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Mammoth crowd for Robredo in Arroyo bailiwick

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga - A huge crowd showed up at the campaign rally of Vice President Leni Robredo in Pampanga, organizers and local police said Saturday.

The rally comes days after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who hails from Pampanga, celebrated her 75th birthday there and urged the province's residents to deliver a landslide victory for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the running mate of former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.

In her speech, Robredo said that true power comes from the backing of a united citizenry.

"Ang tunay na lakas ay hindi galing sa pulitiko, pera o makinarya. Ang tunay na lakas ay nagmumula sa nagkakaisang taumbayan. Ngayong gabi, ipinakita ito ng Pampanga," the presidential candidate said, as the crowd swelled to 220,000 people at 9 p.m., according to organizers.

"Natalo ako rito noong 2016. Hindi ko man lang pinanaginip o napangarap na tatayo ako sa entablado na ganito kadami ang tao. Tinitiis niyo ang pagod, ang init, dahil uhaw na uhaw kayo sa mabuting pamamahala," she added.

Robredo said that the large gathering in San Fernando, which had a population of 354,666 in 2020 according to Philippine Statistics Authority data, was a clear demonstration of love for the country. 

"Hindi ito pagmamahal lang sa akin. Isa itong napakalaking pagpapakita ng pagmamahal niyo sa bayan," she said.

"Ito iyong pagkakataong isigaw niyo na kailangan na kailangan na natin ng pagbabago," Robredo added.

During the pre-program, celebrity hosts Ogie Diaz and Mama Loi apparently took a jab at Arroyo for talking to a former Commission on Elections official during the 2004 polls.

Diaz was telling a story about National Artist Virgilio Almario supporting Robredo and her running mate Senator Francis Pangilinan when Mama Loi suddenly dropped the name of Virgilio Garcillano.

Diaz said that it was the wrong person that Mama Loi referred to, and that she should apologize for it.

Mama Loi responded by saying "I am sorry" the way Arroyo apologized to the nation in a televised address in 2005 over a phone call with Garcillano in which she asked whether she would be able to keep a million-vote margin over her strongest rival, actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The controversy sparked calls for her removal from office even as she denied vote-rigging allegations. 

Pampanga has over 1.58 million registered voters for the May 9 polls. —VBL, GMA News