Senate race: What’s the difference?By Norman Bordadora, Michael Lim Ubac Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
What “us” against “them”?
Although there are two major coalitions that will contest national and local offices in next year’s midterm elections, both support the administration of President Aquino.
So, Sen. Gregorio Honasan said Tuesday, the President’s subalterns in the Liberal Party (LP) should quit talking as if the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) were an opposition group out to grab power from the Aquino administration.
UNA, though formed to serve as infrastructure for Vice President Jejomar Binay’s campaign for Malacañang in 2016, is not really an opposition group.
Binay is a member of the Cabinet and UNA’s two other leaders, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, are supporters of President Aquino and his campaign against corruption and poverty.
UNA should not be seen as the villain in President Aquino’s campaign for good government, said Honasan, who is running for reelection with UNA.
“I am convinced that UNA is not the enemy of the President,” Honasan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.
The “permanent enemies” of the President, the administration coalition, and UNA, Honasan said, are poverty, hunger and ignorance.
But, citing “recent developments,” Honasan added “too much partisan politics” to that list.
Honasan was referring to President Aquino’s remarks at the proclamation of his administration’s senatorial candidates in Mandaluyong City on Monday.
Pursuing his campaign theme of “following the straight path,” Mr. Aquino said that since his coalition’s candidates were already on the right path, those running against them, among whom were “characters” too critical of his presidency, could not be on the same path, referring to the UNA candidates.
Honasan said he did not believe the President meant to disparage the UNA candidates, but spoke only “in the context of promoting” his administration’s candidates.
“I’m not referring to the President, but there are those who pass themselves off as competent, all-knowing and clean, but who are not and who are talking too much,” Honasan said.
“To me, no one really cares what they think,” Honasan said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, an LP leader and close ally of the President, said Mr. Aquino did not mean to demonize the UNA candidates, but frame “the theme that should define” the administration coalition.
“It is both his privilege and his obligation as titular head of the coalition,” Abad said.
“He started the way he did to remind people why and how his administration came to power: he was put into power by an administration hungry for justice, food and jobs,” Abad said.
“He was clear as he was emphatic about the nature and direction of his coalition: a people-empowered government in the service of its people, especially those in the margins,” Abad said.
“His ending was, for me, a challenge to UNA to define itself in relation to such characterization,” Abad said. “If UNA is opposition, what is it that it opposes in the Aquino administration? If it is an alternative, [on] what platform is it presenting itself to our people?”
Can’t see gains
But Honasan said he did not see any gains in clearly delineating the many things that separate the administration coalition and UNA.
“Can you imagine the development potential [that] can be unlocked or accelerated if the President, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who with their combined trust ratings, which will be unbeatable and unassailable, look beyond ’13 and ’16 with vision, statesmanship and combined political will?” Honasan said.
Besides their own candidates, two coalitions have common candidates for the Senate, Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chief Grace Poe-Llamanzares.
UNA secretary general Tobias Tiangco said the senatorial election should be a contest among candidates pushing similar reforms, not a battle between bitter enemies.
“The United Nationalist Alliance is a coalition of two major political parties whose support for the reform agenda of President Aquino is beyond question,” Tiangco said in a statement released Tuesday.
“UNA should be seen as a partner of the Aquino administration. We are not obstructionist critics. We will support and commend programs and policies that will benefit our people. But we will also point out shortcomings and misguided policies. This we owe to the people,” he said.
Tiangco issued the statement to denounce “political hypocrites who had backed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but are now presenting themselves as reformers” in the ruling coalition.
“There are those in the administration coalition who are attempting to recast themselves as true-blue believers in reform and good governance,” Tiangco said, but without naming names.
“The truth is that these personalities were among the most rabid defenders of Mrs. Arroyo when she was in power, but have found it politically convenient to wear yellow and proclaim themselves as advocates of [the straight path]. These political hypocrites know who they are,” Tiangco said.
Besides Escudero, Legarda and Llamanzares, those running for the Senate on the administration ticket are Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV; former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal; Representatives Juan Edgardo Angara and Cynthia Villar; former party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, and President Aquino’s cousin, Paolo Benigno Aquino.
Running on the UNA ticket besides Honasan and the three common candidates are Representatives Jack Enrile, JV Ejercito and Milagros Magsaysay; former Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri; former Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco; and former Senators Richard Gordon and Ernesto Maceda.
Rep. Teodoro Casiño doesn’t like the lineups in the least. Besides Llamanzares and Paolo Benigno Aquino, the rest are the same, old faces or their children, he said. Is there no one else?
How about Casiño? He is running for a seat in the Senate not with a coalition but only with the Makabayan Party.
“Unfortunately the lineups of the two biggest coalitions give us little choice,” Casiño said. “They are the same names and faces we see, the same people who have dominated Philippine politics for decades.”
Casiño said he would present himself to voters as an “alternative” candidate for the Senate. With a report from Christian Esguerra