Undecided and decided voters seek candidate platforms, not song and dance
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/April 10) – This story begins inside a taxi ride home.
Unaware that his passenger was covering campaign outings for two presidential candidates in parts of Mindanao and had just arrived from a rally in a nearby town, taxi driver Edwin Torres, 42, asks “ser, kinsa imong presidente (who is your president)?”
While this might be a common conversation starter, the question came as a bit of a surprise: it was usually the other way around. In our campaign coverage in Kidapawan, Cotabato, Digos, Buluan in Maguindanao, Pantukan in Davao de Oro and Tagum City in Davao del Norte, we had always asked the same question or “nakapili na kag presidente” (did you choose a president )?
I introduce myself and what I do for a living. The roles are reversed and the driver is asked the same question. Edwin laughs, his voice describing a sheepish smile behind a face mask and calls out the difficult question to answer.
Torres is among 984,604 voters in Davao City, according to 2019 data from the Election Commission.
Unlike Edwin, Ronnie Maputol, 52, chose its president: Leni Robredo.
“Siya man ang ang pinaka duol sa akong dughan (she is the candidate closest to my heart),” Maputol said while waiting for the vice president at the large popular rally in the Reporma Davao region on Thursday afternoon, April 7. .
Maputol is a Tagum City-based stay-at-home dad, his two voting-age children the breadwinners, one 24 and the other 25.
He prefers a candidate like the one he expects. “Tistingan gud nato gud, para lahi na pod (try this new one, for a change), he says, holding up an umbrella to shelter him and his four-year-old daughter who is playing with a bubble toy amid the cacophony.
Squeezed in his hands, leaflets containing the platforms of the presidential candidate and some senatorial candidates, as if he was afraid of losing an important document.
Maputol apologizes as the raindrops fall harder this Thursday afternoon. “Kuha sa ko og veste sa balay pour sa bata. Unta makakita ko niya” (I’m just going home to get a jacket for my daughter. I hope I’ll see (Robredo), he says around 4 p.m.
This is the last time we see Maputol that day, and he might have laughed if he heard a sign mocking Tagum City’s notorious tricycle fares. Locals have always complained about a practice in Tagum where tricycle drivers arbitrarily charge extra.
“Leni, tricycle ka ba? Bakit? Dungagi lang ug six” [(Leni, are you a tricycle? Why? Add six (years)]. Robredo herself read the sign shortly before 8 p.m.
She shared with her supporters what banana industry stakeholders shared with her earlier at town hall, and vowed they would benefit from a crop insurance program she had also promised the onion growers of Occidental Mindoro.
“Kanina po nasa City Hall kami kausap natin yung mga banana growers. Ang sabi nila marami daw po silang problema ngayon. Unang una, mayroong sakit ang marami sa kanilang pananim” (We were at the town hall earlier and we talked with banana growers. They said they have so many problems now. Most of their plants have been stricken with the disease), she said.
The Davao del Norte site estimates that in 2015, according to its latest data, 30.35% of its agricultural land was planted with coconut palms. Local bananas represent 7.93% of agricultural land and Cavendish bananas 27.93%.
Tagum City has 154,219 registered voters according to 2019 Comelec data. The province of Davao del Norte, for its part, has 605,643.
Like Edwin the Davao City taxi driver, siopao seller Junjun, 42, was still undecided when I asked the same question outside the Davao del Sur Coliseum on March 24, during the Kalinaw Dabaw for Robredo rally.
“Wala pa ko sa presidente. Dili lang sa ko mutubag” (I don’t have a president yet. I can’t answer now), he said.
But he knows what kind of president he wants.
“Gwapo kanang masulbad ang ekonomiya, ekonomiya gyud (it would be nice if this candidate can solve economic problems. It’s really economics),” he said.
