MANILA, Philippines – Can the three candidates common to the senatorial tickets of “Team PNoy” and the United Nationalist Alliance show up at two proclamation rallies some 570 kilometers apart?
That appears to be the predicament confronting Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, and Grace Poe-Llamazares, who are all running on the each of the two competing senatorial tickets in the May elections.
The problem is Team PNoy will hold its proclamation rally in Manila, while UNA will kick off its own campaign in Cebu on the same day, February 12, the official start of the campaign period.
The venues are exactly 571.96 kilometers apart, a distance that would be too much to cover for the three common senatorial candidates on the same day, Navotas Representative Tobias Tiangco, UNA campaign manager, admitted.
“We’re not saying that they should only join us,” he said in Filipino in an interview Friday night. “But I don’t know how they would do it—fly from Manila to Cebu or from Cebu to Manila. That would be the problem.”
Tiangco said he had written Escudero, Legarda, and Llamanzares separately to formally invite them to the UNA proclamation rally in Cebu, a site personally picked by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
He said he would meet with each of the three candidates by next week to convince them to go. He said Escudero had agreed to meet up, while Legarda told him to get in touch with her secretary.
“I really want to talk to them because I want to appeal for equal treatment,” Tiangco said.
“Equal treatment,” he said, meant that the three common candidates would campaign with both UNA and Team PNoy. How they would do it would depend on the schedule of both tickets, he said.
“They didn’t become common candidates without us talking to them. There was an agreement and the agreement was equal treatment. That’s what we are asking for,” he said.
But unlike UNA, Team PNoy is not willing to share the trio.
Earlier this week, House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, spokesperson of President Aquino’s Liberal Party, slammed the door on the possibility of the three common bets climbing the campaign stage of UNA or appearing on its campaign ads.
“Wala eh,” Tañada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when asked what was left for the three candidates to do with UNA. At most, he said, they could have their names appear on UNA’s campaign materials.
“Yes, and I think that was made clear before the President came out with the official list. In their talk with the President, it was clear,” he added.
Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo, another LP member, refused to call the “agreement” a ban and phrased it differently.
“It’s not a matter of someone being prevented [to campaign with UNA] or not,” he said in a previous press briefing. “But we do know that we have been informed that there was a specific agreement among adults, among mature political leaders, that we need to be consistent on the message—the message of ‘tuwid na daan.’”
Tiangco maintained that the three common candidates were more identified with UNA than with the administration.
Llamanzares is the daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr., whose running-mate in the 2004 presidential election was Legarda. Poe’s campaign manager then was Binay while his campaign spokesperson was Escudero.
“Paano mo sasabihin na yung puso nung tatlo nasa kabila?” Tiangco asked.
In jest, he said the term “liberal” did not fit the attitude of the administration about sharing the common candidates.
“The name of their party is a misnomer. If you’re a Liberal, you’re supposed to be liberal-minded. But how come you are very strict about your candidates?” he said.