MALOLOS CITY—A record crowd of 28,000 filled the Malolos Sports and Convention Center to the rafters as barangay officials from all over Bulacan joined the nationwide bandwagon to take their oath as members of ruling PDP-Laban party on Monday.
Among the new recruits are 15 out of Bulacan’s 21 municipal mayors and the mayors of the province’s three component cities, led by three-termer Malolos City Mayor Christian Natividad—who is being eyed by ranking party officials as the next governor of Bulacan—along with incumbent 4th District Rep. Linabelle Villarica and former congressman Jonjon Mendoza of the 3rd District.
Natividad said the huge turnout resembled the record crowd that gathered at the same venue on April 13, 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte held his “miting de avance” in the runup to the 2016 presidential elections.
That day, the whole stretch of McArthur Highway from the Bulacan State University up to the Centro Escolar University became a parking lot on both sides of the road.
Natividad, who was instrumental in allowing the speaking tour of then-Davao Mayor Duterte in Malolos, said: “Bulacan province delivered the fourth biggest vote for Duterte’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections. This time, we will aim for a 90-percent approval for federalism form of government being pushed by the party leadership.”
Senate President and PDP-Laban President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel led the mass oath-taking and pledge of allegiance at the jampacked convention center.
“We need to ensure the victory of all candidates of PDP-Laban, the party of President [Rodrigo] Duterte to assure the delivery and success of all government programs for the common good, especially the probinsyanos living in the countryside,” Pimentel appealed to Bulakenyos.
“To achieve our party’s objectives, we need to shift our form of government to federalism to decentralize the power of the president and give more autonomy to the regions and provinces in managing their resources, income and opportunities, unlike in the present setup where the lion’s share of benefits is concentrated in the National Capital Region,” he added
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the party’s secretary-general who was also at the event, said President Duterte won the 2016 election with four election promises: wars on drugs, criminality, and corruption, and a shift to a federal form from the present unitary form of government.
“The first three have already been accomplished, now in place and taking its course. The shift to federalism, patterned after the US model, takes a little longer but we must support it. Let’s help the President achieve his dream for a better governance,” Alvarez said.
The Senate President and Speaker were overwhelmed with the big turnout in the historic capital city of Bulacan, which coincided with the 36th anniversary of the PDP-Laban.
“It is so far, the biggest crowd we have gathered in a single party assembly since President Duterte was elected,” disclosed Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos, the PDP-Laban provincial chairman.
Outside the venue, thousands more joined the mass oath-taking through a huge video wall under an air-cooled 10,000-capacity dome tent built especially for the event, including two more giant-size video monitors to accommodate the overflow crowd inside the venue.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, PDP-Laban vice chairman, said aside from federalism, the ban on political dynasty will complement President Duterte’s war on corruption, which was amplified by Greco Belgica, the newly-appointed commissioner on Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.
However, the proposed anti-political dynasty bans on relatives within the second degree of consanguinity (by blood) and affinity (by marriage) does not augur well for ranking political leaders in Bulacan, which has probably the most number of blood relatives simultaneously holding public offices.