UNA relaxes rule to draft Legarda, LlamanzaresBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Monday confirmed the inclusion of Senator Loren Legarda and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chair Grace Poe Llamanzares as part of their senatorial slate for the May 2013 elections.
“Senator Loren Legarda has accepted the invitation of the Executive Committee of the United Nationalist Alliance or UNA to be a guest candidate for the 2013 senatorial elections,” Vice President Jejomar Binay announced in an UNA press conference held at the Coconut Palace Monday afternoon.
UNA is the new coalition formed between Binay’s PDP-Laban and former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
Binay added that Legarda would be running under her party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). He said that the members of the UNA executive committee, composed of Binay, Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, were unanimous in their decision to invite Legarda.
Binay added that among those who have joined the slate are Senators Gregorio Honasan, San Juan Representative JV Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Juan Ponce-Enrile Jr., former senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ernesto Maceda and Richard Gordon, Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos’ Magsaysay and businessman Joey de Venecia.
Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia was supposed to be included in the lineup but it had been reported that she had decided to run for a congressional post.
Binay said that while Legarda was the ninth confirmed senator for the slate, the candidates for the three remaining slots were 90-95 percent sure to be included in the slate.
“We’re almost complete as there are only three more candidates to be confirmed,” Binay added.
However, when pressed by reporters, Binay himself confirmed that based on Estrada’s information, Grace Poe Llamanzares, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., has been included in the slate.
When asked about how UNA’s policy involving guest candidates and common candidates would affect the adoption of Llamanzares and how she would be campaigning with UNA, Estrada emphasized that the MTRCB chief was a special case.
“Grace is an exemption to the rule. We all know that her father was cheated in the presidential elections. If Grace Poe would be willing to campaign with us, why not? We will accept her. She is most welcome,” Estrada said.
Estrada added that he and Binay had already talked with Llamanzares and the latter was “very appreciative of that.”
Binay, in a later interview, clarified that UNA had already retracted its policy against accepting “common” candidates. He also noted how Estrada served as a best friend to Poe’s father.
“This is an instance when we do not expect her to be with us during our activities but it’s better that Grace will join us in our campaign,” Binay said.
When asked about the remaining slots, Binay said, “Two slots are still vacant. One of the candidates is currently discussing his plan with his family. About the other contender we want to know first if this person would be a major candidate of a rival party or UNA,” he said.
When pressed by reporters, Binay said that his second statement was in reference to Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
Meanwhile, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao was also at the press conference to announce that he has been drafted as UNA’s official candidate for Sarangani representative.
Enrile, for his part, emphasized that UNA was not an obstructionist opposition but an alternative one who demonstrated how democracy is alive in the country.
Enrile said the party respected the present administration and believed that candidates of UNA were a “mixture of experience and youth” that would provide a “fresh approach” to the problems of the country.
Estrada, in a separate interview, noted how their party would not adhere to mudslinging during the campaign period.
Asked if they expected the other party to do the same, Estrada said: “It’s up to them. We cannot dictate what they would do. We will not resort to smear campaign, no calling names. Unlike their candidate who dished out harsh words like ‘traitor,’ ‘lackey’ we will not going to do that. We will be above that,” Estrada said.
Binay added that UNA candidates would be filing their certificates of candidacies on October 1 at 1 p.m.