No ‘Bicol vote’ exists, but Bicolanos urged to rally behind Leni
NAGA CITY—With Rep. Leni Robredo leading in pre-election surveys among candidates for vice president who have roots in the Bicol region, Bicolano voters must rally behind her to catapult her to the second-highest elective position in the country, a retired Camarines Sur prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Agapito Rosales said this is the time that Bicol voters must unite and support Robredo if only to avoid a situation similar to the failed Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential nomination of Sen. Dominador Aytona, a native of Albay province, in 1965.
Rosales recalled that in the heat of the race to capture the nomination, Aytona withdrew in favor of an Ilocano rival, then Senate President Ferdinand Marcos, who would eventually become president.
The similarities of the vice presidential race today with the NP primaries in 1965 could not be ignored with the emerging rivalry between the Ilocos and Bicol regions, represented by Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the late former president’s son and the latest survey front-runner, who is closely followed by Robredo, he said.
“I know that the Bicolano candidates are bound by their parties, but still I urge them to advice their people to rally behind [Robredo] if we want to elect a Bicolano vice president,” he said.
Apart from Robredo, whose parents are from Sorsogon province and Naga City, the other vice presidential candidates from Bicol are Senators Francis Escudero and Gregorio Honasan, both of Sorsogon; and Antonio Trillanes IV of Albay. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is not a Bicol native, but the family of his wife, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, is from Albay.
But a “Bicol vote” does not exist, said Fr. Wilmer Tria, professor of Philosophy of Ateneo de Naga University. Voters, he said, choose candidates based on conscience, not on regional affiliations.
Prof. Alexander de Guzman, former chair of the Political Science Department of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy in Bicol University, sees a tough fight for Bicolano candidates in the vice presidential race.
“With three vice presidential bets rooted in Sorsogon and two with connections in Albay, Bicol is polarized and the Bicol vote becomes immaterial,” he said. The region, composed of six provinces, has more than 3 million voters.
According to Tria, a “conscience vote” is different from the bloc votes delivered by some religious groups “where there is only one source of wisdom and nobody cannot question it.”
“When we say Bicol vote, it’s just territorial, geographical … it means how many potential voters the region has,” Tria said.
Simply put, a Bicolano voter does not automatical ly vote for a Bicolano candidate in the national position, he said.
The Commission on Elections said the number of qualified voters in this year’s elections reached 54,363,844. Bicol has 3,121,662 registered voters while the Ilocos region, where Marcos hails, has 2,950,775.
In the 1998 presidential election, Sen. Raul Roco, a Bicolano, failed to muster a solid victory in the six provinces in the region when Masbate supported the eventual winner, Joseph Estrada. Roco placed third and garnered 13.83 percent of the votes.
When Roco again ran for president in 2004 against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Fernando Poe Jr., Panfilo Lacson and Eddie Villanueva, only his home province of Camarines Sur and Albay delivered for him in Bicol.
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