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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, April 28, 2016
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with Rolly Espina

A sea of yellow

Rolly EspinaThe recent sortie of the Liberal Party in Negros Occidental, led by presidential candidate, Mar Roxas and vice-presidentiable, Leni Robredo brought back memories of the yellow fever when Cory Aquino sought the support of the Filipino people against dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

Almost everyone had a yellow shirt in his wardrobe with the face of Ninoy etched on it and the shout for justice. All the trees had yellow ribbons and everyone learned the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.”

When she ascended to the presidency, Cory Aquino made yellow her signature color and in her death, as a tribute, people came out and lined the streets wearing her favorite color.

This was the same color that her son, and now President Benigno Aquino, used during his campaign and it worked magic for a reluctant candidate who got the biggest votes ever in Philippine history.

Now, it seems the magic has rubbed off on Roxas and Robredo and their senatorial candidates who were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for their tandem as Negros turned yellow from north to south.

Organizers said that in Kabankalan alone, authorities pegged the total number at 7,000. The gymnasium that can seat 5,000 was jam-packed and there was an overspill of at least 2,000 more outside the arena.

Proceeding to La Carlota City where officials and candidates from the fourth and fifth district converged, initial figures pegged the crowd at 7,000 but actual review of their own documentation and coverage of the sortie showed that more than 11,000 drove in to cheer the RO-RO team.

Similar to Bacolod, opposing candidates in those districts were seen together with one objective – to push and ensure that Negros delivers of the Roxas and Robredo tandem.

The northern contingent was the largest at 30,000 and though Rep. Albee Benitez considers the third district his turf, there were still many from his area that joined the rally in Cadiz City, quashing his prediction that Negros will go for his candidate, Sen. Grace Poe.

Bacolodnons also produced a huge crowd of 15,000 as opposing candidates, Mayor Monico Puentevella and Rep. Bing Leonardia brought their forces to the Capitol Lagoon rally. Many in that crowd were the so-called “silent majority” that ended their silence that night. Some relatives and friends also braved the heat, donning yellow shirts, to show their support and to silence Roxas' detractors.

I saw footages of those sorties and what elicited so much cheer was when Mar raised the hands of both Monico and Bing.

Indeed, presidential elections are considered important for a chief executive candidate thus if your opponent supports one presidential candidate, chances are you would turn to the other presidentiables for support, not just financially but the machinery.

For opponents to support a common candidate, it just means that both believe in the strength and capacity to govern of their candidate – in this case, Mar Roxas.

Albee brought Grace Poe and her team first and from that sortie, we saw the official count at over 13,000.

When Rodrigo Duterte came, the organizers were able to gather 7,000 in the Tangub venue and another 10,000 at the Bacolod Public Plaza. Although some were quick to total the crowd at 17,000, what are the chances that people in Tangub went to the Plaza after their own gathering there.

Given that it was 17,000, that was still higher than what Poe got of course.

But none can ever top the crowd that came for Roxas and Robredo. Media figures placed it at 55,000 while organizers pegged the number to be 63,000. Combine Poe and Duterte camps, that is not even half of those who came out for the RO-RO team.

Why am I harping on the figures? Because it had to be stressed that contrary to surveys, ground support for Roxas and Robredo has to be gauged that way – from the ground, not from a survey of just 4,000 people across the regions.

The Duterte camp believe in their candidate so much as he has been topping the survey that they have been spinning a “people power” should their candidate lose in the final count. But at the end of the day, and even Duterte knows this, when the machinery rolls, there is always that possibility that the more organized party will eventually secure the numbers.

I must admit I'm impressed at the number of volunteers that mass-up at the Duterte headquarters and that's an admirable electoral process to witness. These volunteers vow to campaign on a personal capacity for their candidate and while they may be in millions, they are still no match to an organized party campaign, particularly one from an administration that has made so much gains for our country and has helped millions of our countrymen.

Again, and as predicted, Negros is for Mar, Negros is surely yellow.*


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