By Mara Cepeda in Manila
Philippine presidential candidate and Vice-President Leni Robredo issued her marching orders for the crucial homestretch of the election campaign before hundreds of thousands of supporters, in a behemoth show of force meant to boost her numbers in the Philippines’ most vote-rich region Metro Manila.
Local organisers said some 412,000 “Kakampink” supporters of Robredo occupied the entire stretch of Macapagal Boulevard on Saturday — the same day the lone female presidential candidate celebrated her 57th birthday.
She also secured the endorsement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its United Bangsamoro Justice Party.
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- ‘The people would bring Leni Robredo to Malacañang’
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And 8000 km away in Auckland, New Zealand, more than 200 “Kakampink” supporters staged a march and rally at Long Beach on the Anzac Day holiday marking the 2015 Gallipoli landings in Turkey and the military sacrifice of Australians and New Zealanders in two world wars.
It is understood that about 2000 of the more than 73,000 Filipino community in New Zealand — 1.6 percent of the population — are registered to vote in the Philippine elections.
Asia Pacific Report quotes an Auckland organiser who said: “We’re voting for Leni Robredo because she is the one to give the Philippines hope. She performed well as Vice-President.
More than 50 of some of the biggest names in the Philippine entertainment industry appeared onstage and endorsed Robredo, but she was still the brightest star of the night.
Many of those in the crowd had waited for close to 12 hours under the scorching heat. They did not leave Macapagal Avenue until after Robredo finished speaking at 11 pm.
Robredo slightly veered away from her stump campaign speech to lay down the game plan to help her catch up to the frontrunner, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
He was holding his own rally a few kilometers away in Sampaloc, Manila.
Vice-President Leni Robredo’s full birthday speech. Video: Rappler
Robredo wished for three things from her supporters on her birthday: Actively fight the lies being spread about her online, continue knocking on people’s doors in their house-to-house campaign, and humbly open their hearts so they could convert more the unconvinced to join the so-called “pink revolution.”
“Pag ito pong eleksyon na ito ang magpapanalo sa mga kandidato kasinungalingan, kawawa ‘yung bayan natin. Kaya po ‘yung hinihiling ko sa inyo, sabay-sabay po tayo sa laban na ito. Sa ‘pag bukas po natin ng ating mga puso, sa pagpahaba natin ng ating mga pasensya, siguraduhin din nating pinapalitan natin ang mga kasinungalingan ng katotohanan,” said Robredo.
(If this elections would be won by candidates based on lies, then it would be sad for our country. That’s why I am asking all of you to join me in this fight. In opening your hearts, in becoming more patient, we are making sure that we would be able to replace the lies with the truth.)
She acknowledged the intensified black propaganda that her enemies have been hatching against her since her rallies started attracting thousands upon thousands of Filipinos.
Robredo is the primary target of disinformation networks, whose lies range from Robredo’s alleged affairs with several men to the false accusation that her campaign has been infiltrated by communists.
In turn, Robredo’s fierce rival Marcos benefits from this disinformation infrastructure, built by his clan over the years in an attempt to revise Filipinos’ memories of the atrocities committed during the 21-year martial law rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
But Robredo once again made a call for “radical love.” She told her most ardent supporters to turn the other cheek if their critics resort to foul, below-the belt-language.
Rise above the dirt, said the Vice-President, because they had a bigger fight to win on May 9.
“’Yung ayaw po nating ginagawa nila sa akin, huwag na po natin sa kanilang gawin, ‘di ba?… Ang mga kabataan ngayon, mas tumitino tayo, mas sumusunod tayo sa mga magulang natin, pag pinaparamdam sa atin ang kanilang pagmamahal. Ganoon din po sana ‘yung gawin ng bawat isa sa inyo,” said Robredo.
(The things we don’t like that they are doing to us, let’s not do the same thing to them, okay?… The youth these days, they become more upright, they follow their parents when they are shown love. May each of you do the same thing.)
It is crucial for Robredo to be issuing these marching orders in the National Capital Region (NCR), home to more than 7.3 million voters.
This is already her fourth show of force in an NCR city: At the start of the campaign period in February, more than 20,000 “Kakampinks” joined her “Pink Sunday” rally in Quezon City.
That number rose to 37,000 during her Camanava rally, which further ballooned to over 137,000 during her rally in Pasig City in March.
She is facing a tough battle against Marcos in NCR, which had delivered a landslide victory to him over Robredo in the 2016 vice-presidential race. The dictator’s son continues to enjoy majority support in NCR, based on the latest Pulse Asia Research Incorporated survey done in end-March.
That Robredo was able to pull off a 412,000-strong crowd in Pasay City on Saturday is also significant because two presidential contenders were also holding their own rallies in NCR that night: Marcos in Manila and Senator Manny Pacquiao in San Juan.
Robredo’s birthday crowd significantly dwarfed these rallies, however.
Local police estimated that 14,000 showed up for Marcos, while only 12,000 attended Pacquiao’s rally.
‘The people would bring Leni Robredo to Malacañang’
As Robredo spoke, the crowd along Macapagal Boulevard was at rapt attention. Many were straining their necks to get a better glimpse of their candidate while they used their fans bearing Robredo’s face.
The heat even at night was almost unbearable given the thickness of the crowd. Medics were working overtime, as people from different points of the boulevard fainted.
But even under these conditions, the “Kakampinks” were looking out for each other. They helped the organisers hand out boxes of bottled water and passed around snacks for those who needed to eat.
They did their best to give breathing space whenever someone in the crowd started feeling light-headed.
Mara Cepeda is a reporter for Rappler. Republished with permission.