USC chair-elect Siegfred Severino described this early campaigning as an insult to LB residents.
‘Run Sara Run’ posters urging presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to run in Halalan 2022 made their way to Los Baños last March 21, before promptly being vandalized and removed on the same day.
One poster in Agapita – sporting a picture of Sara Duterte and the name of the municipality – was placed right beside a poster bearing the words ‘Justice for Mayor Perez’. Perez, whose name was included on the Duterte-espoused Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) narcolist, was assassinated last December by unidentified gunmen (READ: Bumagsak na ang Narra: Los Baños mourns Mayor Perez’s death).
Netizen Aldrin Beldamor said that less than an hour after being placed, the ‘Run Sara Run’ tarpaulin was immediately vandalized: Sara’s face in the poster was torn up, while words such as “mamamatay tao” [“murderer” in English] were written. After a few hours, barangay officials took down the poster.
Not long after in the same day, another tarpaulin was placed inside UPLB grounds. The perpetrators – who themselves wore shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Continued Duterte Brand of Governance Beyond 2022” – snuck into the campus reportedly by using a Barangay Malinta Rescue Ambulance.
Upon reaching Chelsea’s Homestyle Cooking, an eating establishment within campus, the group placed the poster beside the restaurant, crowded together by the entrance for a picture taking, and dined inside the restaurant without observing social distancing. Similarly, the tarpaulin was taken down before the day ended.
In light of the news, Chelsea’s Homestyle Cooking quickly denied affiliation with any political party, claiming that the purposes of the meeting were unclear even to them.
“We would like to clarify that the establishment merely served the party in the capacity of a business serving customers. They reserved the restaurant in advance for a meeting; however, the specifics of the said meeting were not disclosed,” the restaurant’s management said.
Additionally, Chelsea’s noted that the meeting did not violate any rules for public gatherings.
“Their meeting also followed IATF guidelines: ‘venue capacity of dine-in restaurants, cafes, personal care services shall be reduced to a maximum of fifty percent (50%) of capacity’. 40 people entered, which is one-third of Chelsea’s full capacity of 120 people,” Chelsea’s explained further.
Similarly, Brgy. Batong Malake denied involvement with the incident.
“Hindi po natin mga tao ang nagkabit nito dahil ang ating mga BPSO [barangay public safety officer] ay laging nakasuot ng uniporme ng Barangay,” said the municipality in a Facebook post.
Additionally, Batong Malake condemned the early campaigning, claiming that this was irresponsible given that the country was currently in the midst of a pandemic.
“Araw-araw, parami ng parami ang kaso ng COVID-19 sa ating lugar kaya ang pangunahing pokus natin sa ngayon ay ang tumulong sa ating nasasakupan at kung paano tayo makakaambag sa bansa upang mabawasan ang pagkalat ng nakamamatay na virus na ito,” the Barangay said.
When pressed as to why no one was able to stop the initial placement of the posters, the Barangay said that their personnel responded as soon as they could but only managed to reach the vandalized posters.
Siegfred Severino, the University Student Council (USC) Chairperson-elect, described the incident as an insult to the continually-red tagged UPLB Community.
“Isa rin itong patunay na ang mga polisiyang ibinababa ng IATF, na nagbabawal pa rin sa mga estudyante na makabalik sa ating campus, ay hindi nag-aapply sa mga taga-suporta at cronies ng pamilyang Duterte,” Severino said.
Additionally, Severino noted that the incident was an insult to Los Baños as a whole.
“Pambabastos din ito sa mga mamamayan ng Los Baños na nakakaranas ng pagtaas ng COVID-19 cases at nung nakaraang taon lang ay nasaksihan ang pagpatay kay Mayor Perez na kabilang sa ‘narco list’ ni Duterte,” said Severino.
Unofficial, semi-official, early campaigning?
The group that posted the infamous tarpaulin was believed to be headed by Robert Mendoza, supposedly a barangay captain from Davao City. On March 21, he posted a picture of their group dining in Chelsea’s Kitchen.
Way ahead of the official campaign period, Mendoza, already documenting his experiences campaigning for the “uninterested” Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Beginning March 13, Mendoza campaigned for the mayor by encouraging other Barangay Captains to participate in a Holy Mass event that would take place on March 17: a gathering conducted in support of the ‘Run Sara Run’ Caravan Davao to Manila.
In the conclusion of this caravan, the 43 convenors who went to NCR were placed in a 14-day quarantine, according to Sara Duterte herself. She said that the convenors might have contracted the virus and could spread it in the city.
On the other hand, the other campaigners including Mendoza flew over to Luzon on March 19 to continue their support for Duterte. On March 20, Mendoza posted a picture of himself in Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City, noting that they were en route to Laguna. The next day, the group would find themselves in Brgy. Pansol and Pila, where they had an orientation and official signing of support for the Run Sara Run campaign with local leaders and organizations. It was from there that they proceeded to post the ‘Run Sara Run’ tarpaulins in Los Baños.
Following this, the group would continue their campaign by passing through Calamba, Laguna on March 21, and Alicia, Isabela on March 22, before ending up in Enrile, Cagayan on the same day. There, the group met with Mayor Miguel Decena Jr., as well as over 200 other organizations of the municipality who would join them in the signing of support for Sara Duterte in 2022.
As of press time, Mendoza himself is yet to answer the publication’s questions regarding his activities. [P]
Photo by Aldrin Baldemor