by Manny Pinol

Wednesday night’s gathering in Davao City’s Freedom Park was planned to be a celebration of the city’s foundation anniversary and a rally of support for the Presidential bid of Mayor Rody Duterte.

It turned out to be a show of strength and proof that the 82% voters’ preference for Duterte in the city and the region’s five Davao provinces with 3.4-million electorates was real.

There is no official estimate yet on the number of people who filled the Freedom Park and the streets surrounding the rally area.

It was, however, believed to be the biggest political gathering in the history of Mindanao or anywhere else in the country outside of the Rizal Park in Metro Manila.

The multitude stretched to about a kilometre long in all directions from the site of the event. People had to walk through the thick crowd but those who arrived late in the afternoon were never able to get near the area where Duterte and his vice presidential running mate Alan Peter Cayetano delivered their political messages.

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Photos and videos taken using drones showed the multitude not only made up of people from the city and the Davao region but from other outlying areas like Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao, Cotabato City in Western Mindanao, General Santos City in Southern Mindanao, North Cotabato in Central Mindanao and even from the Zamboanga Peninsula.

It was a testament of the growing excitement and expectation of people in Mindanao over the prospect of the first ever Philippine President coming from the island wracked by bloody battles between government forces and Muslim separatist groups.

Last night, Muslims, Tribal Groups and Christians representing the island’s trip-people gathered as one to show their support for the man who promises to end the conflict in Mindanao.

The historic number of the crowd in yesterday’s rally was a proof of the start of the bandwagon for Duterte’s candidacy as he dominated surveys conducted by independent media entities, college mock elections and different social media sites.

While the results of the independent surveys have largely been ignored by the mainstream media, Duterte’s strength is undeniable as he is locked in a virtual tie with Senator Grace Poe in the highly-questioned surveys of SWS and Pulse Asia.

Now that Duterte is getting majority of Mindanao’s voters behind him, he will enjoy a great advantage as he wades into an expected One-on-One match up with Poe.

Poe’s camp could not point out one area or region which she dominates hands down and where she is assured of a formidable support.

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Duterte, on the other hand, is dominating Mindanao where surveys indicated he is getting 50% of the estimated 14-million voters and 82% in the Davao Region with a voting population of 3.4-million.

In Mindanao alone, Duterte is expected to run away with at least 6 million votes of the 14 million voters, granting that the turn-out would be a high 80%, leaving another 6 million to be shared by Poe, Jejomar Binay and administration candidate Manuel Roxas III.

The Davao Region turn-out could be very devastating for the other candidates as Duterte is expected to get 82% of the votes which could be about 2.3-million votes granting that the turn-out is 80%.

That would leave the three other candidates with only about 500,000 votes to share among themselves.

Last night’s mammoth gathering of Mindanaoans could still improve Duterte’s numbers among voters in the island.

Now that it is becoming clear that Duterte has the real chance of becoming the first President from Mindanao, many more of the island’s political leaders are expected to jump into the political bandwagon.

Barring any major setback or political blunder, Malacañang will have a first tenant from Mindanao on June 30.

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