MANILA, Philippines—The candidates may be crowd-drawers in their own right, but nothing beats the drawing power of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and ex-President Joseph Estrada—the United Nationalist Alliance’s “Big 3.”
Estrada, who missed UNA’s recent three-province stump due to an aching gum, acknowledged on Saturday the discrepancy in crowd turnout when the Big 3 were available and when the senatorial ticket was left on its own.
He promised to show up in upcoming sorties and actively campaign for UNA senatorial candidates, before he gets busy with his own mayoral campaign in Manila beginning March 30.
“I noticed the difference,” he told the Inquirer in Filipino, but argued that the same was true of the administration’s senatorial candidates whenever President Benigno Aquino was absent in their campaign sorties.
“If the President is not there, there are fewer people.”
Estrada recognized the importance of top leaders of the opposing tickets in drawing big crowds at the hustings. “Of course, people want to see all of us,” he said. “That’s why we make it a point to come whenever we can.”
The difference was noticeable when UNA candidates motored through Pampanga, Zambales, and Bataan earlier this week. Estrada, Binay, and Enrile were all unavailable, their presence felt only in posters and whenever their names were mentioned on stage.
Save for the massive turnout in Olongapo City Thursday night, the candidates drew much fewer people in Pampanga and Bataan. In the last stop in Mariveles, the ticket campaigned at a covered court before a crowd composed mostly of supporters of ex-senator Richard Gordon.
It didn’t help that UNA candidates had to leave right after delivering their own campaign speeches, meaning the last one on the list was often left by himself on stage. During the Mariveles affair, it was Gordon.
In his campaign speech in another outing, San Juan Rep. Jose Victor Ejercito touched on the value of his father’s presence in his campaign. He recalled how his audience once asked about his father when it was the son who was running for senator.
“Bakit ikaw ang humaharap? Ang gusto namin si Erap,” he said with a touch of humor, later acknowledging that his father, one of the biggest names in Philippine cinema, was “more good-looking.”
Ejercito’s posters usually include a picture of him superimposed on an image of his father. The same goes with Nancy Binay, whose posters also include pictures of her more prominent father.
Estrada’s star power is expected to be felt in upcoming UNA sorties.
Before the start of the campaign for local posts on March 30, UNA is set to campaign in Enrile’s turf Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. The Mindanao leg would include Davao, Maguindanao and Compostela Valley. Also on the tentative list are Iloilo and Negros.