Ruling party in Laguna: One stage, two vice governors
LAGUNA, Philippines – Almost everyone in the crowd was clad in yellow, and the familiar “Daang Matuwid (Straight Path)” hymn was playing in the background – typical for a political sortie featuring Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II.
There was a congressional bet, a gubernatorial bet, and two vice gubernatorial bets. In the vote-rich province of Laguna, two candidates are vice gubernatorial bets – by virtue of affiliation and coalition with the ruling LP.
There’s Laguna Provincial Board member Angelica Jones, a member of the LP; and then there’s current Laguna Vice Governor Katherine Agapay, a member of the Nacionalista Party (NP). Laguna is among a handful of provinces in the Philippines where two major parties in the Philippines – the LP and the NP – have coalesced for the 2016 national elections.
The LP’s candidate for governor is incumbent Governor Ramil Hernandez, who is running against disqualified governor ER Ejercito, an opposition ally.
In two of the 3 cities Roxas visited on Tuesday, both Jones and Agapay were onstage, alongside Hernandez, Laguna 1st District Representative and Santa Rosa mayoral candidate Dan Fernandez, and a host of local politicians.
Roxas made it a point to introduce both candidates, one after another, but was careful not to refer to either as the “next vice governor” of the province, unlike other local bets.
“Laguna is lucky because it has two vice governors,” Roxas even quipped during a multi-sectoral assembly in San Pedro City.
The awkwardness was not lost on members of the audience who giggled and pointed out the situation when either of the two vice gubernatorial bets would be introduced.
Hernandez, in a chance interview with reporters, said long before the coalition was forged, both bets had already decided to run for vice governor.
It’s only a glimpse of the unique situation in Laguna, where political support does not always toe party lines. While there’s an NP and LP coalition in the province, NP leaders have yet to pick a vice presidential bet.
Three members of the NP in the Senate – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr – are all running for vice president. Hernandez never mentioned the name of LP vice presidential candidate Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, although LP members in Laguna were generous in endorsing Robredo to their constituents.
Roxas has been a frequent Laguna visitor, even before announcing his plan to run for president. The former interior secretary frequented the province during turnovers of police patrol cars and fire trucks to different local government units.
Laguna is also where Roxas lost badly in 2010, when he ran for vice president under the LP.
While Vice President Jejomar Binay garnered over more than half a million votes in the province, Roxas barely mustered 340,000 votes, according to official Commission on Elections data. As of the 2013 elections, Laguna had over 1.5 million voters.
“The signs are positive. At ang pinakamahalaga rito ay mayroon tayong tinutuntungan na matibay na pundasyon ng delivery ng makatotohanang nangyari na sa ating bansa. Damang-dama ng ating mga kababayan. Sila mismo ang nakakapagsabi sa mga kaginhawaan na nakarating sa kanilang pamayanan,” said Roxas in a chance interview with reporters, when asked about his chances in the vote-rich province come 2016.
(The most important thing here is that we have a solid foundation to stand on, of concrete changes happening in the country. Our countrymen feel this. They themselves talk about the improvement they're experiencing in their communities.)
Roxas’ campaign is hinged on the promise of continuing the reforms and programs – results of “Daang Matuwid” – that President Benigno Aquino III started.
Each of his visits to the cities of Santa Rosa, Biñan, and San Pedro featured a testimony from a beneficiary of the Aquino administration’s flagship poverty alleviation program, the Pangtawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), improvements in public health care, and the Performance Challenge Fund for local government units.
“Nandun nakabalot sa istorya ni Mommy Isadora kung ano ang ipinaglalaban natin eh (Mommy Isadora’s story encompasses what we’re fighting for),” said Roxas, who turned emotional in Santa Rosa when he spoke to a 4Ps beneficiary on-stage.
“Sino ba ang may gusto ng daang baluktot? O daang madilim? O daang paikot-ikot lang, wala namang mararating? Or daang namamasyal yan, walang direksyon… daang malubak? (Who wants to go down a crooked path? A dark path? Or a long and winding road with an unclear destination? Or a path where you just go around aimlessly, without any direction; or a path full of potholes?" Roxas asked.
"Dito, hindi lang sa Santa Rosa, hindi lang sa Laguna pero sa ating buong bansa ang istorya nila Isadora, nila Leonora…ay totoo. Hindi po ito photo-op, hindi pang tarpaulin lang. Ang kanilang mga pamilya – ang inyong mga pamilya – makakapagsabi na na-touch kami, na-touch kami sa katas ng ating pagtatahak sa Daang Matuwid,” said Roxas, taking indirect potshots at his rivals.
(Here, not just in Santa Rosa, not just in Laguna, but in the entire country, the story of Isadora, or Leonora, is real. This is not just a photo-op, not just for tarpaulins. But their families – your families – can say that we've been touched, we’ve been affected by the results of Daang Matuwid.)
Even if he is the administration candidate, Roxas is not the dominant bet in a crowded presidential race. According to a recent survey that was privately commissioned by a Davao-based businessman, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has an overwhelming lead over Roxas, Binay, Senator Grace Poe, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Surveys commissioned and designed for public consumption, meanwhile, rank Roxas third, or in a virtual tie with all other candidates. – Rappler.com
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