MANILA, Philippines—Plaza Miranda’s “deep historical significance” pushed stalwarts of the Liberal Party (LP) to choose it as the venue for Tuesday’s proclamation rally for the 12 senatorial candidates of the administration-backed Team PNoy.
Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, one of the two spokesmen of the LP, said Plaza Miranda was President Aquino’s personal choice. “Mr. Aquino will also head the proclamation of the 12 senatorial candidates of LP,” he said.
The plaza, located in the heart of Quiapo district in Manila, witnessed the bloody carnage of Aug. 21, 1971, when two grenades were lobbed into the stage during the proclamation rally for the eight senatorial candidates of the last premartial law LP slate.
Two persons, including a 5-year-old child, died while scores including then incumbent LP Senators Jovito Salonga, Eva Estrada Kalaw and Eddie Ilarde suffered various injuries.
In his memoir, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, then a senatorial candidate of the Malacañang-backed Nacionalista Party, said he realized the adverse impact that the incident would have on his team after watching television footage of the bombing. He was right.
Tañada recalled that seven of the eight LP senatorial candidates fielded at the time won.
Then President Ferdinand Marcos was initially blamed for the brutal attack but Salonga and several other sources, including former activists, eventually came out to accuse Jose Ma. Sison, chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, for what happened.
Before martial law, Plaza Miranda was also the venue of many rallies staged by student activists and other sectors opposed to Marcos.
Fight vs corruption
“What used to be a fight against a dictatorship (has morphed into) a fight against poverty and corruption,” Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, the other LP spokesman, explained at a news conference at the LP’s Balay headquarters on Monday.
Quimbo said it was important that the LP’s 12 senatorial candidates win in May so that President Aquino would be assured that his antipoverty programs would see a broader support in the chamber.
He echoed the observation made by the LP general campaign manager, Sen. Franklin Drilon, who earlier noted the difficulty of handling the Senate.
This was clearly seen when the Senate nearly failed to pass two administration-backed bills—the reproductive health measure and another increasing sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products due to maneuvers of Senate leaders opposed to them.
Despite the venue being in Manila, Tañada noted that the choice of Plaza Miranda would not necessarily translate into more votes.
“We start where we feel a deep historical significance … this being the site of bloodshed by freedom fighters,” he said.
“With seven out of eight candidates winning then, it was almost a sweep. We want to replicate that, if not do better,” Tañada added.
All 12 will attend
Quimbo said an agreement was reached to make sure that all 12 LP candidates, including the three who are also guest candidates of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), would be present on Tuesday.
The three common candidates are reelectionist Senator Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda and former Movie Review Board Chair Grace Poe.
Escudero and Legarda consistently top the candidate preference surveys. Poe, as only child of the late movie actor and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., is included in the UNA lineup as UNA stalwart and former President Joseph Estrada’s homage to her father.
Other names on the LP slate are Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar of the Nacionalista Party; Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III of PDP-Laban, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal, PDP and the President’s cousin Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino.
Quimbo said that while it was “fortunate” that UNA adopted three of the LP’s candidates, “they are our candidates. And if UNA wants to endorse more of ours, we would welcome that.”
Quimbo said Escudero, Legarda and Poe were “mature individuals who don’t have to be told. They are independent… There is a specific agreement that they would be with us (Tuesday) and for the rest of the election. They would be part of the program of Team PNoy.”
“We don’t even talk about whether the three are prohibited from going (to UNA rallies)…but there is a specific agreement for everyone to work as a united team,” he added.
The two spokesmen said it was vital for the three common candidates to appear in all rallies especially those where the President would make an appearance such as Tuesday’s rally.
Tañada said Drilon had already drafted itineraries for the 90-day senatorial campaign.
He said Aquino would be joining many sorties. “It would be important that all candidates are present in sorties outside of Metro Manila,” he added.
In case the 12-member team is divided into subgroups to cover more ground, all candidates are still expected to join “whichever team they are assigned (to) and show that we are united in helping the others get into the Magic 12,” Tañada said.