UNA: Bets free to hit Team PNoyBy Gil Cabacungan, Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) are free to criticize the Aquino administration in their campaign sorties, according to coalition secretary general Rep. Toby Tiangco.
Tiangco made the statement amid criticism from Liberal Party officials who said that UNA did not want to distance itself from the popular President as this could hurt its chances at the polls. The LP has also accused UNA of confusing the public by claiming to support the President.
Tiangco said UNA was committed to being a “constructive opposition,” one that would not hesitate to provide support when it’s due and criticize when it’s warranted.
“Candidates can go out there, with no directives that they cannot criticize anyone. They know the party stand. It’s up to them what they want to say on stage to convince the people to vote for them,” Tiangco told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
The only restriction for the UNA candidates is the seven-minute limit for their speeches during the coalition’s proclamation rally in Cebu on Tuesday, Tiangco said.
Based on the latest survey, the UNA and the administration’s Team PNoy candidates are in a close race for the 12 Senate seats.
UNA and Team PNoy each have five candidates in the top 12, aside from two of their common candidates, Sen. Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda.
The UNA candidates in the top 12 are Nancy Binay, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Jack Ponce Enrile, former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Gringo Honasan.
From the LP coalition, those in the top 12 are Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.
Meanwhile, UNA senatorial bets were quick to slam Sen. Franklin Drilon for painting their team as opposed to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.
Drilon on Sunday said a vote for President Aquino’s senatorial candidates was a vote for permanent peace in Mindanao, appearing to transform the elections into a proxy vote for the ratification of the framework agreement in the next Congress.
“It is important for PNoy (President Aquino) that his allies, his handpicked candidates in Team PNoy, would be voted into the Senate because they will push for his policies on peace in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” said Drilon in an interview over dzBB radio.
“Who does not want peace in Mindanao? I am in favor of the Bangsamoro framework agreement, but that is a work in progress. That is not the end-all and be-all of these elections,” said Honasan, a reelectionist, in a phone interview.
Ejercito said Drilon was “misguided” in simplifying the election into just one issue. “We all want peace but can we have peace without solving poverty which is the root cause of this long-running rebellion? Peace cannot be achieved by a mere agreement; there will be no peace if poverty persists,” said Ejercito. “They want development in Mindanao but have they addressed the power crisis in that region? How can there be progress if electricity is expensive and supply is unreliable?”