Supporters of the leading tandem of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio filled up the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk on Monday for a show of force rally.
The organizers stated that the event was not a campaign rally but was mainly held to show their support for the Marcos-Duterte pair.
“Ito naman, initially, in-organize namin, ito ay caravan at free concert para kaming mga supporters ay magsama-sama. Dahil patapos na ang kampanya, inilagay naming sa isip namin, with or without BBM, papakita namin ang suporta at iparating sa national [team] ang boses ng Palawan para kay BBM. ‘Yon ang purpose namin,” she said in an interview.
Prior to the event, various social media posts were conflicting on the details of the event, such as the date and venue. There was also a flurry of accusations circulating about Monday’s event, stating that it was “fake news” and not an official event endorsed by the official campaign team of the Marcos-Duterte pair.
“Mayroon kasing na-organize na April 29 or 30 na mga organizers din namin. Bilang support namin sana doon sa event na 29 or 30, gumawa kami as a prelude event in support doon sa 29 or 30. Initially, ito ay nakalagay, grand caravan and free concert, but we don’t say na darating ang UNITEAM,” she explained.
Organizers still have not given a final estimate of the crowd as of press time. Santos also stated that they did not have an initial estimate of how many would attend.
“Basta ang sa amin, kung sinong gustong sumuporta, wala kaming numbers talaga na ine-expect namin,” Sol Santos, one of the organizers, said.
Also absent were expected senatorial candidates running under Marcos’ and Duterte’s coalition, UNITEAM, though the organizers stated early on in the program that they received news that certain candidates had arrived at the airport to attend the rally.
“Actually, may tumawag, though I do not know how legit it is, na nandiyan daw ngayon ay ilang senators, at nabanggit din si Chavit Singson,” she said early in the event.
These all turned out to be no-shows, and the rest of the program was spent with live performances by some musicians, a magician, and a fire dance troupe. There were also no local officials, such as city councilors or barangay captains, who spoke onstage to declare their endorsement and support for Marcos and Duterte-Carpio.
Internal conflict amongst supporting groups
Santos also admitted in the interview that there was conflict among their groups of supporters based in Palawan. She said that their faction still decided that even without confirmation that any of the UNITEAM members’ arrival in Palawan, they would still push through with the event to show support.
“Baka lingid sa kaalaman ninyo, maraming issues na nakarating sa amin na may division, fake news daw kami, daming negative na nangyari. Itinuloy pa rin namin. Nanindigan pa rin kami doon sa panawagan namin na with or without BBM [itutuloy namin ang event],” she explained.
Indeed, on social media, various public posts showed the apparent rift between supporters. One such Facebook post on Sunday by Puerto Princesa City councilor Elgin Damasco was an example, wherein he stated that he was not an organizer of Monday’s event.
“Per information from the national headquarters ng BBM-Sara UNITEAM, hindi totoo na darating si BBM-Sara bukas. Mag-ingat tayo sa mga grupo na nagpapanggap na legit parallel group ng BBM-Sara. Wala raw abiso mula sa national headquarters ang grand rally na ito,” he said.
Damasco further alluded to certain groups soliciting money from local politicians to hold similar events.
“May ilan diyan, nagso-solicit pa sa mga pulitiko gamit ang BBM-Sara, nakaabot na rin iyan sa national [organizer],” he added.
Likewise, an undated statement signed by Makus Lacanilao, regional manager for the Marcos-Duterte campaign, said that they discouraged such events and solicitations by groups claiming to be BBM-Sara supporters. The statement cautioned supporters against any event that did not go through proper coordination with their office.
“Sila ay nagsasagawa ng mga programa upang makalikom ng mga donasyon at makakuha ng mga pulitiko at negosyante bilang sponsor upang maisakatuparang ang kanilang mga programa na walang pahintulot mula sa regional o national headquarters for BBM campaign. Kaya mahigpit kong pinapaalahanan ang bawat isa na maging mapanuri,” the statement read.
Another statement by local BBM-Sara supporting groups also denounced the event and denied any involvement.
“Ang BBM-Sara Palawan United ay walang kinalaman sa pagtitipon na ito, at lalong-lalo na sa paghingi ng organizer ng nasabing pagtitipon ng pananalaping tulong sa mga malalaking negosyante at mga tumatakbong kandidato dito sa probinsya ng Palawan,” said one statement signed by 16 heads of so-called “parallel” groups in Palawan.
Santos admitted that they were indeed called out by the regional campaign team for organizing the event, but maintained that Monday’s event was purely to express their support
“Galing din doon [sa region] na hindi raw dapat kami nag-organize ng event na ito kasi hindi raw kami nakapag-coordinate. ‘Yon ang sabi kasi ng region, bakit daw kami hindi nag-coordinate. No, this is our initiative. Hindi namin kailangang magpaalam para gawin ang event na ito, ito ay pagsasama-sama ng lahat ng supporters ng UNITEAM,” she said.