MANILA - Opposition senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc on Tuesday started her campaign by gathering about 50 Muslims in Caloocan City to pray for President Rodrigo Duterte's "health and humor."
The “Otso Diretso” slate’s lone female contender and her supporters stood in an empty town plaza in front of the old Caloocan City Hall, an abandoned and dilapidated structure reminiscent of Gutoc’s hometown Marawi where she served as a civic leader after terrorists laid siege on the Islamic stronghold.
“[I pray] That he be in favor of all the vulnerable and that hindi nababastos ang kababaihan,” Gutoc told reporters when asked why she included the President in her prayers.
“We’re hoping that he continues to serve the whole and inspire, and that he would consider na kami din sa Otso Diretso ay naninindigan on the same level as serving the poor,” she said.
“We are praying for the President’s health para mabalik niya kami sa Mindanao. Mabalik niya kami sa Marawi,” she said.
Gutoc served as a Moro assemblywoman under Duterte, but resigned 3 months later after the first Mindanaoan president cracked a joke about rape and declared martial law in Mindanao.
Gutoc is counting on getting some 7 million Muslim votes to catapult her into the Senate as she continues to suffer from low rankings in pre-election surveys held before the start of the campaign period.
“Ang ginagawa natin ay para sa Marawi at para sa mga katutubo. Wala ako sa survey, wala akong P1 million, P2 billion pero ang 1 million ko ay kayo,” Gutoc told her Muslim supporters.
“I am fighting for you, so I hope you fight for me too,” she said.
Gutoc played coy when asked why her prayer delegation was sparse, and why she opted to hold the event in one of Metro Manila’s fringe cities, instead of Manila or Taguig which both have larger Muslim populations.
"Marami kami ditong mga katutubo, mga Maranao na nagbebenta ng DVD," she said
“Konti po kami pero dito sa Caloocan important ito dahil San Roque Church is a symbolism dahil pinagtatambayan ito ng mga Katipunero,” she said.
Gutoc eventually admitted that the opposition slate’s requests to hold sorties were turned down by several local government units who opted to coalesce with the ruling Duterte administration.
“May mga ilan na hindi kami makabisita kasi siyempre they’re administration, we’re opposition,” she said.
“Pero nakakahanap kami ng nga palengke... We go to town halls, we go to public locations. Talagang kayod kami,” said.
“Otso Diretso” campaign manager and Liberal Party President Senator Francis Pangilinan earlier said the group has to rely on door-to-door campaigns to avoid vilification on social media.