EXPLAINER: Guv Gwen's 'math' sets off controversy over crowd size at BBM rally. Area of Filinvest site used to back police claim of 300,000. Check out the figures but stay cool.

·3 min read

DURING an ambush interview at the April 18 rally of One Cebu Party for Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte-Carpio, Governor Gwen Garcia told news reporters: Do the math, the rally site at Filinvest Development Corp. on South Road Properties in Cebu City is a 30-hectare lot and one hectare is 10,000 sq.m. Multiply 30 by 10,000 "equals 300,000 at least, if we are to give an allowance of one sq.m. per person. Period."

A scattering of dissent followed the governor's published support for the 300,000 crowd estimate made by the police.

LOT IN FILINVEST POSSESSION. How much land at SRP does Filinvest possess?

A January 8, 2020 story by Philippines News Agency says Filinvest completed the purchase of 19.2 hectares from Cebu City Government for P6.7 billion. Full payment of the amount with the signing of the deed of absolute sale was made on the same day. Reports by SunStar, The Freeman and Philstar, and CDN Digital and Inquirer gave the same figures.

The Filinvest consortium announced its plan for the bought land: a mixed-use development, with residential, office, and commercial and retail spaces. But the lot isn't the only SRP land in Filinvest's hands.

The purchased lot will complement, PNA reported, "an existing 40-hectare joint venture with Cebu City, called Citi Di Mare and the 10-hectare Il Corso commercial development along Pond F of SRP."

Forty has. from the joint venture (for a period of 20 years), plus 19.2 has. from the absolute sale equals 59.2 has. A lot more than the 30 has. the governor talked about.

RALLY SITE IS WHAT MATTERS in this issue though, not the land Filinvest occupies at SRP. How large was the rally site?

The governor said 30 hectares or 300,000 sq.m., which must have led to the police estimate of a 300,000 crowd at the BBM-Sara rally, computing at one person per sq.m.

VELOSO'S CLAIM, DRRMO. A public post by one Ding C. Veloso disputed the 30-ha. figure, citing the "Cebu City Bureau of Land," which purportedly said the "lot (an entire commercial block) was 29,951 sq.m." or 2.99 has. Computed at four persons per sq.m., Veloso's blog said, "there could only be 115,000 persons there: impossible for 300,000." Citing the Manila city jail ("na grabe ang density per sq.m."), one cannot put 10 persons per sq.m. to accommodate the claimed 300,000 people, the post said.

Veloso didn't show the purported Bureau of Land certification but Explainer found the sketch and figure of the rally site itself from the city's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO).

And the specific size in the disaster office's plans for the rally is, drum-roll, 28,272.13 sq.m. or 2.82 has. DRRRMO used a perimeter of 675.55 m. for a buffer in case of crowd overspill. Which total -- 29,947.68 -- is just about the same as the purported Bureau of Land figure -- 29,951 sq.m. -- cited by Veloso.

[Related: Explainer: Why police estimated crowd size of BBM-Sara rally in Cebu. April 19, 2002]

FLAP OVER CROWD SIZE is only an aspect of the heated competition among rival groups in the homestretch to the May 9 election.

They also quarrel over whether there were vacant spaces or gaps at the rally site, the people were pressured or bought to attend or entertainers and celebrities induced the attendance, they came on their own or were "hakot" or bused, in what phase of the rally the photos were taken, whether they cheered for the national candidates or locals, and how many of them could even vote.

And so forth. Rival parties rarely agree on crowd size and related issues about attendance.

And, of course, crowd size is only one indicator, out of many factors, of people's sentiment at the polling place on election day, which may not reflect the sentiment on rally night.

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