DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The ruling Hugpong ng Pagbabago and Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (HNP-HTL) held its Miting de Avance in San Pedro Square (former San Pedro Park) on Friday that drew a sparse crowd.

The grand rally was highlighted with the presence of Vice Presidential bet Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and President Rodrigo Duterte, who both graced the occasion separately.

There was no crowd estimate for the venue which has a capacity of around 5,000.

Attendance on this grand rally was few compared to Rodrigo Duterte’s rallies in his presidential run in 2016 which drew tens of thousands in Roxas Avenue and Crocodile Park.

The local candidates of the HNP-HTL attended the event, along with partylist representatives supported by the parties.

Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, the party’s mayoral frontliner, led the event. His brother, incumbent first district Congressman, Paolo, was not in attendance.

Local and national celebrities entertained the crowd to woo supporters, highlighted by rapper Andrew E., who performed the jingle for Sara Duterte’s vice presidential campaign that drew raves from the crowd.

Duterte-Carpio took to the stage around 8pm, which drew cheers from the crowd. In her speech, she bade goodbye to Davaoeňos as she hopes to clinch the vice presidency.

Bongbong Marcos Jr sent a video message for the audience.

The local HNP and HTL alliance endorsed more than eight candidates per district for its slate of councilors, while in the second district Duterte’s allies, re-electionist congressman Vincent Garcia and Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang are competing for the congressional seat.

For that, Duterte-Carpio said it is up to the voters to decide whom to vote.

“Kung makita ninyo ang atoang mga konsehal kinahanglan nato i-shade walong lang pero nanobra ang atoang mga konsehal mao nang gibilin namo sa inyoha ang pagpili kung kinsa ang walo ka konsehal nga inyong gusto iboto,” she said.

There are no local opposition parties in this local election, except for independent candidates like former third district Representative Ruy Elias Lopez running for mayor. While in the first district, two candidates, development worker Victoria ‘Mags’ Maglana and businessman Jamal Kanan are challenging Paolo Duterte’s re-election bid.

Whether the crowd would support Hugpong and Duterte Carpio’s UniTeam slate for the Senate remains to be seen.

Some attendees interviewed by Davao Today said they joined the rally just to see how much the crowd turnout would be.

“It’s the first time to see a lot of people during this pandemic,” one person said.

“Nagtan-aw ra mi dala laag maam kay daghan man artist apud murag sa kadayawan sa una para pud malingaw lingaw dala lang sab paminaw,” she added.

Others also joined hoping they can bring home something from the event.

The crowd also thinned out after Mayor Duterte-Carpio finished her speech endorsing local candidates and the senate slate of her UniTeam.

Progressive groups point out there is double standard of the law as the ruling party bent rules for their favor.

Kabataan Partylist nominee Jayvie Cabajes pointed out that this rally caused traffic, the reason which Mayor Duterte-Carpio earlier banned election motorcades and caravans.

The City Council, mostly aligned with the party, issued a resolution for the partial closure of Iňigo and San Pedro streets on May 4 to 5 and full closure on May 6 as traffic was rerouted.

Cabajes said this is an abuse of authority as the caravan of local supporters for presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo was not granted last February and rallies held by progressive groups and partylists were made to disperse by city police.

“Kung atong lantawon usa kini ka pag-abuso sa power and authority ang ginagamit sa Duterte administration particularly with Mayor Sara Duterte nga nagagamit sa iyang authority to pursue her aspirations and to block any opposition here in the city,” said Cabales. (davaotoday.com)

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