Junjun has been selling siopao and soft drinks in different places like Kidapawan and Davao del Sur since the start of the pandemic and was looking to strike gold at gatherings like campaign rallies. He traveled to places as far away as Panabo and neighboring areas like Kidapawan. He used to ride a motorbike for hire, but decided the food industry was a sweeter source of income.
“Ngilngig na kaayo ron. Rape, mga bata. Gwapo gyud ibalik of the death penalty. Pero kung kinsay musugot ibalik ang the death penalty didto ko (these are terrible times. It would be great if someone brought back the death penalty. I will vote for whoever brings back the death penalty),” said Junjun, who thinks that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime.
No stranger to thrift, Junjun brings home a profit of around 400 pesos a day, Junjun juggles capital of around P1,500, which includes soft drink supplies and vape maintenance. Gasoline expenses for his motorbike are another problem. But he remains hopeful and happy. Each siopao costs 15 pesos and drinks range from 15 to 25 pesos.
“Kung income ang pangutana, dili maglisod ang tawo kung maningkamot lang (earning income is not difficult if people try hard enough),” he said.
Digos City has 111,015 registered voters according to 2019 data. Davao City has 984,604 voters, while the rest of Davao del Sur, including Bansalan, Digos, Hagonoy, Kiblawan, Magsaysay, Malalag, Matanao, Padada, Santa Cruz and Sulop represent 425,586.
On the grounds of the Maguindanao Provincial Capitol in Buluan, Maguindanao during the rally for the Marcos-Duterte tandem on March 28, balloon seller Hamsa Camad of Kidapawan, turned to his faith to choose a candidate.
“Kasi isang Muslim ako, isa sa mga pinag-utos sa amin kung pipili man kami ng tao para maging leader, ang number one dyan, unang una, mayroon siyang takot sa Panginoon” (I am a Muslim and one of the teachings in the choice a leader is that he or she fears Allah).
Second, he says in Filipino, the leader must be fair. The leader must be fair to all, regardless of status or religion. A righteous leader is a most effective leader, he said, and that leader must also “bring peace for all.”
Camad’s fellow Muslim action star Robin Padilla was speaking to a packed crowd of excited onlookers eager to hear what he had to offer as a senator candidate. Padilla greeted the predominantly Muslim audience in Arabic and reminded them that the last Muslim to serve as a senator was Santanina Rasul – from 1987 to 1995.
Although a little off-key, the action star sang a cover version of Juan Karlos Bouwan after being told there was no audio file available for crowdpleaser Beautiful tonight that he sang in places like Pantukan.
In 2019, Buluan registered 24,995 voters. In Camad Kidapawan, there were 84,651 registered voters during the same period. Across Maguindanao, there were 766,497 registered voters in 2019.
In Pantukan, Davao de Oro, heavy rain fell towards the end of the Marcos-Duterte UniTeam rally on March 30, just as Marcos was speaking.
Rex and Judith Igano, who sold fried bananas and other snacks, huddled under the umbrella of their booth and said they were voting for Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. because he would make a good president.
Judith, however, admitted to having heard of Marcos Jr. as the dictator’s son.
“Pero dugay na man to (but that was a long time ago),” Rex chimed in, shivering patiently with his wife nearby. Around them, people began to disperse en masse.
The couple hope that a Marcos presidency would be better than his father’s dictatorial rule.
They are certain that he will not be like his father because of Sara Duterte. Sara, they said, will prevent Marcos Jr. from declaring martial law.
The Pantukan UniTeam rally attracted supporters from Davao de Oro and Davao Oriental. Pantukan has 53,050 registered voters out of Davao de Oro’s 462,942. Davao Oriental, meanwhile, has 365,496.
Together, Davao de Oro and Oriental have a total of 828,438 voters in 2019.
Back in the cab in Davao City, Edwin said “Wala pa koy tubag, sir” (I don’t have an answer yet, sir), almost with a bit of nervousness and guilt.
He lists his top three presidential candidates, unofficially, adding that he is still not entirely convinced who among them would win his vote. (Yas D. Ocampo/MindaNews)