People-driven campaign tests local politicians’ power | Inquirer News

People-driven campaign tests local politicians’ power

Presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. STORY: People-driven campaign tests local politicians’ power

SUPPORT | Presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in a campaign rally in Dagupan City on Feb. 26, gets the support of officials of Pangasinan, the third most vote-rich province in the country. (WILLIE LOMIBAO / INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON)

(Last of three parts)

The dynamic relationship between local and national politicians will be evident in the Davao Region where the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by vice presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, had sought political dominance since the 2019 midterm elections.


The party delivered huge chunks of votes for the administration’s senatorial bets but was routed in the race for local seats in Davao del Norte, due to the defiance of former Speaker and ex-presidential ally Pantaleon Alvarez, and in Davao del Sur.


Aside from consolidating his hold in Davao del Norte, Alvarez is seeking to expand his influence in Davao de Oro, to boost the chances of Sen. Panfilo Lacson whom he supports.

In Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos), the home region of presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Pacquiao, networks overseen by local politicians could be key vote generators.

The former world boxing champion supports a full slate for local contests in Sarangani province and in General Santos City under his People’s Champ Movement.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. is expected to flex his muscles for former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., being the founder of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, which carries the candidacy of the ousted dictator’s son.

In Sultan Kudarat province, the momentum for Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso’s campaign has been boosted as the gubernatorial bid of Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu’s wife is unopposed after the candidacy of another Mangudadatu was nullified.

MILF in politics

In the Bangsamoro region, which is littered with political dynasties, the erstwhile rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), will be thrust into electoral politics for the first time and will be a major factor in shaping the vote for local and national bets.


UBJP has allied with and endorsed local politicians and is also expected to endorse national candidates. It is backing Mayor Duterte for vice president, but it wants to first hear from the presidential aspirants before making its choice.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, who won two elections as governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is expected to activate his network now that he is rooting for Vice President Leni Robredo.

Another element in the Bangsamoro polls are the peace advocates who want to see the continuity of the gains of the peace process. They could tap into constituencies of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front in mobilizing support for the candidate that supports their aspirations.

In the Caraga region, major political figures are supporting Mayor Duterte but have not openly declared endorsement for any of the presidential candidates, except Dinagat Islands Gov. Kaka Bag-ao, who is backing Robredo.

Bag-ao’s organizing prowess crippled the Ecleo clan’s hold on Dinagat.

In the Northern Mindanao region, local leaders are still treading carefully between being identified with either Marcos or Robredo.

Robredo won the vice presidential race in the region where her campaign is gaining momentum since her visit there after filing her candidacy last year.

Politicians and various groups, led mainly by outgoing Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, have converged for Robredo in Misamis Oriental, Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City. Moreno is running for governor of Misamis Oriental.

Robredo’s volunteers are facing the well-oiled machinery of politicians in Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental. In the latter, rival politicians are supporting the UniTeam tandem of Marcos and Mayor Duterte. This is also true in nearby Zamboanga del Sur.

In Zamboanga del Norte, entrenched political dynasties are expected to clash in pushing for either Marcos or Robredo.

Outgoing Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar is expected to tap on local anti-Marcos sentiments to rally support for Robredo. She is a niece of the late Mayor Cesar Climaco, a staunch anti-Marcos politician whose assassination in 1984 strengthened local dissent against the dictator.


Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, who has been in politics for at least 36 years, said the endorsement of local officials would be “very important” in a presidential election.

But he pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte won in 2016 despite having few local officials behind him.

Unlike 2016 when Robredo ran for vice president, only a few local officials in Panay and Guimaras are openly supporting her this time.

Robredo’s volunteers, however, had mounted what had been considered the biggest rally so far in Iloilo City on Feb. 25.

“Once the political campaign becomes a movement, it becomes different since the people will support the presidential and national candidates they support [regardless] of their local candidates,” Treñas said.

Veteran lawyer Democrito Barcenas, a member of Free Legal Assistance Group in Cebu, said that “generally” local endorsements were very important because there would be people who could help in organizing support.

But Barcenas, 84, chair of Leni for President Movement in Cebu, said they were banking on the support of the people instead of the endorsement of local politicians.

“Things have changed because of the massive volunteerism we are now having,” he said.

“Our opponents perhaps have gold sans guns and goons. But people now are very much different. They are trying to change the system. I hope that the 2022 elections will be a different election compared to past elections,” Barcenas said.



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