Vice-presidential candidates barnstorm Mindanao

Posted on March 14, 2016

MINDANAO was a focal point of the vice-presidential campaign last week, with three candidates visiting different parts of the southern mainland.

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. was on a four-day roadshow, visiting parts of Regions 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 11 (Davao) and 12 (Soccsksargen), with stops in Zamboanga del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, General Santos City, South Cotabato, and North Cotabato.

Mr. Marcos, in a statement yesterday, claimed “getting the endorsement of Davao and Cotabato political leaders” and the “unanimous decision” of all 26 towns and one city mayor in Zamboanga del Sur expressing their support.

Zamboanga del Sur has 975,950 registered voters, including Zamboanga City, while Region 12 (Sultan Kudarat, the two Cotabato provinces, Sarangani, and General Santos City) has about 2 million.

In Davao City, where Mr. Marcos did not have a scheduled public event except for a motorcade, posters and streamers mushroomed courtesy of the informal alliance known as AlDuB, which stands for Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong.

Duterte refers to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, standard bearer of the PDP-Laban party, whose running mate is Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano.

The Duterte-Cayetano tandem were in Davao City over the weekend where they jointly attended the opening ceremony for this week’s celebration of the 79th Araw ng Dabaw (Davao Foundation Day).

Mr. Marcos’s running mate, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, was scheduled to deliver a speech at the University of Mindanao on March 10, but this was later canceled.

In Cotabato and Davao areas, support for Mr. Marcos came largely from migrant communities with roots in the Ilocos Region in Luzon, which is considered his bailiwick.

The Davao Region has about 2.66 million voters.

Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, vice-presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, also visited the Davao Region, focusing on the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

In a radio interview, Ms. Robredo said she has strong ties with the non-government sector in the region and vowed to carry on with the dreams for Mindanao of her husband, departed interior secretary Jesse M. Robredo, who, she said, traveled often to the southern island to meet with local leaders on peace and order concerns.

Ms. Robredo also spoke about the controversial coconut levy fund that, she pointed out, is still subject to the legislature.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the long-standing, multibillion-peso fund belonged to the farmers, not a few of them in Mindanao. Malacañang has issued executive orders on the activation of the coco levy fund. But this is still subject to the Senate, Ms. Robredo said.

“Our problem in the Senate is the law has not been passed, that’s why this could not be implemented so long as there’s no law passed in the Senate,” Ms. Robredo said in Filipino.

“It’s just sad because those of our senators who appear to be the reason why this could not be passed seem to muddle that issue, and even President [Benigno S. C.] Aquino [III] is being blamed,” said Ms. Robredo, who said she was one of the authors of the proposed law on the coco levy fund.

Mr. Duterte, for his part, said of the coco levy fund: “All it takes is political will. The Supreme Court already decided to return the fund to the farmers. Thus, if elected, in just the first month of our term, [my running mate, Senator] Alan [Peter S. Cayetano] and I will immediately give the fund back to the coconut farmers. Failure to do so is tantamount to estafa.”

The vice-presidential candidates will take part today in a debate presented by Go Negosyo and its partners, including TV5. -- with reports from Carmelito Q. Francisco and Maya M. Padillo