TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol–His campaign ma-nager is no stranger to mobilizing people.
And on Sunday, April 3, presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte proved his choice of a Boholano as his chief campaign strategist was the right one.
Maribojoc town mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr deli-vered what Duterte camp insiders said is so far the largest crowd to ever assemble for a rally of supporters of the maverick Davao City mayor.
Numbering close to 30,000, the crowd was also the largest Tagbilaran has ever seen in recent memory for an election-related rally. So huge is the crowd that it stretched more than a kilometer, filling and standing shoulder to shoulder the main ave-nue that was already closed to traffic as early 1 p.m..
And to boot, it was a rally that was not attended by local officials of the host city. Nor was it attended by the provincial governor. Both are Liberal Party stalwarts and are oppo-nents of Evasco who is one of the stalwarts of the Na-tionalist People’s Coalition until he threw his support behind his former boss.
The former rebel priest also happens to be one of the very handful of local opposition leaders in the province who was unde-feated for three consecu-tive election against the vaunted machinery of the administration party in the island.
Evasco was a long time chief of staff of Duterte while the latter was still an appointed vice mayor in 1986.
Evasco also served in various capacities under the Duterte administration in Davao City until he returned to his hometown in Maribojoc where he ran and won in 2007.
Chief Duterte legal strategist Bingbong Me-dialdia cannot help but took photos of the crowd before dusk enveloped the city.
“Kini ang crowd (This is the crowd),” he said.
Duterte wasted no time hitting at critics who dismissed his promise to stop corruption in govern-ment. “Try me,” he dared his detractors.
He said the coming May 9 election is a choice between genuine and meaningful change and a regime of wastefulness and neglect.
A middle aged woman who brought her teen-age daughter said they have been in the Tagbilaran rally site since 1 pm when the steel barricade in front of the makeshift stage was set up.
They stayed there until the rally ended at past 9:00 in the evening.
Some two women collapsed due to exhaustion and had to be carried past the barrier and into the little space below the stage to give them breathing room.
Carrying red and blue balloons, Duterte ‘flaglets’ and wearing the signature ballers of their candidate, the boisterous crowd chanted the name of the controversial but charis-matic Mindanao leader.
A loud boo erupted from the partisan crowd when power went off just as Senator Alan Peter Cayetano was to arrive. It was restored in time for the appearance of homegrown actor-celebrity Cesar Mon-tano who sang his own composition to show support for Duterte.
Cayetano, who is running as vice president under Duterte, said they will transfer the central office of the Department of Tourism in nearby Cebu to give Visayas and Bohol in particular an added boost to their well-known tourist attractions.
Bohol is noted for the famed Chocolate Hills and for its white sand beaches.
The huge rally in Tagbi-laran was a huge segue to the large rally across the island in Toledo City in Cebu where thousands also graced a rally by Duterte.
Duterte earlier came from Ubay town where close to 5,000 filled the town’s gym to hear the only Cebuano-speaking candi-date in this year’s presi-dential election.
He capped his in Bohol with a late rally in the town plaza of Panglao, a tourist haven for beach goers.
But he revealed some-thing many devout Catholic Cebuanos have never heard before.
He said he already received a reply to his letter of apology to the Vatican for hurling invectives at Pope Francis in his speech last year. But Duterte immediately added he will only reveal and release copies of the Vatican letter when the election is over – win or lose.
“I don’t want my opponents accusing me of using the letter for politicking,” he said although he did not reveal if his apology was accepted. ###