: Southern Leyte officials back Sara, Marcos Jr.

Brynch Bonachita
‘This is Duterte country’: Southern Leyte officials back Sara, Marcos Jr.

MEET AND GREET. Vice Presidential aspirant and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte greets supporters in Sogod, Southern Leyte

Supporters of Coco Yap

The Davao City Mayor sees the 'Mahal Natin Ang Pilipinas' (MNAP) Ride as a solution to frequent sortie cancellations because of COVID-19 outbreaks and now focuses on 'touch and go' swings with no mass gatherings

TACLOBAN, Philippines – The top officials of Southern Leyte and at least 18 mayors in the province are supporting the Uniteam of presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running-mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. 

Local officials and crowds welcomed vice presidential aspirant Duterte in the second and third days of her Mahalin Natin Ang Pilipinas (MNAP) Ride through three Eastern Visayas provinces – Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Samar – on February 3 and 4.  

Southern Leyte Vice Governor Coco Yap confirmed a Uniteam claim quoting local officials led by Governor Damian Mercado as forecasting “a landslide win” for Marcos and Duterte.

Mercado and Yap are members of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In December 2021, the UniTeam candidates brought aid to the province, which was badly hit by Typhoon Odette.

Southern Leyte has one component city and 18 municipalities. In the 2019 elections, the province posted a 79.54% voter turnout, or 232,511 of the 292,337 registered voters.


Marcos, whose mother Imelda hails from Tacloban, has always enjoyed favor in Eastern Visayas. 

The Davao mayor played on local loyalty to heritage, citing her paternal grandmother’s roots to Liloan in Southern Leyte. 

She had also played up her father’s roots in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, visiting the childhood school of her paternal grandmother, Soledad.

Yap’s Tiktok account shows a collection of Sara photos set to a light, romantic song. The vice governor also has videos of him meeting and planning with the Davao mayor  and her team.

Rappler tried to get a confirmation from Mercado but has still to receive his reply.

In a Facebook post, Sara said  she was happy to meet the descendants of her great-grandfather’s brother in Liloan. 

Yap said the Roa clan are also from Maasin, the provincial capital where the President was born. They also have roots in Panaon island.

The Uniteam communications office said Mercado, Yap and 18 mayors in Southern Leyte are backing Sara.

“Of course [we are supporting BBM-Sara], kami dito sa probinsya we are supporting Sara and the UniTeam, including BBM,” Mercado was quoted.

In an interview with reporters, Sara said she thought of the MNAP Ride as a solution to frequent cancellations of sorties because of local COVID-19 surges. 

“We thought to just make a touch and go swing, no mass gatherings, no indoor events,” she said. 

The initial concept plays up the nautical highway conceived by former President Gloria Arroyo, who convinced Sara to sign up with her Lakas-CMG party. 

It also highlighted the tough image of Duterte on a motorcycle, though a convoy of several vans and buses joined her through the swing.

However, Duterte said they discovered it is hard to maneuver “big bikes” through crowds as she leaves events. 

The mayor accepted the loan of a four-wheel drive with a strong sound system and a sunroof where she emerges to address crowds from a distance.

Vice presidential aspirant and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte addresses supporters from the sunroof of a high-end sports utility vehicle. (Mayor Sara Duterte’s Facebook page)

Hinundayan town Mayor Elisa Candingan confirmed to Rappler her support for Marcos and Duterte.

“I choose them because I believe that BBM and Inday Sara can continue the legacy of their parents,” Candingan said in a text message.

The son of Libagon town Mayor Ranque Sabina posted on Facebook a photo of the latter with Sara.

Sara also dropped by the BBM-Sara campaign headquarters in Tacloban City and visited the  Yolanda Commemorative Memorial. – Rappler.com

Brynch Bonachita is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.