MANILA, Philippines—Deposed president and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada assailed the Liberal Party declaration that it would not allow its “common” candidates with the rival United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to join the campaign sorties of the UNA.
Estrada, a senior UNA leader, said this amounted to a virtual “ban” being imposed on Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, and Grace Poe-Llamanzares who have been drafted candidates on both the ruling LP and the UNA senatorial tickets.
“They’re running scared,” Estrada, 75, said of the administration coalition. “They know that the results of the 2013 elections would reflect their chances in 2016,” he said.
Estrada said he was initially adamant against allowing so-called “common” candidates to join LP sorties. But he said he eventually reconsidered and even allowed Escudero, Legarda and Llamanzares to give “priority” to the LP.
“They are the priority, that’s ok with us. But why can’t they be allowed to join our campaign if there’s no schedule with LP?” he said in Filipino.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, the acting LP president, has reminded Escudero, Legarda and Llamanzares about the ruling party’s standing policy against campaigning with the UNA.
UNA should clarify
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, an LP member, said the UNA “cannot have the best of both worlds.” He said the UNA should clarify once and for all whether it was “fully supportive of President Aquino or has taken the role of the so-called united opposition that stands in the way of his daang matuwid reform agenda.”
“The UNA cannot straddle two horses by foisting the grand deception upon our voters that it remains fully supportive of President Aquino’s program while undermining his daang matuwid agenda with its leaders’ incessant attacks on his reform programs,” he said in a statement.
Evardone warned that UNA candidates were “heading for poll defeat should they follow their leaders in going opposition at this time when an overwhelming majority of Filipinos appreciate—and are beginning to reap benefits from—the reform program of President Aquino.”
LP ban ‘too harsh’
UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said on Tuesday that Abaya’s statement seemed to deviate from the party’s “supposedly caring and open-minded” image, describing the LP ban as “too harsh and unkind.”
“I’m not sure if Secretary Abaya is aware of his pronouncements. He is actually putting President Aquino on the spot. Abaya’s cold-hearted statement is putting the President in a bad light,” he said.
But the rival political coalitions apparently have more serious conflicts than just the issue of sharing their “common” candidates during the campaign.
Estrada accused the administration of pressuring incumbent UNA officials to help ensure its victory in the May elections and, ultimately, in the 2016 presidential derby. He cited the case of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who was suspended by Aquino for six months for allegedly usurping the authority of her late vice governor.
Appointed to replace Garcia in the meantime is Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, the sister of one of the President’s closest friends, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.
“Talagang iniipit” [They are really squeezing us],” Estrada complained.
Up to 3 common candidates
Tiangco said UNA was leaving it up the three “common” candidates whether to join UNA sorties in the face of the LP ban.
“We treat them as guests and we accord them the respect and hospitality that must be due them,” he said.
Tiangco said the three “common” candidates had a “stronger bond and solid affinity with the UNA,” which is led by Estrada, Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, than with the LP.
He also sought to remind the LP that the UNA ticket was faring better in the surveys of candidates likely to win in the May elections.