The arrangement with three supposedly common senatorial candidates is falling apart and is shaping up as a love triangle headed for the rocks on Valentine’s Day.
After Sen. Francis Escudero snubbed the United Nationalist Alliance’s proclamation rally, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Wednesday the coalition would likely drop common candidates who could not keep a deal that they should join its campaign sorties.
Escudero did not only participate but also failed to send a representative to the UNA rally, unlike fellow common candidates Loren Legarda and Grace Poe.
With his absence, Escudero was shut out of the UNA gathering, with the party’s three kings Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada not mentioning his name or endorsing him in their speeches. Escudero’s picture was not on the stage filled with posters of UNA’s senatorial candidates.
Asked by reporters if Escudero faced expulsion, Binay said, “It is likely.” Asked if this would likewise apply to Legarda and Poe, he said, “If we will look pitiful in the bargain, we won’t allow that.”
Binay, who acknowledged Escudero’s help in the vice presidential race in 2010 and remarked that he knew how to repay a debt of gratitude, said the agreement was that the common candidates would join not only rallies of the administration Team PNoy, but also UNA’s. So far, the three have been no-shows in UNA events.
Escudero told the Inquirer Wednesday during a Team PNoy stop in Batangas City that he was unaware he could send a representative to the UNA rally in Cebu.
“It was too late when I learned that one could send representatives,” he said. “It’s still rather early in the campaign. Sooner or later, we might find ourselves in the same place.”
Poe said she signed up earlier with Team PNoy, and while she was grateful to UNA, she could get herself to endorse its other candidates. “Having to endorse candidates is a personal thing for me.”
Not common, but adopted
Sen. Franklin Drilon, Team PNoy campaign manager, on Wednesday told reporters that Escudero, Legarda and Poe were simply “adopted” by UNA, shrugging off UNA’s claims that the three were common candidates of the two coalitions.
“They were handpicked by President Noynoy for his tuwid na daan (good governance) platform. It is clear that they were adopted and it is the privilege of UNA to adopt our candidates,” Drilon said.
Other UNA members were also unhappy with the Escudero snub.
“In our coming sorties, if they don’t join us, then probably UNA will make an assessment, a collective decision, whether to still include the three in the UNA,” said Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay. “Action speaks louder than words,” said the UNA senatorial candidate.
“We in UNA are not selfish. We are not insecure. We are not immature. What is important to us is that if you say Team UNA, we follow each other very much. If they don’t give attention to us, we just move on. We cannot wait for them forever,” she said.
On Tuesday, the common candidates opted to join the Liberal Party’s proclamation rally in Manila, with Escudero even wearing the party’s trademark yellow color. Legarda sent her father, Antonio, who was celebrating his 80th birthday on Tuesday, to the UNA rally in Cebu, while Poe sent her son Brian and cousin actress Sheryl Cruz.
But in the subsequent Bohol sortie, none of the common candidates sent a representative.
UNA’s campaign manager Toby Tiangco said he rejected Escudero’s offer to send a video instead to the Cebu event. Tiangco disclosed that he even offered to move the time of its proclamation rally to 8 p.m. on Tuesday to allow the common candidates to make it to Cebu from Manila, but the candidates did not agree to this.
Estrada, who was the last to speak at Tuesday’s UNA rally, asked the people who had gathered at the Plaza Independencia to vote for the party’s candidates, naming all the candidates except Escudero.
“It appears that he snubbed us,” the former President later told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “He’s on top of the surveys so maybe he thinks he doesn’t need us anymore.”
Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, another senatorial candidate, also said he did not think it was right for Escudero to snub the proclamation rally. “There is a sadness amongst the group,” he said, adding that UNA was still hoping they would show up in the bigger sorties of the group.
UNA’s senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri said Escudero could have sent his girlfriend, actress Heart Evangelista, to represent him. “That would have been fabulous,” Zubiri said.—With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
Originally posted at 09:16 pm | Wednesday, February 13