90-day senatorial campaign starts Tuesday: Team PNoy banking on Aquino
From speeches to TV adverts, from jingles to slogans, Team PNoy will be trumpeting President Aquino’s accomplishments spurred by his policy of good governance.
Convinced that the May 13 midterm elections are a referendum on his leadership, the President will be personally rooting for the 12 senatorial candidates. People will see more of him on the campaign trail, standing on a flatbed truck, pressing flesh and climbing the stage in his trademark yellow T-shirt.
When he proclaims the candidates at the historic Plaza Miranda tonight, the President will push the envelope by drawing a clear line between Team PNoy and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to ensure a 12-0 sweep. The battle lines will be drawn.
“In this campaign, we will put the President’s capital on the line,” Sen. Franklin Drilon, Team PNoy campaign manager, said in an interview.
The strategy is to highlight the administration’s accomplishments: The 6.6-percent full-year growth in 2012, the preliminary peace deal with Moro rebels, the Senate vote to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona, among other notable ones.
Add to that, the government’s conditional cash transfer program, which is benefiting more than 2 million poor families.
These were proofs that the reforms Aquino has undertaken in the past two and a half years were “bearing fruit,” Drilon said.
“The 6.6-percent growth is attributable to nothing else but confidence in the President due to his unwavering adherence to ‘daang matuwid’ platform,” he added.
“Daang matuwid” was Aquino’s campaign battle cry in 2010; it will be his campaign pitch this time for the Team PNoy candidates, assembled from his own Liberal Party (LP), once rival Nacionalista Party, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban.
This will become evident in the coming weeks—from the speeches to little details, like messages on shirts and baller ID bands.
Aquino himself set the tone in the Team PNoy’s TV advert, where he introduced them as the “tuwid na daan” candidates, and in his speeches, where he framed the midterm elections as a choice between good governance and its opposite.
“The question that we will ask: ‘Are we on the right path? Is the country on the right path in the two years and a half that the President is running the government?’ If we are, then the President is asking the people to support his team,” Drilon said.
By harping on “daang matuwid,” it becomes inevitable then for Team PNoy to draw a sharp contrast with UNA, with whom it shares three “common candidates” and to pose the challenge: What do you have to offer?
Aquino has given strict orders to “draw a clear line” between Team PNoy and UNA. In a recent speech, he warned of “riders” and “pretenders” who turn up in yellow shirts but don’t espouse good governance.
By not attacking the administration, UNA has been accused by Malacañang of riding on the President’s popularity to its own electoral advantage. There has been no response from the UNA stalwarts: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and deposed President Joseph Estrada.
“The President wants to draw a very clear line between Team PNoy and UNA. He considers this a referendum on his first two and a half years,” Drilon said.
To win the campaign, Drilon said the team would have to “clearly present the distinction” between the administration and the opposition.
“We will base this campaign on differentiation between the clear program of this administration and the lack of any program on the part of the opposition. What can they show?” he said.
Clear as black and white
It will be clear as “black and white,” according to the acting LP president, Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, senior political adviser to the President and an LP stalwart, agreed that the distinction would be defined by what the administration stood for: good governance, economic growth and poverty reduction.
“What does UNA have to say about that? As I said the burden of defining themselves rests with UNA,” Abad said.
But won’t that tack affect Grace Poe and Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero who were adopted by UNA, and alienate them from the other ticket?
Drilon was unperturbed.
“These are the administration candidates. That they were adopted by UNA is a decision made by UNA,” he said of the three who had been instructed early on to skip UNA rallies. “We can’t prevent them from adopting our candidates.”
While it claims to run on a platform of good governance, Team PNoy has been hounded by the issue of political dynasty, and so has been UNA.
On the PNoy slate are Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the President’s first cousin; reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, whose sister Pia is also a senator; reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, son of former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.; Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, son of Sen. Edgardo Angara; and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, wife of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.
Rounding out the slate are Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal and former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros.
Good, bad clans
Malacañang has said that the electorate should make a distinction between “good” and “bad” political clans, and vet the candidates themselves.
“We will present them to the people. Ultimately the people will judge whether one is qualified to be in the Senate,” Drilon said.
To criticisms that Aquino’s economic gains did not trickle down to the grassroots, Drilon has a ready answer: “It’s obvious his work is not yet over. He did not promise to solve all the problems in two and a half years.”
Asked if Congress’ failure to approve the freedom of information bill, which seeks to improve transparency in the government, would be raised against Team PNoy, Drilon retorted that the Senate had passed its version, but the House of Representatives did not.
As it tangles with UNA, Team PNoy also has to grapple with a daunting challenge: Getting most of their candidates land in the Top 12 of surveys. With the exception of Poe and Angara, only the incumbent senators have consistently made it to the “winning circle.”
Drilon said: “It’s just a start. It’s a challenge. I’m not worried at this stage.”
Besides, he believed, things could change once Aquino joined the hustings especially in vote-rich provinces, presented each of his “handpicked” candidates and their qualifications before the crowd, and rallied them to vote for the Team PNoy candidates.
“We’re running an administration that has a very high rating, a circumstance which was not necessarily present in the previous campaign,” Drilon said.
“We will explain the platform that we have achieved growth in the past two and a half years.”
Team PNoy is confident that the President’s broad support from many sectors would translate into “support for his team,” Drilon said.
The President is expected to join most of the Team PNoy’s 31 scheduled sorties between this week and the last week of March.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.