IN ORDER TO WIN ELECTIONS, national candidates need to court and earn votes in bulk.
A candidate can do so by asking for endorsement from formation leaders and sectoral representatives, and even from celebrities and matinee idols.
Or he or she can opt to do a more personal approach and hie off to vote-rich provinces, shake hands, talk to massive local audiences, and rally the voters to shade that oval before his or her name on the ballot.
PCIJ curated Commission on Elections voter statistics data from 2004 to 2016, and created a list of the top 20 provinces in terms of registered voters per election year during that period.
From 2004 to 2016, the same 18 have been consistently on the list: Cebu, Cavite, Negros Occidental, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Laguna, Davao del Sur, Iloilo, Batangas, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Leyte, Zamboanga del Sur, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Isabela, and Misamis Oriental.
Cebu has also consistently held the top spot since 2004. Cavite, meanwhile, rose from fifth in 2004 to fourth in 2007, and then landed on the second rung in 2010. It has been there since. Leyte (13th), Isabela (17th), and Misamis Oriental (18th) also maintained their ranking from 2004 up to the present.
Cebu’s voter population increased by almost half a million in less than a decade – from 2,020,606 in 2004 to 2,508,189 in 2013 – ensuring its continuous reign in the vote-rich listing. Cavite voters also increased in huge margins, from 1,323,653 in 2004 to almost 1.8 million in 2013.
Interestingly, the same provinces have tightly contested the last two slots in the top 20 list through the years: South Cotabato (19th most vote-rich province in 2004, 20th in 2010); Bohol (20th in 2004 and 19th in 2007, 2013, and 2016); Negros Oriental (20th in 2007, 2013, and 2016); and Bukidnon (19th in 2010).
All the names ranked in the top 20 since 2004 have first-class income classification, according to the 2015 listing of the Bureau of Local Government Finance.
Provinces recorded with first-class income get an average annual income of P450 million or more from “own-sourced revenue efforts,” according to Department of Finance’s Order No. 23-08.
Yet while Cebu has been Number One on the list since 2004, more than half of the top 20 vote-rich provinces have been from Luzon in the past 12 years.
The 2016 vote-rich roster, for instance, has 11 provinces from Luzon (Cavite, Pangasinan, Laguna, Bulacan, Batangas, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Quezon, Camarines Sur, and Isabela), six from the Visayas (Cebu, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Leyte, Bohol, and Negros Oriental), and three from Mindanao (Davao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, and Misamis Oriental).
In 2004, 11 of the top 20 vote-rich provinces were also from Luzon (Bulacan, Pangasinan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Quezon, Camarines Sur, and Isabela), while five were from the Visayas (Cebu, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Leyte, and Bohol), and four from Mindanao (Davao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, Misamis Oriental, and South Cotabato).
Indeed, while Cebu and Negros Occidental managed to keep the top two seats on the list in 2007, Luzon provinces still dominated the roster. The provinces included in the 2004 Top 20 vote-rich also made a reappearance in 2007, with the exception of South Cotabato. Negros Oriental snatched the vacated spot, which was the bottom of the list.
By 2010, Negros Occidental had slipped from second to fourth in the vote-rich provinces roster, and Cavite had emerged in second place. Bohol was dropped from the top 20, Bukidnon got the 19th spot, and South Cotabato re-entered to get the last seat on the list.
For more details, check out PCIJ’s Money Politics Online
— PCIJ, August 2019