CEBU CITY—Senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Tuesday began taking the “beautiful road,” or “daang maganda.”
Kicking off its campaign in vote-rich Cebu, UNA started paving its own road as it contests the “pretenders” tag from the ruling Team PNoy coalition.
UNA executives earlier said the alliance was forging a “daang maganda,” leading to better lives for the people, to counter Team PNoy’s “daang matuwid,” although they insisted they were not President Aquino’s enemy.
In a festive party at Cebu City’s Plaza Independencia, UNA brought its own political clout with its so-called three kings—Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Crowds began gathering at the plaza in the afternoon under an overcast sky, entertained by dancers and singers. By nightfall, police estimated between 80,000 and 90,000 people had crammed the area.
New kind of opposition
In his speech at the rally endorsing UNA’s candidates, Binay took potshots at the administration, although he did not mention Aquino by name.
UNA is for reform, he said, but mere reforms are not enough if the people will not feel these. Any development of the country has to be felt by the people and must improve their lives. “Growth has to filter down,” he said.
A robust stock market makes businessmen happy, Binay said, but changes in the country must also give joy to the ordinary people. “Development is not only for the businessmen and the rich, it is for all Filipinos,” he said.
Binay said these positive changes could be achieved by speaking the truth.
It would not do for leaders to only hear praises all the time, he said. Criticism for programs that are not good are important, he said. This is where UNA comes in as the new kind of opposition, a “constructive opposition,” Binay said.
The Vice President said the UNA candidates would be “senators who would not allow themselves to be dictated by their party, but would instead listen to the people.”
Binay repeated his earlier observation made in an interview, that the people surrounding the administration were those who were quick to change political colors.
He said no party had the right to claim to be the only one that knew how to serve the country and what was right.
Binay defended Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, who was present during the event, criticizing her suspension by Malacañang.
“She was denied due process and was a victim of politics,” he said, adding he could relate to Garcia because he had been ordered suspended before. But his spirits were buoyed up by the outpouring of support from his constituents.
Three of UNA’s candidates, which it has in common with Team PNoy, were no-shows.
Grace Poe was represented by her son Brian Llamanzares and actress Sheryl Cruz, while Legarda was represented by her father Tony Legarda. There was no representative from Sen. Francis Escudero, whose picture was not included on the stage, although it was flashed on the screen when the candidates were introduced as the party’s theme song, “Sa UNA, Gaganda ang Buhay,” played in the background.
The three common candidates opted to join Aquino at Team PNoy’s proclamation rally in Manila’s downtown Plaza Miranda.
Earlier in the day, Binay insisted that UNA was not a pretender and was actually the President’s ally in many of its programs.
Binay is a member of the President’s Cabinet, he pointed out, and supported Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, during her administration.
He also noted that the label may apply more to the people around the President.
“Excuse me. How about them, the President has not warmed his seat, and yet those who were vocal in contradicting him are all there,” he told reporters in Cebu.
But Binay stopped there, saying he did not want to say anything bad and hopes there would be no mudslinging.
He also declined to discuss the absence of common candidates, including the lack of a representative from Escudero, and said he did not want any intrigue.
Binay said he wanted UNA to be an inclusive organization and not one that revolved only around a certain group.
Based on the latest survey, UNA’s candidates were in a dead heat with those of Team PNoy.
UNA and the Liberal Party coalition each had five candidates in the Top 12, aside from the common candidates.
The UNA candidates in the winning column were Nancy Binay, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile, former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Gringo Honasan.
In the magic circle from Team PNoy were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.
Racist campaign line
In a press conference in the morning, the Vice President decried the use of “black and white” in describing the fight between UNA and Team PNoy.
“I am proud of the brown race. I heard that the issue is black and white. Wow, racist. Color against color. What is right in the heart, in spirit—that’s what will be needed in the administration,” Binay said.
When asked why UNA chose Cebu as the site for the party’s proclamation rally, the Vice President said, “Why not.”
Cebu is very progressive, he said, and well managed and because of this it has gained respect not only in the Philippines but in the world as well.
After attending Mass at Cebu Cathedral at 8 a.m., the UNA candidates were divided into two groups, which went on a motorcade, one going to Talisay, south of Cebu City, and the other to Mandaue City.
Top leaders of UNA from the National Capital Region went to Cebu to show their support for the party’s senatorial candidates. Led by UNA-NCR chairman and Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro, the UNA leaders said Cebu—like Metro Manila—was one of the party’s strongest bailiwicks.
“So far, all the national and Metro-wide senatorial surveys show an overwhelming lead of UNA candidates in the Top 12. We hope to maintain this with the high credibility of our endorsers,” San Pedro said, referring to Binay, Enrile and Estrada.
Also present during the Cebu rally were Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay and Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian.