‘Siya lang ang bumaba dito sa amin’

EASTERN SAMAR, Philippines – Leni Robredo helped the people living in the hinterlands of Eastern Samar long before she aspired to be the next Philippine president – ​​and for that, a number of leaders in the province vowed to repay her with the much-needed machinery to propel her to Malacañang in May.

On Tuesday, March 29, Eastern Samar Representative Marie Fe Abunda and at least 19 out of the 23 mayors in the province joined Governor Ben Evardone in endorsing Robredo’s candidacy. The mayors include:

  1. Jose Ivan Dayan Agda, Borongan City
  2. Rafael Asebias, Quinapondan
  3. Javier Zacate, Sulat
  4. Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan, Guiuan
  5. Godofredo Garado, Maydolong
  6. Gil Norman Germino, Can-Avid
  7. Allan Contado, Balangkayan
  8. Shonny Nino Carpeso, Dolores
  9. Edwin Quiminales, Mercedes
  10. Thelma Nicart, San Policarpio
  11. Melchor Mergal, Salcedo
  12. Heracleo Santiago, Maslog
  13. Gina Ty, Taft
  14. Viviane Alvarez, Oras
  15. Benjamin Ver, Jipapad
  16. Roland Evardone, Arteche
  17. Dennis Estaron, San Julian
  18. Flora Ty, Gen. MacArthur
  19. Gilbert Go, Giporlos
COVENANT. Vice President Leni Robredo, flanked by Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone and Eastern Samar congresswoman Fe Abunda, with other local leaders of the province who support the Vice President. Photo by Mara Cepeda

Abunda, the sister of celebrity host Boy Abunda, praised Robredo for being able to run effective anti-poverty and relief drives despite the meager budget of the Office of the Vice President.

“Mabuting tao, maayos makipag-usap, totoong tao, maayos mangampanya…may respeto sa lahat ng tao,” said Apenda during the rally. (She is a good person, reasonable to speak with, a genuine person, runs a proper campaign…and she respects everyone.)

“Sa lahat na nag-a-apply sa pinakamataas na posisyon sa ating bansa” (Among all those applying for the highest post in the country), the best one for the job is a woman,” she added.

A day earlier, Robredo gained the endorsement of 20 of the 24 mayors in Governor Edwin out Northern Samar, where Ongchuan is also backing her.

The Eastern Samar officials signed a covenant with Robredo at the provincial capitol gym, promising to deliver “winning votes” for her. In exchange, the lone female presidential candidate vowed to prioritize projects in the province to help lift Eastern Samar out of poverty.

Also present during the covenant signing where vice mayors, provincial board members, councilors, barangay captains, and Sangguniang Kabataan officials from across the province.

Eastern Samar remains one of the top 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines – it recorded the highest poverty incident rate in Eastern Visayas, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Key in securing this alliance is the endorsement of Evardone, who holds sway over the local leaders as Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) vice president for the Visayas.

The faction of the ruling party led by President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has already endorsed Robredo’s rival, the survey frontrunner and the late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The President has not yet named his presidential bet, but has repeatedly belittled Robredo’s ability to lead in the past and has also called Marcos Jr. a “weak leader.”

Evardone told Rappler that what stood out for Samareños was Robredo’s dedication to visit even the most far-flung areas in their provinces just to help those in need.

She started doing his since 2014, when she was still Camarines Sur 3rd District congresswoman. Robredo then carried on helping them when she eventually became vice president.

“Hindi siya makakalimutan kasi siya lang naramdaman na bumaba dito sa amin na national [official]. Of course the President, pero ‘yung iba? ‘Young ibang mga senador? Naku wala, ‘di naman nararamdaman,’ Evardone told Rappler in a chance interview after the grand rally.

(We will never forget her because she’s the only national official who went down here to help us. Of course the President, but the rest? The other senators? We don’t feel them at all.)

PERSONAL TOUCH. Vice President Leni Robredo shakes hands with her supporters at her campaign rally along Baybay Boulevard, Borongan City, Eastern Samar, on March 29, 2022. Photo courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau

Robredo’s promise

Robredo is well-aware of the impact of her anti-poverty programs and relief operations in Eastern Samar, which she started doing in 2014, when she was still Camarines Sur congresswoman.

She dedicated a good chunk of her speech at the grand rally recalling what she has done for Samareños for the past seven years: boats for fisherfolk, solar lamps for villages without electricity, carabaos to kickstart livelihood, teams of doctors for medical missions, and relief aid when typhoons hit.

Robredo greeted the officials onstage with the familiarity of an old friend, as she would continue revisiting the areas where she helped provide aid over the years.

The “kakapink” crowd was in rapt attention, cheering whenever they would hear the programs done in their towns or city.

Speaking in front of tens of thousands of supporters in Borongan City, Robredo likened Eastern Samar to her bailiwick Bicol region, as both areas are prone to typhoons. Residents also feel they have been neglected by the national government over the years.

WITTY POSTER. A supporter holds up a witty poster – a regular feature in Robredo-Pangilian rallies – in Borongan, Eastern Samar, on March 29, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Like what she told supporters in Northern Samar, Robredo promised the Eastern Samar crowd that she would prioritize improving mobile phone signal and electricity services in the province if she becomes president.

She also pushed for climate-resilient infrastructure, to ensure people would no longer live in danger zones.

“Pero kaya ko po sinasabi ‘yun kasi para tayong magpinsan; magkapitbahay. Masyadong magkalapit ‘yung circumstances natin. At naiintindihan ko po na dahil sa maraming wala sa atin; kailangan talagang ‘yung tulong i-focus dito sa inyo. So ‘yun po ‘yung maipapangako ko sa inyo,’ said Robredo.

(The reason why I’m saying this is because we’re like cousins; neighbors. Our circumstances are too close to each other. And I understand that because there’s still so much that you don’t have; we really need to focus help on you. That is my promise.)

In the heated 2016 vice-presidential race, Robredo beat Marcos Jr. in Eastern Samar with 94,061 votes against his 54,985 votes. She also won over Marcos Jr. Race in Northern Samar, Samar, and Southern Leyte, but ultimately lost the Eastern Visayas region to Marcos, owing his huge lead over her in Leyte and Biliran.

Marcos Jr.’ mother, former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, hails from Leyte. The Romuldezes continue to command votes in Leyte.

Robredo would need to chip away votes from Marcos Jr. in Eastern Visayas, where some 3.16 million votes are up for grabs in 2022. – Rappler.com

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