The significance of Plaza Miranda as the venue for the opening salvo of the Liberal Party-led administration coalition was not lost on President Aquino, saying the place was “historical” not just for the LP but “to every Filipino seeking true democracy, justice and progress.”
He said that over four decades after explosions rocked what could have been a peaceful proclamation of eight senatorial candidates of LP, Team PNoy returned to the same spot to honor the memory of those who died, and celebrate the “sacrifices and inspiration of a nation who continues to rise from challenges.”
“This signifies that the sacrifice of nine people on Plaza Miranda wasn’t all for naught,” said the President.
“There is no doubt that we have risen. We opposed (martial rule) … and in the end, we succeeded,” said Aquino.
He then warned against “surrendering our success to those trying to waylay us,” and those “political chameleons.”
Team PNoy’s 12 senatorial candidates took turns at their proclamation rally calling for the continued fight against corruption to sustain Aquino’s good governance platform and asked for support in ensuring victory to accomplish the task.
“Corruption breeds poverty, we must eradicate this to ensure that funds and services (of the government) go to the people and not to the pockets of corrupt government officials,” former Sen. Ana “Jamby” Madrigal, a critic of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.
A makeshift steel perimeter fence blocked the entire plaza.
Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros focused on the current Senate majority that she said appeared to be uncooperative to the President’s good governance agenda.
She also took an apparent dig at candidates of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), saying that its victory could threaten Aquino’s reform platform.
It would be recalled that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the leaders of UNA, played a key role in stalling debates on the reproductive health bill that he opposed.
Enrile also loudly opposed the sin tax bill, balking at how livelihood in the northern Luzon would be threatened if the government insisted on increasing revenue targets from tobacco products.
Both measures were approved in the final hours of the session before Congress adjourned for the holidays last year.
Hontiveros said “many gains on women’s rights and healthcare” in particular “could be easily reversed if an antireform Senate is elected.”
“I am in particular concerned about our gains in reproductive health and they could easily be reversed by a Senate that refuses to fight for the people. I am also worried about how healthcare reforms could be stunted by partisan politics or by those who equate public spending to personal spending,” she added.
When it was Grace Poe’s turn at the microphone, she said agreeing to turn to public service would allow her the chance at helping alleviate the situation of the majority of Filipinos who did not earn enough.
“I have been asked, ‘Why shift to politics?’” said Poe, former chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
“If we mix politics and the desire for genuine politics, I can also fulfill the dream of my father to serve,” added Poe, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), who ran and lost in the 2004 presidential election.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara vowed to focus on education, saying it is the most accessible means to escape poverty and unemployment.
“We are finally seeing the dividends of daang matuwid (good governance),” Angara said referring to the administration’s battle cry against corruption.
He added that more funding for education and other social services would ensure that those with less would enjoy more from government.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the Nacionalista Party (NP), now in coalition with Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), stressed the anticorruption component of his proposed platform.
“Until now, the corrupt are still in government despite the daang matuwid program. That’s why we need to support the President’s programs to finally realize our dreams of a free, peaceful and developed Philippines,” Trillanes said.
“You who are here now, study very well the people asking for your vote. Do they really care about your welfare? Can they be trusted not to pocket government funds? If you are not sure, then do not consider candidates other than those you see on stage right now,” he told the audience.
Alan Peter Cayetano
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, another NP candidate, appeared with a giant red glove on his right hand to symbolize the fight against corruption.
Cayetano noted that since anticorruption efforts were now bearing fruit, the focus should shift to ensuring that last year’s 6.6-percent growth in gross domestic growth would trickle down to the grassroots.
Cayetano said good governance should be equated with good economics.
“We need to work to bring prices down and increase the number of jobs. Other candidates claim to fight cheating and corruption but are actually guilty of it,” he said.
Popular actor Aga Muhlach and singer Dingdong Avanzado then took their turn onstage.
Muhlach expressed his support for Team PNoy candidates, telling the audience that the President’s initiatives have greatly helped the country.
Avanzado sang two original songs, “I-Download Mo” and “Panahon Na,” which carried inspirational messages.
“Our economy has turned for the better. It is very inspiring, thanks to the administration of President Aquino,” the singer said.
“I hope you can download all the names of the Team PNoy candidates and include these in your ballot,” Avanzado told the audience.
After the break, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III of PDP-Laban reminded the people that he was a victim of poll fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections and that electoral cheating was one form of corruption.
“Because of that I lost four years of my first term. The remainder that I served has not been enough for me to work on my platform,” he said.
“We could probably rephrase the tourism department’s slogan. It’s More Fun ’Pag Walang Dayaan,” Pimentel said.
The senator, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, added that Mindanao had been left behind as the rest of the country progressed.
“Mindanao lagging behind is just a symptom of lingering corruption,” he reminded the audience. Quiapo hosts a significant number of Muslim residents.
Magsaysay, Bam Aquino
Former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. said good governance should have a concrete economic component.
He added that people should be involved in economic policymaking so as to prevent a repeat of the scams in the Arroyo administration.
Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino said daang matuwid also meant “you’re still our boss” referring to one of the President’s promises during his inaugural address.
“The people should always be considered first above everything else. Do not listen to those who try to influence you to leave daang matuwid,” Aquino added.
Former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar highlighted the importance of job creation and livelihood in eradicating poverty.
She echoed her husband Sen. Manny Villar’s presidential campaign mantra in 2010, sipag at tiyaga (industry and patience) and transformed it to hanepbuhay, a play on the Filipino words for “fantastic” and “life.”
“I believe life is hanepbuhay if there is hanapbuhay,” Villar said.
Sen. Francis Escudero recalled that the President had made three promises to Filipinos during the 2010 presidential campaign until his inaugural address: Tuwid na daan, which is against corruption; kayo ang boss ko, which sets aside one’s personal interest; and walang wangwang, which allows equal opportunity and a level playing field.
“We are finally seeing the fruits of what the President has started—a better economy and better lives. We thank you, Mr. President,” Escudero said.
The senator added that Aquino would not be able to achieve the rest of his platform without the cooperation of the rest of the government.
“He cannot do it alone. “Nauubos na ang buhok niya at wala pang nahahanap na mamahalin sa buhay (His hair is almost gone and he has not found the love of his life.)” The President needs the help of the Senate. He needs the help of Team PNoy,” Escudero added.
The senator asked for the people’s “trust and support so we can fulfill our duty” as the President’s allies in the Senate.
Sen. Loren Legarda, of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, introduced the rest of the candidates during her spiel.
Earlier in the day, Cayetano and Hontiveros campaigned in Pritil, Tondo.
“We have conducted consultations in an urban public market. We also intend to conduct a consultation in a rural market,” Cayetano said in an interview.
Hontiveros also spent the morning in an urban poor community in Quezon City to encourage citizens to vote in favor of reforms.
“We won new social reforms like the reproductive health law and the sin tax law. We cannot allow the next Senate to undermine these gains,” Hontiveros said.
At the rally in Plaza Miranda, also on stage were VIPs including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Sen. Nene Pimentel, Sen. Manny Villar, Manila Rep. Tricia Bonoan, Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Richard Gomez, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr., Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangudadatu, Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and presidential adviser Ronald Llamas.