Ely Buendia of Eraserheads performs for Leni Robredos peoples grand rally held at IloIlo Sports Complex, February 25, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

VICE-PRESIDENT Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo capped her campaign sorties in the Cagayan region in northern Philippines on Saturday with a rally attended by thousands of supporters, mostly young voters, her office said on Sunday.

Her visit to two provinces in the north — a bailiwick of her main rival Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. — culminated in a grand rally in Echague, Isabela where the crowd was estimated at 10,000.

The opposition leader was “nervous about her trip to Cagayan and Isabela because they are part of the so-called solid north,” according to the statement.

“But as Robredo barnstormed in these two provinces, people came out to show their unwavering support for her and chanted ‘There is no solid north,’” it said.

“The erosion of the solid north is not just happening today,” Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, said in a Viber message.

She said the youth and other organized sectors are now challenging traditional campaign strategies in the regional bloc. “They are no longer beholden to regionalistic loyalties and the dictates of local politicians.”

Ms. Atienza said the “solid north” notion is a concept that could easily be dissolved. “Voters change over time through generational change, access to education and information, as well as the rise of new issues, among other factors.”

Ms. Atienza noted that young voters account for a big chunk of total voters this year. “If they are more inclined to vote against the leading presidential candidate based on surveys and they actually vote on May 9, this could change the election results not only in the north but also nationwide.”

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, said transactional politics “precludes the possibility of any regional block voting.”

“The north may appear solid in some elections, but this has nothing to do with the Marcos brand,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “It is more about having the resources to consolidate alliances with many of the powerbrokers in the region.”

He said it remains to be seen whether Ms. Robredo has consolidated support from the north. “The crowd turnout there is impressive, but if the next surveys do not reflect this, then it will be difficult to project that the tide has turned to their favor.”

A day before her campaign sorties in northern Philippines, Ms. Robredo visited Negros Occidental in central Philippines, where more than 70,000 supporters showed up at a grand rally in Bacolod City, according to her office, citing police data. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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