Campaign period in full swing

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Senatorial candidates from both the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and Liberal Party (LP) wooed voters Tuesday in Cebu City and Manila, respectively, as the 90-day election period for the national posts officially started.

All nine candidates running under UNA, except its three guest candidates, kicked off their sorties in Cebu with a mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral around 7 a.m. Tuesday before going on a motorcade to the northern and southern towns of Cebu.

In Manila, 12 candidates under LP’s Team PNoy showed up, including the three guest candidates of both parties -- Senators Loren Legarda and Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

President Benigno Aquino III led Tuesday the opening salvo of Team PNoy – a coalition of political parties, including the ruling LP -- at Plaza Miranda Tuesday afternoon. He is also expected to join the other sorties of the administration slate.

Video by Jay Ann Clamohoy of Sunnex

Running under Team PNoy are reelectionist Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, and Antonio Trillanes; Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, former Las Pinas representative Cynthia Villar, former senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal, former party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros and presidential cousin Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV.

Under UNA's line-up, on the other hand, are Senator Gregorio Honasan II, Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay, San Juan City Representative JV Ejercito, Cagayan Representative Jack Enrile, former senator Ernesto Maceda, former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, former senator Richard Gordon, former Tarlac governor Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, and Nancy Binay.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and former President Joseph Estrada led UNA's proclamation rally at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. The rally started around 5 p.m. and is expected to end around 10 p.m.

UNA, a coalition of Binay's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), called itself a "constructive opposition" that seeks to further improve the programs of the Aquino administration.

Cebu’s 2.5 million votes

Local candidates, particularly those allied with the One Cebu Party headed by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia were present to show their support to the UNA senatorial bets.

“I think we have proven in the past that with the candidates that we support, especially the senatorial slate in 2007, Cebu lang ang nakadeliver ng most number of senators for Team Unity (administration-backed senatorial slate in 2007), the fact that they practically faced a massacre in the national scene,” Garcia said.

Cebu has 2.5 million registered voters for the May 13 midterm elections, the biggest among provinces in the Philippines.

The province delivered the key votes for the election of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004, while then Senator Benigno Aquino III received nearly a million votes in the 2010 presidential polls despite lack of support from the island's major political players.

Garcia also said the reason why UNA chose to start its campaign in Cebu instead of other parts in the country is it is where the “stirrings of nationhood first started” when a local chieftain vanquished Magellan.

Garcia added that while she opposes her suspension, it gave her the chance to campaign hard for UNA. Garcia has been suspended for six months by the Office of the President for grave abuse of authority.

Vice President Binay, for his part, said UNA chose Cebu to show that it is no elitist.

12-0 ‘punch at the moon’

He admitted Tuesday, however, that neither the UNA nor the LP-led coalition will get a 12-0 sweep of the senatorial elections in May, even if his bold prediction may ire some of his coalition members.

“My candidates might think that I’m already conceding defeat for them. All of us are dreaming that all our candidates will win. But we have to face the glaring reality that 12-0 is a punch at the moon for any party,” he said.

No political party has swept the senatorial elections since the 1955 midterm polls, when the Nacionalista Party won all eight seats largely attributed to the popularity of then President Ramon Magsaysay.

In calling for the public to vote for Team PNoy, LP campaign manager Senator Franklin Drilon said last week the administration senatorial slate will make sure that President Aquino III’s reform agenda will continue in his last three years in office.

UNA, in response, said Drilon may only be “daydreaming and hallucinating.”

"If they use force and intimidation over local government officials, then it is most likely that elections may be influenced. They may resort to tactics and strategies to ensure that local leaders will toe the party line. It is a big possibility," said UNA spokesperson JV Bautista.

Meantime, Binay shrugged off LP insinuations that UNA is pretending to be supporters of the popular President Aquino.

“We’ve never been pretenders. I fought the dictatorship of President (Ferdinand) Marcos? Did I pretend in any way? I don’t know where that accusation is coming from. I am part of President Aquino’s Cabinet and I fully support the programs of the President,” he said in a separate interview Tuesday. (BJA/Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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