VP race: A Solid Ilocano vs Fragmented Bicolanos

The coming 2016 presidential and vice presidential elections is proving to be unprecedented, as it will have numerous “firsts” in the country’s history.

The forthcoming poll exercise will have the most number of vice presidential candidates and “independent’ candidates as well.

The vice presidential race has stirred the interests of many the past few days, as four of the six candidates hail from the Bicol region, which is said to deliver a bloc vote for Bicolano candidates.

Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Gregorio Honasan are from Sorsogon province, same with Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, while Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV has roots from Ligao, Albay.

But with four of them trying to corner the so-called bloc vote, it will be a tough task and such disadvantageous situation will prove to be beneficial to Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who hails from Ilocos province and also known to provide the “solid north” votes, estimated to be around five million.

Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile pointed this out, the matter of what he described as a very distinct advantage of Marcos over all other vice presidential candidates.

He admitted that while his choice for vice presidential candidate is Sen. Honasan, who look up to him like a father, there is no guarantee that he will be able to help bring the needed votes even if he will help in campaigning for him.

“Gringo [Honasan] is my party-mate so that is my problem. While maybe my choice will be for Gringo [Honasan], the fact is, I cannot even guarantee that my voters in my own province I could control for him because that is the culture of the people. The Ilocanos are very independent in their voting habits,” he said.

“Well, I told him that we will help him in the north, but that’s a part of the political climb of the country where we have a little sway, but the point is, that we have a candidate. There is an Ilocano candidate and the culture of the people of the North is when an Ilocano runs for a high public office, if he’s all alone, you can be sure that all the votes of the Ilocanos will gravitate to him. That’s the advantage of Sen. [Ferdinand “Bongbong”] Marcos [Jr.], a very distinct advantage. Hahabulin nila yung boto ng mga Ilocano,” he said.

“In the case of Greg [Honasan], he’s now going to be pitted against several Bicolanos so, the reality of the politics of the country is who will split the Bicol votes,” Sen. Enrile said.

“That’s why I said he [Marcos] he will have a distinct advantage. ‘Yun ang hahabulin mo sa kanya. You are talking here of the province of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, the Cordilleras, Cagayan, Isabela, Vizcaya, Quirino, and then, part of Nueva Ecija, part of Tarlac, Pangasinan, and then Mindanao, and then Mindoro. There are many Ilocanos in Mindoro, di ba? About half, I think of Mindoro. North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat. Sultan Kudarat is 30% Ilocano. North Cotabato is about 35% Ilocano. And then, Southern Cotabato, the same thing,” he further said.

What also sets apart Sen. Marcos from the other candidates is the fact that he happens to be a Marcos, whose political clout, due mainly to his father’s legacy, is not concentrated in the Ilocos region but also in some significant provinces in Mindanao and Visayan region.

Among the vice presidential bets, two have come out as “reluctant” candidates – Rep. Robredo and Sen. Honasan, the latter being the last to declare his bid.

Just like Rep. Robredo — who reportedly had a hard time convincing her children to support the offer given to her by the Liberal Party (LP) in being the running mate of administration presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II — Honasan is said to have suffered the same predicament.

While there are some family members already supportive of the idea of him being the running mate of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard bearer, Vice President Jejomar Binay, most of Sen. Honasan’s family members are against it.

Mainly because they feel that he had sacrificed a lot for the country and they have been resigned to the idea that he will be retiring from politics by the time he steps down from the Senate four years from now, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said.

“I’m not persuading him but I’m also not dissuading him [from accepting the offer]. I leave it to his decision,” Sen. Sotto, known close personal friend of Sen. Honasan said.

“They [Sen. Honasan’s children and wife] were crying and the wife would wake him at 4 a.m., asking him to re-think and double thing his decision. You cannot blame them because in so many instances before, Sen. Honasan has taken up so many challenges and they thought he would be retiring in 2019. That’s why he’s consulting his family,” Sen. Sotto said.

What added to Sen. Honasan’s predicament is the fact that his party, the UNA, has already announced that they have chosen him as the running mate of the Vice President.

“And he’s the vice president of UNA who is supposed to be in charge of organizing the party. So tapos ayaw nya [to be the vice presidential candidate]? Ang hirap naman nun. I don’t want to be in his shoes right now,” Sen. Sotto said.

“As far as the UNA is concerned, the decision has been made and Sen. Honasan has to officially accept it but he wants to do it when his family has given him the blessings,” he said.

Sen. Sotto expressed belief that his colleague, while highly-qualified for the position, is not aspiring for it, and yet in the end, will accept the challenge.

“If it’s for the [benefit of the] party, he’s a team player. Greg has always been a team player, a good soldier,” he said.

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