Abot Tanaw representative Dante Guevarra, former president of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, sat there for 30 minutes, answering questions that also touched on the controversy surrounding his organization.
Claiming to represent overseas Filipino workers and operate social media services to keep migrant workers in touch with their families in the Philippines, Abot Tanaw is reportedly a creation of Efraim Genuino, former chairman of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) who is facing charges involving alleged irregularities at the state-run casino operator during his term.
In the 2010 elections, Genuino’s son-in-law, Gerwin See, was named the first nominee of Abot Tanaw. The others were said to be Pagcor consultants.
Guevarra himself has never been a migrant worker but he said he studied migrants’ conditions in Iraq, Libya and in Asia in the 1980s.
The election commissioners asked Guevarra if he knew why he had replaced See as Abot Tanaw’s first nominee.
Guevarra replied, “I am not familiar your honor[s].”
Although a new member of Abot Tanaw, Guevarra said the group had no connection with the Genuinos.
But before letting Guevarra go, the commissioners instructed him to refute the allegations in writing. The Comelec will use his refutation in deciding whether to allow Abot Tanaw to run next year.
289 seeking accreditation
Two hundred eighty-nine groups have filed applications for accreditation to contest next year’s party-list elections. One hundred sixty-five of them are new groups, and the Comelec’s job is determining their legitimacy to cleanse the party-list system that it concedes is infested by sham organizations.
“Can you imagine if every three years there are 165 new groups applying? By 2019, there will be more than 1,000 of them listed on the ballot… that will make the party-list system of elections absurd,” Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said in an interview with the Inquirer. “So to me, this is the opportunity to screen and process these party-list organizations.”
At the hearings, the election commissioners asked nominees or representatives questions derived from papers the groups themselves had submitted to the Comelec. The papers included articles of incorporation, lists of officers and nominees and their credentials.
The questions covered the history of the groups, the groups’ knowledge of the sectors they claimed to represent, the background of the nominees and the nominees’ knowledge about their fellow nominees, previous nominees, number of members, and votes polled in previous elections.
In asking those questions, the election commissioners were showing they doubted whether the groups and their nominees really came from the sectors they claimed to represent.
“There was this nominee supposedly representing indigent student athletes,” Brillantes said. “I told him, you don’t look like an indigent. You don’t look like a student and you don’t look like an athlete, either. So why are you the number one nominee?”
Who are qualified
Under Republic Act No. 7941, otherwise known as the Party-list System Act, only 12 marginalized and underrepresented sectors can seek congressional representation: Labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.
So why are former drug addicts, one-time coup plotters, athletes, and money changers seeking congressional representation? Or, for that matter, why are security guards and jeepney drivers represented in Congress not by security guards and jeepney drivers but by children or allies of big-time politicians?
Sarmiento said the Comelec would give weight to the documents provided by Kontra Daya in its review, likely to end in the fall of false party-list groups and in the recognition of the legitimate ones.
Brillantes said the Comelec would release the complete list of qualified party-list groups by the end of the month ahead of the five-day period allotted for the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs), which starts Oct. 1.
“We want to get it over with before candidates start filing COCs because the party-list is a sensitive issue,” Brillantes said.
Ambiguities in the law
The Comelec blames the infestation of the party-list system with sham groups on the ambiguities in the law. Sarmiento said ambiguities in the law, exploited by politicians, blurred the concepts of marginalized and underrepresented in the Constitution.
The Constitution does not clearly define the two concepts and also does not lay down the qualifications for party-list nominees, Sarmiento said.
Congress could have filled those gaps by fine-tuning the party-list law, but it had done nothing to correct the flaws in the system.
“So now we have reached this point where many people are asking why are the moneyed people the ones sitting in Congress,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento referred to documents provided by Kontra Daya, one of which showed Rep. Catalina Bagasina of the Association of Labor and Employees as the “richest party-list solon” with a net worth of P133.938 million, based on her statement of assets and liabilities for 2011.
Kontra Daya listed 23 other wealthy party-list lawmakers whose organizations will contest next year’s elections.
The representatives included Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo of Ang Galing Pinoy (P99.954 million), Teodorico Haresco of Ang Kasangga (P92.814 million), Christopher Co of Ako Bicol (P91.063 million), and David Kho of Coalition of Senior Citizens (P59.521 million).
