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Away from home towns, Marcos-Duterte kicks off grand 'UniTeam' campaign at giant arena

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Away from home towns, Marcos-Duterte kicks off grand 'UniTeam' campaign at giant arena
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr (C, in red), Philippine presidential candidate and son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, gestures onstage to supporters during a campaign rally in Bocaue town, Bulacan province on Feb. 8, 2022.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:24 p.m., Feb.10) — Survey frontrunners Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio held their proclamation rally in front of thousands of Filipinos at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan on Tuesday.

The event, a pre-ticketed program and livestreamed on Facebook page of Uniteam BBM-Sara, drew thousands of supporters to the arena in Bulacan province, despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson, said ahead of the proclamation rally that the campaign picked Philippine Arena because of its capacity to seat thousands of their supporters.

Candidates have either chosen their hometowns or started caravans from their residences. The UniTeam said: "Other aspirants are also expected to conduct their proclamation rallies today, but they will be held at smaller venues."

The Philippine Arena meanwhile can sit up to 55,000 but attendees have been limited to 25,000 due to pandemic.

Bid endorsement

Initially, Marcos meant to have President Rodrigo Duterte as his running-mate, but after a flurry of withdrawals, the chief executive ended up throwing out all his bids to join the 2022 national elections.

Still, at his proclamation rally, Marcos shared the stage with the president's daughter. Their tandem saw the unification not only of the Marcos and Duterte clans, but of the country’s most prominent political families. Critics dubbed the UniTeam as "unholy" while political analysts said gathering of families as a way to keep themselves in power. 

RELATED: Marcos 'no longer aligned' with admin but hopeful for alliance with Sara Duterte

But Marcos has yet to gain the endorsement of the Duterte patriarch, despite active courting. He admitted that, after all, every candidate would want the backing of the incumbent president.

Rodriguez said the UniTeam did not reach out to the team of President Duterte, citing his health and safety.

On the eve of the proclamation rally, the president has yet to bare his pick for his successor.

In a taped address to the people, Duterte said candidates have communicated to him and asked for his support. "I may, in the end, if I see that it would be—my advice and maybe endorsement would help if need. But at this time, I am saying that I am not supporting anybody," he added partly in Filipino.

Although still without Duterte’s endorsement, the UniTeam’s bid has the backing of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who fashions himself as “appointed son of god” and who is currently wanted by US authorities for a slew of charges, including sex trafficking.

‘Unity’

For his presidential run, Marcos said he "will bring...unifying leadership back to our country."

He accounts his lead in pre-elections survey to this message that he said resonated with Filipinos. He said in a recent interview with former broadcaster Korina Sanchez: "I suppose, again, it’s the message that we’re putting across, that of unity, is being recognized by Filipinos."

For Marcos, the unity he proposes is not about politics, but only in being united in recognizing Filipinos

He continued in Filipino: "If you do not like me, then help on your own but we should be helping each other, be united. I am not saying unite in politics. What I am saying is let us agree that us Filipinos, no one else will help us but ourselves."

Since Marcos’ announcement of his bid to this day of their proclamation rally, strong opposition from wide sectors of society and victims of his father’s brutal martial law regime continues to ring loud.

Legal challenges have also been filed at the Commission on Elections, and although Marcos has been cleared of some, petitioners vowed that the fight is not over and they will take him up to the country’s highest court.

Marcos said he hopes to win his critics and even Martial Law victims with his good programs and sincerity — even as he refuses to apologize for the atrocities of his father’s regime and questions data and facts on it.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this article featured a photo release from Lakas-CMD. It has been replaced with one from Agence France-Presse

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