ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – With less than two months left in a tight national campaign, the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s tandem will be taking more separate trips.
Vice presidential candidate Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, for instance, is campaigning solo in the Ilocos region, the bailiwick of one of her rivals for the post, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
A week prior, LP standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II visited Davao region, bailiwick of presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Robredo also visited the region a few days after, also on her own.
It’s part of the ruling party’s plan to make sure all bases are covered, Robredo explained in a chance interview with reporters.
“Yung plano naman namin from the very start, may mga times na magkasama kami may mga times na hindi. Kasi kung magkasama kami all the time hindi namin mauubos yung Pilipinas,” Robredo said on Wednesday, March 16, on the sidelines of a visit to Batangas province.
(That’s been our plan from the very start. There would be times when we campaign together and times that we wouldn’t. Because if we campaign together all the time, we wouldn’t be able to go around the entire country.)
For the most part, Roxas and Robredo have been campaigning as a tandem, visiting key provinces and regions to talk to local officials, meet supporters, and stage proclamation rallies with their biggest endorser yet, party chairman President Benigno Aquino III.
They’ve visited several vote-rich provinces together in the past: Iloilo, Cebu, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Pampanga, Negros Occidental, Bulacan and Camarines Sur, to name a few.
“So yung mga malalaking lugar, magsasama kami pero yung iba na mapupuntahan niya, hindi ko pupuntahan, yung mapupuntahan ko, hindi niya napupuntahan,” Robredo further explained.
(The big areas, we’ll visit together but some areas he’s been, I won’t visit anymore. Some areas I visit, he won’t visit anymore.)
Roxas, Robredo’s stand-ins
Campaigning has also been the job of Roxas and Robredo’s proxies, mostly their family members. Roxas has wife broadcaster Korina Sanchez-Roxas and son Paolo.
Sanchez-Roxas typically takes on bigger crowds and has been tagging along agriculture chief Proceso Alcala, a move that’s gotten flak from opposing political camps.
Paolo, Roxas’ son from a previous relationship, has been seen doing market and door-to-door campaigns for his father, mostly in Metro Manila.
Robredo’s daughters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian have also taken turns standing in for their mother. Aika, Robredo’s eldest daughter, stood as her proxy when Roxas and Aquino campaigned in Baguio City and Pangasinan province.
The Camarines Sur representative’s other relatives, a niece and sister-in-law, have also been going around the country.
Key allies in the ruling party have also stood in for the tandem several times in the past, including Quezon City Representative Alfred Vargas and Cavite Representative Francis Gerald Abaya.
Their celebrity endorsers have also been gracing rallies and events on their own while wearing the ruling party’s trademark bright yellow.
President Aquino himself is set to campaign solo for his bets, according to some party sources. Aquino has been aggressive in campaigning for his chosen tandem, even going as far as hitting their rivals in speeches all over the country.
The ruling tandem has a lot of areas to cover and fairly limited time to do it.
Despite being the ruling party’s bets, their survey numbers have yet to dominate. Roxas ranks 3rd in the most recent opinion polls, behind front runners Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Robredo ranks the same, but she's slowly inching closer to lead rivals Senators Francis Escudero and Marcos.
Press fleshing and “traditional” campaigning may prove to be key for both Roxas and Robredo. The Camarines Sur Representative attributed her rise in survey numbers to her trips around the country.
Her camp’s numbers indicate Robredo has a high conversion rate, meaning she manages to sway voters into choosing her once they know more about her.
In sorties on her lonesome or with her standard-bearer, Robredo has made it a point to introduce herself to voters. Her stump speech includes a story about her husband, the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, her background as a lawyer for the poor, and her unplanned entry into politics.
Robredo also makes it a point to ask voters to scrutinize not only a candidate’s platforms and promises, but their character.
It’s Roxas who usually harps on the gains of “Daang Matuwid,” the current administration’s tagline for its anti-corruption, transparency, and good governance initiatives. (READ: Can 'Daang Matuwid' win a Philippine election?)
The ruling party has made “Daang Matuwid” the anchor of its 2016 campaign. – Rappler.com