At a hearing on the Comelec’s budget in the House recently, Sarmiento and other election officials raised the need to amend the party-list law.
“We appealed that the vagueness in the law be addressed for the guidance of the Comelec since we implement the law,” Sarmiento said.
In the absence of a more rigid law for the accreditation of nominees, the Comelec has tried to remedy the ambiguities in the law by issuing Resolution No. 9366, specifying that only those who belong to marginalized underrepresented sectors can seek party-list representation in Congress.
“Since no amendment to the law is forthcoming, we issued the resolution, which basically says that if you want to represent a group, for instance a farmer’s group, you must be a farmer,” Sarmiento said.
He described the resolution as guided by jurisprudence, particularly the Supreme Court decision in Ang Bagong Bayani v. Comelec case in 2003.
In that decision written by then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to ensure that only those who belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors can run for party-list seats in Congress.
Show your record
The Comelec resolution also requires applicants to submit documents showing their track record and platform of government.
It also requires nominees to have “active participation” in advancing their groups’ advocacies, which can be validated through documentary evidence such as copy of speeches, declarations and written articles showing their support for the sectors they claim to represent.
“We are hopeful that through this resolution, we will address these questions of so many of our people and criticisms that the House is loaded with party-list nominees who don’t belong to the marginalized and underrepresented,” Sarmiento said.
Aquino taps ex-Arroyo allies to gather support for 2013 bets
By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:09 pm | Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III’s senatorial candidates in the 2013 midterm elections will enjoy support from politicians identified with his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP) will conclude on Friday a partnership agreement with the National Unity Party (NUP) to build more support for the senatorial ticket it is forming together with the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
Composed mostly of former Arroyo allies, the NUP, a somewhat recycled Kampi, Arroyo’s own political vehicle, staged a show of force, on Wednesday, during its party convention at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City.
The gathering had unusual guests, Sen. Gregorio Honasan and Rep. Jose Victor Ejercito, who are both running as UNA senatorial candidates.
The LP slate is one candidate short of complete, but the slot may be filled on Thursday (Sept. 27) with Sen. Loren Legarda accepting an invitation from Aquino to a meeting in Malacañang on the same day for talks about her running as a common candidate of both the Liberal Party and its rival, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Malacañang had been calling Legarda since Tuesday, but reached her only on Wednesday. She was in Pangasinan inspecting her projects supporting corn production in 15 towns in the province.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reached Legarda as she was leaving Villasis town for a trip to Manaoag.
Legarda said Vice President Jejomar Binay, who shares UNA’s leadership with former President Joseph Estrada, knew about her meeting with President Aquino and he approves of it.
The UNA announced on Monday that Legarda was one of its three common candidates with other parties. The two others are Sen. Francis Escudero and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
Legarda said her meeting with Aquino wouldn’t change the fact that she would still be an UNA candidate even if she agreed to run as a candidate of the LP-led administration slate.
She said that unlike the UNA, she had yet to meet with a top LP official even amid reports that she was being offered a slot in the LP slate.
“No one from the LP has talked to me yet,” Legarda said. “The President will be the first LP official I will talk to.”
Ejercito, a staunch critic of Arroyo, appealed for support from the gathering of more than 300 NUP members. “Maybe you have room for a friend,” he told the group.
But Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, NUP president, said his party would back only the full senatorial slate of the LP-led administration, meaning the likes of Honasan and Ejercito would be excluded.
“They are friends. They were invited to this convention on the basis of relationships,” he said, referring to the two UNA candidates.
“However, we are in a political mode and with the coalition partnership that will be signed on Friday, we are committed to support the entire lineup of the coalition with the Liberal Party, the NPC and the NP.”
Antonino, however, did not rule out the possibility that some NUP members may support candidates other than those on the administration ticket.
“Individually, perhaps the party stand may not be 100 percent because there are relationships [between some NUP members and some candidates],” he said.
Honasan said he showed up at the NUP gathering, also attended by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, “to honor the invitation of personal friends,” not necessarily to court support from the party.
“It doesn’t matter to me [even if the NUP won’t support me],” he said. “This is beyond politics.”
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, an LP leader, said the NUP would bring to the coalition its “prestige and influence.”
