TALISAY CITY—President Beningo Aquino led the Liberal Party’s (LP) stepped-up recruitment drive here on Saturday, swearing in 230 new members while his leaders let out the names of 11 “potential” senatorial candidates of the ruling coalition in next year’s midterm polls.
At Natures Village Resort, 13 km north of this city, LP spokesperson Lorenzo Tañada III let fly some surprising new names, including that of Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of the rival PDP-Laban party, and Alan Peter Cayetano, a Nacionalista Party member.
Tañada, interviewed by the Inquirer, said the LP had “no definite senatorial lineup yet” although it had potential candidates, among them, Senators Francis Escudero, Pimentel, Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, Danny Lim, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Tesda head Joel Villanueva and Rep. Sonny Angara.
Earlier, LP president Mar Roxas introduced Tañada himself as a potential LP senatorial bet, along with Risa Hontiveros, whom he jokingly referred to as the party’s “aswang” from Capiz, in reference to the province’s reputation as a haven for supernatural creatures.
When contacted by the Inquirer, Pimentel—whose PDP-Laban, chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay, is a major player together with former president Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) in the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA)—said that “so far, they (LP leaders) have not talked to me.”
Pimentel is reported to be unhappy over the decision of Estrada’s PMP to consider the inclusion in the UNA slate of Juan Miguel Zubiri, against whom Pimentel fought a long electoral protest.
Tañada was quick to add that these were just names “being floated around,” adding that the final decision on a coalition slate would be made by the Liberal Party at the end of June or the first week of July.
At any rate, President Aquino rallied his party troops, calling on them to look to 2016 and beyond to be able to continue his reforms in government.
In his speech, Mr. Aquino noted that “six years isn’t enough for all the needed changes to take place.” He said his administration had made gains in the fight against corruption.
“There are groups that we are talking to and they are asking questions. First, how can we be sure that the things happening now would continue even after I step down in 2016?”
Mr. Aquino said following the oath-taking of the new LP members.
“The second one I’m being asked is whether I am preparing someone to continue all these (reforms) because we have to admit… can we fix all of the problems in just six years? For instance, can we have an Air Force with a lot of fighter squadrons in six years,” he said.
The President contrasted his administration with that of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which “imported rice only for the grains to rot in warehouses.” On the other hand, he said, the Department of Agriculture under his term “is on its way to making the country a net exporter of rice next year.”
“Now, of course, it would be sad if we experience this kind of improvement, this kind of change and then return to past practices in the next turn,” he said.
Tañada said the continuation of the reform agenda was the reason the party was “strengthening itself from the ground up.”
Those who took their oath as new LP-Western Visayas members included 134 incumbent elected officials. Many of the new members came from former president Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi party. With a report from TJ Burgonio