Admin, opposition start Senate bid

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Candidates for senator from both the Liberal Party’s (LP) Team PNoy and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) started wooing voters Tuesday, as the 90-day election period for the national posts kicked off.

In Cebu, all candidates running under UNA, except its three guest candidates -- Senators Loren Legarda and Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Grace Poe-Llamanzares -- started their sorties 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.

UNA’s “three kings” -- Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and former President Joseph Estrada – led the party’s proclamation rally at the Plaza Independencia that started around 5 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.

In Manila, Team PNoy -- a coalition of political parties, including the ruling LP -- held its proclamation rally in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, also on Tuesday afternoon. President Benigno Aquino III led the team, which was also joined by Senators Legarda and Escudero, as well as Poe-Llamanzares.

President Aquino, in his speech at Plaza Miranda on Tuesday, criticized UNA and the Arroyo administration.

He said Filipinos should not forget the controversies that hounded the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which involved also her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Among the controversies were the fertilizer fund scam, the NBN-ZTE deal, the Hello Garci scandal, purchase of second-hand choppers, and the over importation of rice.

The President also cited the midnight appointment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was later removed from his post following a lengthy impeachment trial in the Senate.

These controversies, he said, would not be allowed by the Team PNoy senatorial candidates if they win in the May midterm elections.

"Ayaw nilang manaig ang tuwid na daan. Ang balak nila: ang imaniobra muli ang pamahalaan pabalik sa lumang sistema. Ngayong gabi, malinaw kung nasaan ang panig ng labindalawang kasama natin sa entablado," Aquino said.

He also said that he will not be able to pursue reforms alone and he needs the 12 candidates of Team PNoy to help him in his agenda.

“May ilang nagsasabi na nilalabanan ang katiwalian, kung ganon bakit niyo kakampi ngayon ang nakinabang sa nakaraang administrasyon?” Aquino said, supposedly referring to the party of Vice President Binay and former President Estrada.

UNA is carrying allies and former supporters of former President Arroyo.

The UNA candidates in Cebu, meanwhile, also hit the Aquino administration for its policies, including the distribution of conditional cash transfers, instead of using the amount to create jobs.

Senate President Enrile, whose son Jack is running for the Senate, also accused the Aquino administration of raising cigarette and liquor taxes in order to distribute condoms all over the country.

“Babaguhin nating lahat yan kapag UNA ang umupo sa Senado (We will change all that once UNA sits in the Senate),” said Enrile.

Vice President Binay and former President Estrada also recalled that they, too, suffered the same situation suspended Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is going through.

Garcia, who attended UNA’s rally, has been suspended by the Office of the President for grave abuse of authority.

Binay referred to his suspension when he was mayor of Makati in 2006, while Estrada recalled his ouster at the height of an impeachment trial in January 2001.

“Pinagtulungan din ako nila noon (They also ganged up on me),” said Estrada, who served time until then President Arroyo pardoned him.

Binay said the candidates also recognize that their real enemies are not political rivals, but joblessness, hunger and abject poverty.

UNA’s proclamation rally Tuesday was also attended by One Cebu and Team Rama’s bigwigs, as well as show business personalities like the Gutierrezes, among others.

Thousands turned up in both events -- LP and UNA rallies – Tuesday evening. Police in Manila and Cebu reported no untoward incidents.

Senate candidates from both parties took turns promising scholarships and feeding centers, more jobs and “a new brand of politics.”

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.

UNA and Team PNoy both urged the people on Tuesday to vote straight, but Vice President Binay admitted that neither his party not the LP-led coalition will get a 12-0 sweep of the senatorial elections in May.

“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. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/BJA/JGA/OCP/DSM/Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)

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