Malacañang on Monday shrugged off criticism that President Benigno Aquino III had started campaigning when he endorsed two possible senatorial candidates in the 2013 elections during an out-of-town trip on Sunday.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said there was no premature campaigning when Mr. Aquino told the people in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, how good Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Chief Joel Villanueva were in serving the government and for them not to forget the pair next year—apparently referring to the midterm polls.
The President also said he needed them to help him govern the country.
“He’s just proud to have them,’’ Lacierda said of Angara and Villanueva, who are among those being eyed as senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party headed by Mr. Aquino.
“There is no premature campaigning because nobody has filed a certificate of candidacy. So we don’t know if they have already also evinced their desire to run,” Lacierda said, referring to both Angara and Villanueva.
Both Angara and Villanueva welcomed Mr. Aquino’s endorsement but said they had yet to make up their minds about joining the Senate race.
As this developed, progressive allies of the President are wary of the LP’s plan to forge an alliance with Senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party for the 2013 elections.
“A coalition must be built on common principles and stands. If a coalition with the NP is built on common principles and stands on issues, then I am willing to give the matter some thought. If it is purely for electoral convenience, then I would definitely oppose it. We need to evolve beyond such alliances of convenience,” said Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello in a text message.
LP leaders confirmed they had initiated talks with the NP to get Villar’s wife, former Las Piñas Representative Cynthia Villar, and reelectionist Senator Alan Peter Cayetano included in the LP’s coalition list for 2013.
The LP is playing catch-up to Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada who have already formed the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition for the 2013 and 2016 elections.
Harvey Keh, lead convenor of the civil society group Kaya Natin, said the President should go for “new faces, new names” in the 2013 elections such as former Akbayan party-list Representative Riza Hontiveros (who lost in the 2010 senatorial race), the President’s cousin Bam Aquino, former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca and Quezon Representative and LP spokesperson Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III.
“We understand that this planned coalition is a reality of politics. But we would like to see and hope that the NP also embraces the reform agenda of the LP. It should support the ‘daang matuwid’ and stand for full transparency. There is no use coalescing if the allies will not live up to what this administration stands for,” said Keh.