Final campaign rallies bring Manila to standstill

Camille Elemia, Jeoffrey Maitem and Basilio Sepe
2022.05.07
Manila
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Final campaign rallies bring Manila to standstill Supporters of Philippine Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo attend a campaign rally at Makati business district in suburban Manila, May 7, 2022.
[AFP]

Manila came to a virtual standstill Saturday as presidential front runner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his closest rival, Leni Robredo, held their final rallies on the last day of campaigning ahead of Monday’s election to replace President Rodrigo Duterte.

The latest survey conducted by pollster PUBLiCUS Asia from May 2-5 showed Marcos Jr. in the lead with 54 percent support and Robredo in second place with 22 percent, but some pundits predicted Monday’s contest would be closer than the poll suggested.

Robredo was looking to woo undecided voters in her final campaign push Saturday. Around 450,000 of her supporters – all clad in pink, the candidate’s campaign color – turned the day into a street party as they converged on her rally on Ayala Avenue in Makati district.

“Tonight, let's celebrate one historical campaign. So let's go! Let's win for the Filipino people!” Robredo told her supporters, according to the Associated Press’s translation of part of her speech.

“This fight is not just about one person nor candidate.”

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The Philippines Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo delivers a speech during her final election campaign rally at Makati business district in suburban Manila, May 7, 2022. [AFP]

Like many on Ayala Avenue, Maria Lunsad, a 54-year-old local businesswoman, was optimistic about her candidate’s chances against Marcos Jr., who Robredo defeated in 2016 for the vice-president post.

“My family are all here,” Lunsad told BenarNews.

“We stayed in one of the hotels to witness and support our candidate. We don’t want to waste this opportunity to have a leader with dignity.”

The location of Robredo's rally was symbolic, Reuters news agency said. In 1983, a huge march took place on Ayala Avenue after the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino, an icon of the struggle against the dictatorship of Marcos Jr.’s father.

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Philippines presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. greets his supporters during the last day of campaign rallies at Paranaque City, suburban Manila, May 7, 2022. [AFP]

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Jose Andoy, in his 30s and from the northern Manila suburb of Caloocan, said he took a free bus ride to get to the huge field in suburban Parañaque city that hosted the Marcos Jr. rally.

“I believe that we can have a good life under Marcos. Several presidents have ruled after the revolution but nothing happen[ed] to us,” Andoy told BenarNews.

A day earlier, Marcos Jr.’s campaign had chartered buses and placed them at strategic pick-up points along Manila’s main EDSA highway, so supporters could be transported to the rally.

“We won already. You just keep an eye on your votes on Monday,” Marcos Jr. told the crowds.

“Let’s not sleep. We will ask our friends to give us a lot of coffee so that no one will fall asleep. Because we know if we sleep a lot of things are happening. Not good,” Marcos Jr. said, alluding to his loss to Robredo in 2016.

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Supporters of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, cheer during their final campaign rally before the 2022 national elections, in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, May 7, 2022. [Reuters]

Marcos Jr. and Robredo are part of a slate of 10 candidates for the president’s post, the remaining eight of whom are now mostly inconsequential, analysts have said.

Marcos Jr., 64, is a former senator, congressman and governor, and son and namesake of the late dictator overthrown by a “people power” uprising in 1986.

He is running alongside Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the outgoing president, whose administration has been blamed for killing thousands of alleged drug users and dealers since Duterte took office in 2016.

While Marcos Jr. has vowed to continue the war on drugs, he has said he would do it differently and with fewer killings.

Observers said Marcos likely would protect Duterte from investigations into the killings linked to the drug war, including by the International Criminal Court, when the president leaves office and loses immunity from prosecution.

Robredo, 57, is a lawyer who served in the House of Representatives before being elected vice president in 2016. She hopes to become only the third woman to be elected as leader of the Southeast Asian nation. 

Robredo initially expressed reluctance to join the race but was persuaded by an opposition coalition who considered her the only candidate who could beat what is seen as an extension of the Duterte administration in Marcos Jr. She has portrayed herself as the stabilizing candidate and the preferred choice of the business community. 

She first ran for public office in 2013 after the death of her husband, an interior secretary under Duterte’s predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III.

The controversial Duterte’s constitutionally mandated single six-year-term ends on June 30.

Including overseas voters, 69 million Filipinos are registered to cast their ballots at the polls Monday.

Voters will also elect a vice president separately from the president, half of the 24-member Senate, all 316 members of the House of Representatives, and more than 17,700 officials across this archipelago nation, ranging from town and city mayors to provincial governors.

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