MANILA, Philippines—Having three leaders is making the United Nationalist Alliance an easy target.
By former President Joseph Estrada’s reckoning, it appears that forces identified with the Aquino administration were trying to link UNA’s Big 3 to controversial issues to ensure the defeat of its senatorial candidates in the May 13 elections.
“Iniisa-isa na kami (They’re going after us one by one),” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.
Estrada said the controversies involving the Big 3 contributed to the poor showing of UNA senatorial candidates in the latest Social Weather Stations survey.
Only three UNA candidates—Nancy Binay, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito and ex-Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri—landed in the Magic 12.
“It really affected them,” he said.
Estrada cited two major issues raised recently against Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a member of the UNA Big 3 along with Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Enrile, whose son Jack is running for senator under UNA, was in hot water for unequally distributing Christmas cash gifts to 21 other senators. Four of them got only P250,000 each, while the rest were given P1.6 million each.
Among Enrile’s most vocal critics in this episode was Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is seeking reelection under President Aquino’s Team PNoy ticket.
More recently, Enrile’s pet project, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, was cast on the spotlight for the importation of hundreds of used cars and vans for resale in the country despite a ban.
As for Binay, his wife Elenita is facing graft charges in the Sandiganbayan over the allegedly fraudulent bidding for a P72-million supply contract when she was Makati mayor in 2001.
A separate house project during the Vice President’s term as mayor is also being scrutinized by the Commission on Audit.
Estrada has problems of his own. He is running for Manila mayor against incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim, a member of the President Aquino’s Liberal Party.
He is facing disqualification cases, while his running mate, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, was arrested over a bingo affair.
Estrada said UNA leaders would meet next week to strategize on how to respond to the purported campaign against the Big 3. But he was careful not to link the President to the campaign, saying he was convinced it was the handiwork of those in the Liberal Party.
Rep. Tobias Tiangco, UNA campaign manager, said the SWS survey might be meant to “condition the minds of the public about the outcome of an election that will only be decided on May 13.”
“Expect the LP to begin its ‘trending’ operations and pursue their mudslinging not only against our candidates but our leaders,” he said in a statement.
“It is too premature for the LP to gloat …. The only way the LP can dominate 2013 is by resorting to the tactics employed by the Arroyo administration in previous elections. This is the reason why we find in the LP roster known special operators of the discredited regime.”