ILOILO CITY—Re-electionist Sen. Francis Escudero and Grace Poe, erstwhile common candidates of the administration Team PNoy and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, on Thursday heaved a sigh of relief after UNA decided to junk them from its lineup.
“Parang nabunutan ako ng tinik [It’s like a thorn has been pulled from my side],” Poe told reporters who sought her comment on UNA’s move.
“When I learned that there were conditions [for being adopted by UNA], of course, I found myself in a difficult situation,” she added.
Poe indicated that she couldn’t go against President Aquino’s wishes when he says candidates have to be in certain rallies and campaign sorties—presidential preferences that could have meant Poe shunning UNA rallies during the campaign period.
“We have a high respect for the President and he was really the one who invited me,” Poe said.
Poe, nonetheless, said she’s sad that UNA junked her senatorial bid despite the assurances that her Ninong Erap, former President Joseph Estrada, gave her as regards her senatorial campaign.
“My Ninong Erap told me, ‘Grace I can’t withhold support for you because of your father [actor and former presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr.]. It’s sad but I guess his hands are tied,” Poe said.
“It hurts, it’s sad but I understand,” she added.
Asked if it was a relief that the issue of common candidates has been put to rest, Escudero said, “Yes, because this election has never been about petty issues of which rally you attend.”
“It was and has always been about platform, issues, principles and one’s genuine desire to serve the people faithfully and with integrity,” Escudero told the Inquirer.
At the Iloilo provincial capitol where Team PNoy candidates held a news conference, Escudero said he’s also sad of UNA’s decision to junk them but added that he respects the coalition’s move.
“Despite our sadness, we respect UNA’s decision as regards the coalition. It’s clear to me that this is about platforms and issues, and the objectives of each candidate on what he or she would do in the Senate,” Escudero told reporters.
“I still believe that outside of politics, we’d still be friends,” he added.
Escudero, who has openly said that he’s not too fond of attending slate rallies, lamented the fact that the condition of having to attend UNA rallies wasn’t a condition UNA leaders imposed on guest candidates—then re-electionists Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ramon Revilla, Jr.—in 2010.
“If you’d look for a reason [for junking], you’d find one for sure,” Escudero said.
Sen. Loren Legarda, also a common candidate until UNA’s decision to junk them, said she continues to have a high regard for UNA’s leaders Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile despite the opposition alliance’s decision.
Legarda said she has yet to be officially informed by UNA of its decision.
“But whatever happens my respect, regard and love for President Estrada, Vice President Binay who’s really dedicated and Senate President Enrile, to whom I am really close will never change,” Legarda said.
“So the friendship should not be affected,” she added.
Poe, Escudero and Legarda were among the members of the Team PNoy senatorial slate that went through Iloilo province with its most popular endorser President Aquino and campaign manager Sen. Franklin Drilon, who hails from the province.
Other senatorial candidates in the province Thursday were slate rally mainstays former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Aurora Rep. Benigno Aquino IV, and Risa Hontiveros. Re-electionists Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III and Sen. Antonio Trillanes were also present as was Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, who stood in for his mother senatorial bet Cynthia.
According to the National Statistics and Coordination Board website, there were more than one million registered voters in Iloilo in 2010.
Team PNoy spokesperson Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, in a statement, said: “The lines are now even clearer with the departure of the three candidates from UNA.”
“Team PNoy is with the President, while UNA is the opposition. We hope that we can move forward and finally set aside this nagging issue regarding the three candidates so we can focus on the more important and bigger issues that this campaign should be discussing,” Quimbo said.
Liberal Party spokesman Rep. Erin Tañada said it has become clear to the Filipino people how empty UNA’s platform of government is with its junking of the candidates that he called “the three saving graces.”
“It is a party in disarray, with no sense of what it represents and where it wants to go. One minute it is anti-GMA, the next minute it becomes her defender just because they are in Pampanga. Round one: Team PNoy,” Tanada said.