‘UNA better off without 3 bets’By Cesar Villa, Robert Gonzaga
Inquirer Central Luzon
OLONGAPO CITY—Throwing out the three controversial “common” candidates has if anything improved the chances of the United Nationalist Alliance because a streamlined team would work better in a campaign, according to some UNA senatorial candidates.
A slate of nine is “easier to sell because we are fewer in number,” said Margarita “Ting-ting” Cojuangco, an aunt of President Benigno Aquino III.
UNA’s drawing power has not been impaired, the team has been well-received, according to Cojuangco, who was joined by candidates Richard Gordon, Miguel Zubiri and Nancy Binay in the Zambales leg of the UNA campaign late Thursday.
“It’s now easier to appeal to those listening to us to vote for all nine candidates,” said Binay.
Judging from the turnout at UNA’s sorties in Pampanga, Zambales and Olongapo City, Zubiri said “we can stand on our own.”
UNA on Friday slammed the door on three potential replacements for the junked “common” candidates.
Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA campaign manager, said UNA “has not officially made and will not make an offer” to other senatorial candidates like Eddie Villanueva, Edward Hagedorn and Teddy Casiño.
“We have no plans of replacing the three former guest candidates. We freed ourselves from our obligation to campaign for the three former guest candidates not so we can replace them, but so we can move on. We will focus on our nine UNA candidates,” Tiangco said in a statement.
Deposed President Joseph Estrada on Thursday told the Inquirer he was “personally” considering tapping Hagedorn and Villanueva to replace the junked candidates. Some reporters covering the UNA campaign floated the name of Casiño.
Gordon said he was not surprised at the UNA leadership’s decision to drop Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the coalition’s three erstwhile “common” candidates with the administration’s Team PNoy.
“That was expected. A lot of people were complaining already. And it’s unconscionable for them to be straddling two parties,” he said.
He said the circumstances that allowed Escudero, Legarda and Poe to become candidates of rival parties were unprecedented.
“They should stand firm on where they stand. [Escudero, Legarda and Poe are also] my friends, but many people have been hurt by this issue,” said Gordon.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay said the issue of the common candidates was now a “closed book” and talking about it was a waste of time and money.
She said Poe, who professed to be hurt over being junked by UNA, should just get on with campaigning.
“Like us, we’re just proceeding with our campaign. We don’t let side issues like this derail our campaign. Whoever is with us, we just shut up,” she said.
With the UNA decision to junk Escudero et al., Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, a Team PNoy candidate, said he hoped the campaign could now focus on the issues and not on personalities.
“The economy for me, that’s the most important issue. How we create jobs, how we help the Filipino family cope with price increases, things like that,” Angara said in Bacolod City as Team PNoy bets ended the week’s Visayas campaign with sorties in Negros Occidental.
Angara, who co-authored Republic Act No. 10228, the law that converted the Negros State College of Agriculture in Kabankalan into a state university now known as the Central Philippines State University, expressed support for the expansion of state universities and colleges in the country.
The other authors of the bill were Negros Occidental Representatives Mercedes Alvarez, Alfredo Abelardo Benitez and the late Ignacio Arroyo, and party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares.
“It is time that the national government starts investing more in educational institutions outside of Metro Manila,” said Angara, chair of the House committee on higher and technical education.
Angara earlier called for a 10-year education investment program that would “address all gaps in the educational system.” With reports from Norman Bordadora and Christian Esguerra