DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines—President Aquino on Tuesday called for a referendum of sorts on his leadership style, as he made a pitch for the Liberal Party-led administration candidates running for elective posts across the country.
His decision to put his presidency on the line, as it were, kicked off the political season ahead of the Feb. 12 start of the three-month campaign period, and may have set the tone for the 2013 midterm elections.
In a speech in Filipino at a political rally here, the President said the people, through the ballot, were the ones who should answer these crucial questions in the coming May polls.
“Just like in 2010, the Filipino is asked to vote again, and choose the path they’d like to tread: should we continue the journey along the straight path—marked by heroism—to help each other succeed? Or should we turn around and go back to the old route where the culture of greed prevails, and everyone looks after himself?” said the President.
Aquino then explained that he had “personally scrutinized and handpicked” 12 candidates for the Senate based on the principles they stood for.
“One of them is with us,” he said, introducing Risa Hontiveros.
She was the only senatorial candidate running on “Team PNoy” slate who showed up at the Amando Amatong Civic Center of the Andres Bonifacio College here for a rally described by the LP as Aquino’s “meeting with local leaders and the community.”
“We trust that they (LP slate) will serve not to break the law and have a firm grip on power but instead serve the nation faithfully and efficiently. I myself am telling you: At Team PNoy, the people are the Boss, and only selfless service is acceptable in straight path. We will not allow (in LP’s midst) the conceited, the (political) riders, and the pretenders,” said Aquino.
The President traveled to two key cities in vote-rich Davao region and also in Zamboanga del Norte to consolidate support for local LP candidates, besides campaigning for the LP senatorial slate.
In Zamboanga del Norte, which has close to 600,000 voters, LP candidates seemed to be the underdog here as LP’s rival, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), holds the most number of elective posts, including the governor and congressional positions.
The President first addressed the 2013 Philippine Development Forum in Davao City at 11 a.m. before flying to Dipolog City for the inauguration of a new building for the Graduate and Professional Schools of the Andres Bonifacio College.
Dipolog is the gateway to Western Mindanao region.
In Dipolog, the President met with the city’s mayor, Evelyn T. Uy; Zamboanga del Norte Representative Rosendo Labadlabad; former Dipolog Mayor Roberto Uy, the Liberal Party gubernatorial candidate; and Isagani Amatong, a former governor running for the province’s third congressional district.
Accompanying the President was Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the president-on-leave of LP who is being groomed to become the administration standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential race.
In a brief program after the unveiling of the graduate school marker, Amatong twice acknowledged Roxas as “the next president.”
The latter returned the favor with a pained smile.
In his speech, Aquino told students and teachers to support his administration candidates “if you want change to continue.”
“The electorate will answer this in the coming May (polls). My challenge to all of you, especially the youths, is to get involved and take part in ensuring fair and honest elections,” said Aquino.
The President noted that he was already midway into his term come election day, thus telling the crowds—if they thought his administration was doing the right thing—“to give us (new) allies, so that solving the problems left to us (by our predecessors) would be easy.”
“But if you think we’re doing it the wrong way, then give us opponents to correct our mistakes,” said Aquino, but stressed that compared to the past, the new dispensation has been trying to give opportunity for all.
He claimed that the rule of law and justice has been prevailing in the country, and thanked the people for “giving me the chance to correct” the societal maladies prevalent in the past administrations.
The second event—also held in the same campus—had all the appearance of a political rally: a giant tarpaulin at the stage welcoming Aquino, yellow-clad crowds sporting LP’s color, yellow ribbons, political leaders gathered under one roof, and an energetic crowd willing to applaud the speakers at the drop of a hat.
By all indications, this gathering was intended to boost the chances of local and national officials running under the LP-led coalition, allowing them to hobnob with the President and, supposedly, members of the LP slate.
But Hontiveros had a captive audience since the other members of “Team PNoy” were no-shows, apparently spooked by warnings against premature campaigning.
Although the commander-in-chief was in town, the province’ highest elected official was noticeably absent: Zamboanga del Norte Governor Rolando Yebes, who is running as congressman for second district under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Yebes is allied with the Jalosjos political clan whose members are running under UNA.
Representative Cesar Jalosjos (3rd district), a brother of convicted Representative Romeo Jalosjos, is running for governor, while his running mate is the incumbent Vice Mayor of Dapitan, Patri Chan.
Their ally, former Piñan Mayor Cecilia Carreon, is running for mayor of Dipolog.
For the congressional races in Zamboanga del Norte, UNA is fielding Seth Frederick Pal Jalosjos (first district), Governor Yebes (2nd district), and board member Johanna Parreño (third district).
LP is fielding Roberto Uy, former mayor of Dipolog, as governor. His running mate is Dipolog Vice Mayor Senen Angeles.
For the congressional races, the administration candidates are: lawyer Vicente Balisado (first district), reelectionist Rep. Rosendo Labadlabad (2nd district) and lawyer Isagani Amatong, a former governor (3rd district).
Amatong is a trustee of the college founded by his late father, Amando Amatong.
The two other Jalosjos—Romeo and Dominador—have been disqualified from seeking elective posts in Zamboanga del Sur. Dominador had wanted to run for governor, while Romeo had filed for candidacy as mayor of Zamboanga City.