The NUP, he said, “has a lot of very strong people actually occupying positions in the provinces, in Congress.”
The NUP membership includes more than 30 congressmen and 19 governors.
Antonino brushed aside the reported impression that the NUP and the administration were strange bedfellows.
He said the NUP was not the only party with members previously identified with Arroyo but have decided to support Mr. Aquino.
“It is not fair to single out the NUP, because even in the LP itself… you will see that there are members there [who] were once identified with the former President. And the same goes with the NPC, the same goes with the NP,” he said.
LP president Mar Roxas said on Tuesday that the party would announce its complete senatorial ticket later this week.
Two of the President’s allies, Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Joel Villanueva have been dropped from the Liberal slate.
Already on the slate, besides Escudero and Llamanzares, are Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino Pimentel III, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, former Senators Jun Magsaysay and Jamby Madrigal, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Bam Aquino. With a report from Michael Lim Ubac
Politics is addition: Aquino willing to work with Marcos
By Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:37 am | Friday, September 28th, 2012
Politics is addition. That is a long accepted adage.
Malacañang on Thursday welcomed politicians identified with the other side of the political fence—party mates of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—to be part of a grand coalition of the administration for the May 2013 polls.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda did not see anything odd with the political arrangement. He said in a Malacañang briefing the Aquino administration could not just close the door on those supportive of the President’s legislative agenda in both chambers of Congress.
“I think during the past two years they have been supportive of the programs of the President,” said Lacierda, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked him if he saw nothing wrong with uniting with the Nacionalista Party (NP), Marcos’ party.
Mr. Aquino’s father, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was killed during the regime of Marcos’s father, the strongman Ferdinand Marcos. The elder Marcos in turn was ousted during the 1986 People Power revolution which installed the President’s late mother, Corazon Aquino, in the presidency.
The NP is fielding Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV as its senatorial candidates.
Asked how the President would see this latching together of divergent political parties, Lacierda said what was “important” was their support for the reform agenda of Mr. Aquino.
“We don’t have any problem with that. We need allies … in pushing for reform in our administration. And if we can get these lawmakers to support our reform agenda, then well and good,” said Lacierda.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he was OK with a coalition with the National Unity Party (NUP) that is made up mostly of House members that staunchly defended then President Arroyo during attempts to impeach her and from allegations of corruption during her administration.
“Nelson Mandela once said that in a democracy we need to learn to work with people we dislike, in reference to those who in the past supported apartheid,” said Pangilinan.
“For as long as we are all clear that it is the President who calls the shots, then it is incumbent upon the LP (Liberal Party) to build the broadest unity possible among various political forces willing to lend their support to the President’s reform agenda,” he added.
Cayetano also saw nothing wrong with coalescing with Arroyo’s allies, even admitting the coalition would be beneficial to the administration.
“Is it pragmatic? Yes. Is it a compromise? No,” Cayetano told reporters in an interview.
Cayetano is a member of the NP which has forged a coalition with the LP for the May 2013 elections.
Other members of the LP-led coalition for next year’s polls are the Nationalist People’s Coalition and now the NUP.
“The coalition will not protect them,” said Cayetano of politicians who may be joining just to get away with any anomalies they may have committed in the past.
“It is not a get-out-of-jail card,” he said.
On Thursday, Lacierda would not disclose details of a meeting between Mr. Aquino and Sen. Loren Legarda in Malacañang, which from all indications showed the reelectionist senator had yet to sign on the dotted line.
Lacierda even appeared surprised when asked about the meeting.
The Inquirer reported Thursday that President Arroyo had sought the meeting with Legarda to talk about her running as a common candidate of the LP and its opposition rival, the United Nationalist Alliance.
“I’m not aware of it. I know that Secretary Mar Roxas and Secretary Jun Abaya were meeting with the President. I’m not sure if Senator Legarda was, I was not present in that meeting,” said Lacierda.
“We discussed many things, including foreign relations,” said Legarda in a phone interview.
She would neither confirm nor deny if she had accepted the President’s invitation to join the LP-led administration senatorial slate.
“Abangan (Watch for it),” was all she would say.
The Aquino administration has to learn to work with people it doesn’t like to make sure its reform agenda succeeds in Congress, an LP senator said on Thursday in the wake of the LP’s formal alliance with the NUP.
