Robredo gains ground in Mindanao as Davao heavyweights endorse her

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Philippine Vice President and opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo (C) speaks to supporters during a campaign rally ahead of the May presidential election, in the town of Palo, Leyte province on March 29, 2022. / AFP / TED ALJIBE
Philippine Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in the town of Palo, Leyte province on 29 March. / AFP / TED ALJIBE

There's been a twist in the presidential electoral battle as Leni Robredo has made a strong showing in hustings in Duterte territory, with two Davao governors and Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez throwing their weight behind Robredo.

Last week, as the incumbent Vice President campaigned in Davao on Thursday (March 24), the governors of Davao North and Davao South – Edwin Jubahib and Marc Douglas Cagas IV – both expressed their support for Robredo.

On the same day, former Duterte ally Pantaleon Alvarez declared the support of his party, Partido Reporma, for the Leni-Kiko tandem.

Robredo's wins in Davao are doubly significant because Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines after Luzon, and Davao has traditionally been the stronghold of the Duterte clan, who are stout Marcos allies.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - FEBRUARY 19: Ferdinand
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (right), and Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte (left) at a rally on 19 February in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

The son of the late Philippine dictator and namesake Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, the main rival to Robredo for the presidential seat, had partnered mayor of Davao City, Sara Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, who is running for Vice President.

Pundits had therefore expected high levels of support for the Marcos-Duterte ticket in Davao, so the swing towards Robredo from the local political heavyweights is a surprise.

The VP may have obtained the backing of the Davao notables, but it's still unclear what impact that might have on the ground.

Robredo had been trailing Marcos by a wide margin in opinion polls – it remains to be seen if she will be able to close the gap.

Election watchdog Kontra Daya has echoed reports that the Marcoses employed online misinformation campaigns to garner support in the electoral contest.

Despite appearing to lose ground in the social media sphere, Robredo has shown the ability to mobilize ground support through recent huge rallies in Metro Manila, Negros Occidental province and Mindanao.

In 2016, Robredo had also been trailing Marcos in the vice presidential contest, but caused a last-minute upset when she won by just 263,473 votes.

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