CAGAYAN DE ORO JOURNAL (April 22) - Team Unity’s campaign juggernaut will mount this week its first major solid push in central Mindanao in a two-day caravan covering five provinces and three cities in the Socsksargen (South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saranggani-General Santos City) corridor, a region long hobbled by armed conflicts between government forces and secessionist rebels but which is now fast becoming the island’s economic gem.
The region’s political moguls – General Santos (GenSan) City Mayor Lita Nunez, Sarangani Gov. Migz Dominguez, Koronadal City Mayor Fernando Miguel, Sultan Kudarat Datu Pax Mangadadatu, Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan and Vice Gov. Datu Bimbo Sinsuat, Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema – will host the caravan and political rallies and are expected to pledge to work for a 12-0 win for Team Unity.
Team Unity’s caravan, scheduled to start from Cotabato City today (April 18), will end the following day in another motorcade in GenSan City. A proclamation rally, hosted by GenSan Mayor Lita Nunez, will be held at the city’s Freedom Park shortly after a scheduled dinner at the residence of newly crowned WBC super-featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao, who is also seeking a congressional post representing the city.
“This is Team Unity’s first major campaign push in Mindanao,” Tourism Secretary and Team Unity spokesman Joseph Ace Durano said yesterday. He recalled that the team of senatorial bets Joker Arroyo, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Vicente Sotto, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, and Ralph Recto had their Pulong Sulong campaign huddle with the voters in the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Lanao del Norte in the first week of March, but said “this happened at the time when the Team Unity’s slate was divided into teams.”
Durano said a series of rallies in the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Sarangani would be squeezed into the two-day caravan.
As scheduled, today’s caravan will start from Cotabato City, the administrative center of Mindanao’s former Region 12 (Central Mindanao), and end in Koronadal City, the administrative center of the newly formed Socsksargen region.
Tomorrow (Thursday), the Team Unity senatorial bets will motor to General Santos City where they are to hold a news conference and later join Sarangani Gov. Dominguez in a proclamation rally in the town of Alabel, near the border of Gensan City. They will then return to GenSan City in a motorcade to have dinner at Pacquiao’s residence and join the proclamation rally hosted by Mayor Nunez.
Socsksargen is Mindanao’s fast-booming economic area, accounting for the country’s largest total daily fish landings. It is also the country’s leading producer of sashimi-grade tuna.
TU senatorial candidates Sultan Jamalul Kiram of Sulu and Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon vowed to work for peace and development in Mindanao, citing President Arroyo’s commitment to bring peace and progress in the country’s second biggest island. Another TU candidate, Prospero Pichay, represented Surigao del Sur in the House of Representatives.
Aside from the three bets who represent Mindanao in Team Unity senatorial slate and the five fellow candidates who first conducted their Pulong Sulong there, other TU senator-hopefuls to join the Mindanao caravan are Edgardo Angara, Michael Defensor, Vicente Magsaysay and Cesar Montano.
The twelve TU senatorial candidates are hoping to score a 12-0 win in Mindanao, owing to a solid network of dedicated political workers belonging to the six political parties within the ruling coalition.
They are batting for the continuation of President Arroyo’s “8 by ‘08” agenda which aims to sustain the country’s economic growth and spread among the people the fruits of this growth.