Sen. Francis Escudero, an independent and an ally of President Aquino, said the NUP had long been supportive of the President. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada will join the senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in filing their certificates of candidacy (COCs) before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday.
Binay is UNA’s president while Enrile and Estrada are UNA’s chairman emeritus and chairman, respectively.
“We are joining the entire UNA senatorial slate in the filing of their candidacies on Oct. 1, at 1 p.m.,” Binay said.
“All the senatorial candidates of UNA will together, file their certificates of candidacies before the Commission on Elections,” he added.
Binay said they would make festive the filing of COCs by UNA’s senatorial candidates.
“Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, President Erap and myself will all join them,” he said.
Among the three UNA leaders, Binay is the youngest at 69 years while Enrile, 88, is the oldest. Estrada is 75 years old.
Meanwhile, former Tarlac Gov. Tingting Cojuangco, wife of UNA vice-president Peping Cojuangco and aunt of President Aquino, is 99.9 percent sure to run as senator under the UNA ticket, Binay said yesterday.
With Binay’s pronouncement, UNA has until Sunday to announce its final 12 senatorial candidates for the 2013 midterm elections.
“In every project and program, there is always a margin of error,” he said, referring to the slim chance that Tingting will not pursue her bid under UNA.
The Vice President said that the senatorial candidates he and Estrada earlier announced are already final.
“Final, but let us wait for the announcement,” Binay said.
He said UNA has not given a schedule yet on the possibility of his daughter, Nancy Binay-Angeles, running for senator under UNA. Nancy is working as his personal assistant at the Office of Vice President.
Binay said UNA is including Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda in its list of senatorial candidates.
Recent poll surveys showed Legarda and Escudero landing on the top and second spot, respectively.
MANILA, Philippines - The Liberal Party (LP)-led coalition in the House of Representatives remains strong and has been instrumental in the passage of numerous socioeconomic and other reform bills, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Speaking before the first national convention of the National Unity Party (NUP) yesterday, Belmonte said the coalition of the LP, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the Nacionalista Party (NP), NUP, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Partido ng Masang Pilipino, and some party-list groups is a “partnership of equals.”
“It (majority bloc) is an alliance driven by mutual respect, common goals and shared work,” he said.
Belmonte said he is happy over the NUP’s decision to join the coalition that President Aquino and the LP are forging with other major political parties for next year’s elections.
“The President and the other political parties will certainly accord you much respect and equal treatment, giving due regard to your rightful place in the electoral arena,” he said.
Heading the NUP is Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia as chairman and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino as president.
Former Lakas-Kampi-CMD members formed the party and the Commission on Elections accredited it as a national party on Oct. 5, 2011.
Belmonte said the House has approved the national budget in record time in the last three years, as he cited the prolific output of legislative measures as a result of the “shared work” of members of the coalition.
“With your participation, we have approved 2,462 measures in the past 27 months, including three national budgets which were passed in record speed without sacrificing rigorous scrutiny,” he said.
Belmonte said NUP members have embarked on a new political journey.
“You could not have chosen a more appropriate name for the party,” he said.
“NUP should not just be an acronym. It should be a movement for national unity and reconciliation based on justice.”
Belmonte thanked NUP members in the House for their trust and confidence in his leadership and their continuing support for the programs of Aquino.
“President Aquino’s campaign of ‘matuwid na daan’ (straight path) became the standard for public service,” he said.
“We, at the House of Representatives, have set our own benchmark that raised our performance rating in public perception.
“The record high of 55 percent approval rating and 42 percent net satisfaction rating for the House of Representatives could not have been achieved without the unity, cooperation and hard work of everyone who elected me Speaker.”
“The House members of the National Unity Party, along with the other House coalition partners, have made a covenant placing national and public welfare over and above individual interest.” – With Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz
MANILA, Philippines - The so-called Liberal Party coalition may just end up without an LP candidate following reports that two of its stalwarts in the 12-member senatorial slate will in all likelihood be excluded from running in the May 2013 midterm elections.
Sources knowledgeable of the situation revealed that House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III – an LP original – will be off the administration ticket, due to his poor showing in recent surveys, and has been promised by President Aquino a Cabinet post.
Another LP official, Ruffy Biazon, reportedly prefers to stay as Customs commissioner and wants his father, former senator and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, to take his place instead in the Senate slate.
