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Philippines to face local level battle in polls

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Male members of an activist group wearing women’s shoes demonstrate to highlight the struggles and issues faced by Filipino women ahead of Women’s Day, in Quezon City, Manila, on Sunday. AFP

Philippines to face local level battle in polls

During a campaign rally on February 11, Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla promised to deliver more than 800,000 votes from his province to UniTeam’s presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

But immediately after his bold declaration of support for the deposed dictator’s son and namesake, whom he addressed as “Mr President”, Remulla was swiftly rebuked with messages on social media saying that Cavitenos would reject his choice.

So, on March 4, thousands of Cavite voters welcomed Marcos’ chief rival, Vice-President Leni Robredo, to show a member of one of the most dominant clans in provincial politics that they meant what they said.

With more than 2.3 million registered voters, Cavite is a major electoral battleground being the country’s second most vote-rich province after Cebu (which has more than 3.2 million, including the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu).

Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia, the leader of the homegrown One Cebu party, herself has yet to announce her own choice of successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Allow me to stay in the middle for the time being,” she said.

All presidential candidates are being considered and that members of One Cebu needed to make sure they would have a unified position, Garcia said.

It is a different case in Pangasinan, the country’s third vote-rich province with over two million voters. Both the rival candidates for governor, reelectionist Amado Espino III and Ramon Guico III, back Marcos.

As presidential aspirants try to win support from political leaders, how much influence do local politicians’ endorsements have on ordinary voters? Can they really carry a presidential candidate all the way to Malacanang?

Bayan Muna representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the relationship between the country’s local and national candidates during and long after the elections was “symbiotic”.

“All politics is local because it’s the local officials, especially the incumbents, who work on the ground to deliver votes for a national candidate, like the president. But they will not do it without getting something in return, that’s the nature of patronage politics.

“A lot of money exchanges hands during the election season and this is the reason an elective post has become a very expensive prize,” he said.

“It’s the reality of elections in the Philippines: moneyed groups have all the resources to the disadvantage of other candidates, who lack those resources,” he said.

Zarate said the situation was making it very difficult for ordinary people, a labour leader for instance, to win an election.

“It’s a sad nature of the country’s politics,” he said.

In Pampanga, governor Dennis Pineda declared on December 22, 2021 that all national candidates were welcome to campaign in the province and asked his constituents to “not disrespect” any of them.

On February 21, Marcos and his running mate, Davao City mayor Sara Duterte, joined in the birthday celebration of the governor’s mother, vice-governor Lilia Pineda.

Before this, they were reportedly among the guests at two private parties held by the Pineda family.

The Pinedas, however, have not officially endorsed Marcos and Duterte.

THE PHILIPPINE INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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