Panagbenga Festival not spared from election fever
BAGUIO CITY – Several residents of this mountain city in northern Luzon on Sunday scored several candidates for the May elections, including three presidential aspirants, for using the closing ceremonies of the annual Panagbenga Festival to campaign.
“Nagpunta ang mga tao dito para sa festival, hindi para sa kanila (The people went here for the festival, not for the candidates),” Lea, a 26-year-old payroll accountant, told GMANews.TV in an interview.
Seen in the crowd were Sen. Manny Villar Jr. (Nacionalista Party), Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), and Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan).
Vice presidential candidates Sen. Loren Legarda and Bayani Fernando, as well as NP senatorial bets Gilbert Remulla, Ilocos Norte Reps Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gabriela party-list Liza Maza, and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo were also in the crowd.
“Sana hindi nila ginagamit itong Panagbenga kasi festival ito ng Baguio (They should have left the festival alone),” Lea said.
Too late the hero
Val Pascual, a staff of a cable company based in the city, lamented that Baguio didn’t get this much attention from politicians when it was devastated by typhoon Pepeng last year.
“Dapat noong kalagitnaan ng bagyo sila nagpunta dito, hindi ngayong naka-recover na ang mga tao dito sa Baguio (They should’ve gone here last year, when we’re still recovering from the effects of the typhoon),” he said in a separate interview.
Although they denied campaigning during the festival, the candidates were seen shaking hands and having their pictures taken with the crowd.
“Di ako nangangampanya. Nagpapalitrato ang mga tao, ano gagawin ko (I wasn’t campaigning, but the people were requesting to have their pictures taken with me, so what should I do)?” Gordon said in an interview aired over GMA News’ “24 Oras.”
A campaign strategist, who refused to be identified, admitted that they let their candidates roam around the city during the festival to take advantage of the crowd.
“Kahit tumayo ka lang diyan may lalapit sayo, may makakakilala, may magpapa-picture. Lalo na kapag naglakad-lakad ka mas maraming makakakita sayo. At least dito hindi ka na mago-organize ng crowd, andyan na sila,” he said.
(Even if the candidate just stands in one corner, people will still come up to him with all sorts of request. What more if they walk around the city.)
Organizers of the festival admitted having difficulty in stopping politicians to from campaigning during the festivity.
“What is important is that it [campaigning] does not distract the flow of the parade because the parade is not all about them [politicians],” said Dangal Guevarra Jr., chief of staff of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation. – KBK, GMANews.TV