Talks between the Customs chief and President Aquino last week have not been firmed up yet especially since the President is reportedly not sold on the older Biazon running for senator.
Aquino had informed Ruffy Biazon he has the option to stay, or run under the administration party, but categorically warned him not to push the candidacy of his father, who even initiated a probe into the government’s flood control projects.
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director-general Joel Villanueva is definitely out of the slate, and may instead be transferred or promoted to other agencies in the executive department, owing to his “good performance” in TESDA.
No LP in sight
If things don’t work out, what will comprise the administration ticket are candidates who don’t actually belong to the LP but are from parties that have forged an alliance with them, like the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Among the sure senatorial contenders are Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara (LDP) as well as Senators Koko Pimentel (PDP-Laban), Alan Peter Cayetano (NP), Antonio Trillanes IV (NP), Francis Escudero (independent), former Las Piñas’ Rep. Cynthia Villar (NP); former senators Jun Magsaysay, Jamby Madrigal, chairman Grace Poe-Llamanzares of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, Aquino’s first cousin Bam Aquino (Kaya Natin) and former Rep. Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan).
Escudero used to be with NPC, but cut ties with Cojuangco at the height of the May 2010 campaign. He backed out of the presidential race then but has been in good terms with the tycoon once again.
“These are the 11 names that most likely will be included in the official Magic 12,” the source hinted.
MANILA, Philippines - Senators and congressmen have received a total of P15.244 billion in pork barrel funds for this year.
The amount so far released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is about 60 percent of the P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the 2012 national budget.
The PDAF, the official name of the congressional pork barrel, allocates P200 million for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.
A DBM report showed that as of yesterday, a total of P12.582 billion has been released to House members – P10.078 billion for those elected from legislative districts and P2.504 billion for those representing party-list groups.
On the other hand, releases to senators totaled P2.662 billion. The P15.244 billion does not include releases to senators and congressmen from the PDAF lump sum in the 2011 budget.
PDAF allocations are good for two years.
According to the DBM report, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has already received his full-year 2012 allocation of P200 million.
Others with the biggest releases for this year are Antonio Trillanes IV, P189.6 million; Teofisto Guingona III, P187.4 million; Miriam Defensor-Santiago, P180 million; Juan Ponce Enrile, P162 million; and Pia Cayetano, P131 million.
The other senators and the amount of 2012 pork barrel funds they have so far used are Loren Legarda, P124 million; Ralph Recto, P121.9 million; Lito Lapid, P120.1 million; Jinggoy Estrada, Francis Escudero, Ramon Revilla Jr., Gregorio Honasan, and Manuel Villar Jr., P100 million each; Ferdinand Marcos Jr., P99.9 million; Edgardo Angara, P85 million; Alan Peter Cayetano, P50 million; Franklin Drilon, P40.2 million.
Francis Pangilinan received the smallest amount for this year of P4.6 million. However, he availed himself of P32 million from his 2011 PDAF allocation.
Others with 2011 releases are Pia Cayetano, P127 million; Drilon, P77.3 million; Alan Peter Cayetano, P66.5 million; Enrile, P4 million; Escudero, P1 million; Guingona, P37 million; Legarda, P11.1 million; and Trillanes, P53.6 million.
In terms of 2012 and 2011 totals, Pia Cayetano is the biggest recipient with P258 million, followed by Trillanes with P243.2 million and Guingona with P224.4 million.
There is no showing that PDAF funds for this year have been released to Serge Osmeña III and Aquilino Pimentel III.
However, the DBM report shows that Pimentel has received P59 million out of his 2011 PDAF, while Osmeña has received P2.3 million.
Senators Joker Arroyo and Panfilo Lacson are not included in the report because they had not been availing themselves of their annual P200-million allocation since after their election to the Senate 11 years ago.
Six senators are seeking reelection in the May 2013 elections. They are Alan Peter Cayetano, Escudero, Honasan, Legarda, Pimentel, and Trillanes.
Among House members, ironically, the biggest recipient is opposition Rep. Amelita Villarosa of Mindoro Occidental, who has received P66.3 million.
Her boss in the opposition bloc, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, and Martin Romualdez of Leyte have availed themselves of their half-year allocation of P35 million.
