MANILA, Philippines—Three reelectionist senators from Team PNoy have become the first targets of the black propaganda machines revving up for combat as the campaign for the 2013 elections begins on Tuesday.
First were texts linking Sen. Francis Escudero to alleged irregularities in various government offices, the consequence of which was his supposed estrangement from a Liberal Party (LP) colleague.
Two successive messages accuse Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Loren Legarda of filing separate bills seeking to reduce the retirement benefits of various government employees.
Escudero’s attitude has been to ignore and not respond when the messages began circulating during the Christmas holidays.
Trillanes’ media office e-mailed a press statement to reporters denying the allegations.
Legarda delivered a privilege speech on Wednesday night denouncing her detractors whom she would not name.
The senator said text messages attacking her usually circulated whenever she registered as No. 1 in the candidate preference surveys.
Observers noted that the three senators are all in the ruling LP’s lineup of candidates.
At the Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday, the LP campaign manager, Sen. Frank Drilon, blamed the opposition for the low blows, which he said were “not surprising.” He said the targets of the attacks should just ignore them.
The messages were obviously “part of the propaganda machine of the opposition,” he said.
Addressing reporters, Drilon said: “I hope you as a responsible media will not give credence to this kind of black propaganda.”
He said the ruling party, which has scheduled its proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda in Manila, would sustain a campaign “on a high level” during the campaign season, starting Feb. 12.
Legarda, who has never gone “ballistic” in a privilege speech, was livid on Wednesday night.
She said “individuals with ill motives” were behind the “negative, vicious and black propaganda text messages” that she said were “spread within several government institutions.”
“This information is totally false and fabricated… No legislator will introduce such a bill which would diminish the salaries and benefits of our personnel in government institutions that provide services critical to public safety and order,” she said.
Observers also noted that it would have been impractical for Legarda or any other senator to file a bill in the final session days.
Since Congress will be on recess until June, there would be no chance for such a bill to go through the legislative process and be approved on second and third readings on the two session days of that month.
Legarda said it was ironic that political pranksters targeted her when she had filed a bill seeking to increase the combat duty pay of all enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces by 25 percent of their base pay. Legarda is a reserved officer of the Armed Forces.
Trillanes denied the “malicious” text messages circulating in military and police camps, tagging him as a key sponsor of a bill that would substantially cut back the retirement benefits of police and military personnel through a supposed “PNP/AFP Retirement Bill.”
“This is obviously a black propaganda (sic) orchestrated by my political enemies. For the record, there is no such bill filed by this senator existing in the legislative index of the Senate or would I have advocated for such bill,” he said.
A former Navy lieutenant, Trillanes said he has always been supportive of any cause to uplift the conditions of the men and women in uniform.