Villarosa, Suarez and Romualdez were among the favorite congressional companions of Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whenever she traveled abroad during her nine-year presidency.
Among House leaders, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II have received P35 million each.
UNA first to file candidacies but only 8 showed up
By Tarra Quismundo, Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:14 am | Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
All the festive hoopla of a street party could very well be a plus for the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Monday as it officially fielded its candidates in the Senate race next year, except they were minus one in the effort.
Businessman Joey de Venecia pulled out at the last minute from the coalition slate, although this hardly reflected on the excitement outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).
UNA’s “B 3”—Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—led eight senatorial contenders in filing their COCs, unfazed by a last-minute glitch in its lineup.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Representatives Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr. and Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, former Senators Ernesto Maceda, Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon, and former Tarlac Gov. Tingting Cojuangco filed their COCs past 1 p.m. in a carnival atmosphere in the heart of Intramuros.
Three candidates whom UNA shared with the ruling coalition—Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda, and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairperson Grace Poe Llamanzares—did not appear for the filing.
That the three candidates, who are also guest candidates of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) coalition, were absent and the slate lost its 12th member, De Venecia, just hours earlier did not seem to matter as UNA gave a preview of how its rallies would be come campaign season next year: loud and upbeat in the colors of orange and blue.
Life will be good
The eight-candidate slate, along with Binay, Estrada and Enrile, first assembled at the Manila Hotel before noon and rode together to the Comelec aboard a violet Binay coaster shortly.
Within minutes, the fast-moving convoy arrived at the main Comelec office to the cheers of hundreds of supporters. Competing beats filled the air: a drum and bugle band played Binay’s 2010 campaign theme “Kay Binay, Gaganda ang Buhay (With Binay, life will be good),” while an Ati-Atihan ensemble and even a dragon dance group thumped their traditional beats.
“It’s a very light, jovial mood. We are very confident of having a formidable team and a very good chance of taking most of the seats in the 2013 elections,” Ejercito, Estrada’s son, said in an interview.
“I am confident now that our big three are here. With these people behind us, the support is already there, it gives us courage and a morale boost,” Ejercito told reporters.
Supporters from Valenzuela, San Juan, Olongapo City and Makati City, among others, occupied the street across the Comelec office, holding up placards and chanting the names of their candidates. Curiously, while different groups shouted names of their respective candidates, none chanted the coalition’s name.
Apart from posters and banners traditionally seen in campaigns, some candidates found unique ways of getting their names out there.
Magsaysay went beyond the printed matter and deployed walking ads —an advertising medium one would usually see promoting consumer products.
Legarda did not join the UNA group but made her presence felt with Ati-Atihan dancers who carried placards that spelled her name. She filed her COC separately, when the UNA group had already left. She later visited Binay at his office at the Coconut Palace.
Ahead of the campaign period, Ejercito said he hoped campaigns of both UNA and the ruling coalition would not stray from issues that mattered to the public.
“I’m just hoping that the campaign will be high level, based on the platform and track record,” Ejercito said.
“Besides, we’re not really what you would call a real opposition, unlike during the time of GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). We’re just presenting ourselves as alternatives for the people,” he said.
No-shows irk Binay
The absence of Legarda, Escudero and Llamanzares did not sit well with Binay, leader of the UNA coalition of his PDP-Laban and Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
“What shall be done and shall not be done must also apply with UNA [and vice versa],” Binay told reporters.
“If they will join the [rallies] of the Liberal Party, they should also join us or else we might as well part ways,” Binay said, stressing “fair is fair.”
For her part, Legarda said she had not heard Binay say anything about UNA’s withdrawal of support should she appear in the LP rallies.
“The Vice President knows that the President invited me personally to be in the LP slate because the NPC and the LP have a partnership. It was all done with transparency with the Vice President and former President Estrada as well,” Legarda said in an interview with reporters after filing her COC at the Comelec.
She added that Mr. Aquino also knew that she was first invited by UNA as guest candidate when he asked her to join the LP slate. Next week, other parties would also adopt her as guest candidate, she disclosed.
“[Being a common candidate] is a happy but delicate situation,” she said. “But it reflects on the winnability of the candidate.”
When asked which political party would she join come the election campaign period, she safely answered, “I will go where the Filipino people are.”