You may have seen him in public markets around the country but no, he’s not the new Mr. Palengke.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano would rather associate his senatorial campaign with the acronym “pitik”—for “presyo, trabaho, kita (prices, jobs, income).”
Pitik, Cayetano says, “truly embodies the needs and concerns of all Filipinos. No sector or group is left behind.”
Cayetano launched his reelection campaign in February by sipping instant coffee and eating pan de sal with vendors at the Pritil public market in Tondo, Manila. This provoked claims that his sorties were no different from the 2004 campaign of then senator and now Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who topped the senatorial contest that year using the moniker “Mr. Palengke.”
“Yes, there are similarities [with Roxas’ campaign] but we also intend to consult with farmers, tricycle drivers and those from what little manufacturing we have,” Cayetano said in an interview with the Inquirer.
In the first month of this year’s campaign, Cayetano has skipped almost all the rallies of the administration’s Team PNoy, conducting instead what he called “listening tours” in public markets from Benguet in the north to Cagayan de Oro City in the south.
“I’ve lived the lives of all sorts of Filipinos these past few weeks,” Cayetano said of his pitik campaign. “Trust me when I say I have felt their concerns and learned what their problems are.”
At a time when the Aquino administration is making much of the 6.6-percent economic growth the country posted in 2012, Cayetano said his tours revealed that vendors had yet to feel the gains.
“They said their sales continue to be slow,” Cayetano said of the Pritil vendors, adding that despite the presence of cooperatives, these vendors were still victims of the “five-six” system of loan sharks involving a steep 20 percent interest.
“They are also concerned with the high incidence of crime,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano was also moved by the concerns of strawberry farmers in La Trinidad in Benguet, who told him they earn only an average of P200 pesos per day, far less than what factory workers in the province earn. Most of them also do not get benefits from PhilHealth.
“There has to be a program that will encourage tourists to stop by the strawberry fields,” Cayetano said. “The City of Baguio makes P500,000 per day, mostly from tourists. If La Trinidad, which is just 25 minutes away, could achieve the same numbers, we will see a great improvement in the lives of our farmers.”
In Cagayan de Oro, Cayetano heard complaints about lack of income and livelihood from residents of Balangay P-noy in Canitoan—the Gawad Kalinga relocation site for the displaced victims of Typhoon “Sendong.”
Cayetano said the local governments should also consider expanding livelihood and technical skills development programs while addressing such issues as rebuilding infrastructure.
“We need more programs that will assist typhoon victims in getting back on their feet,” he said.
CEOs and slum dwellers
Cayetano has had breakfast with market vendors in Metro Manila, Bulacan and Cagayan de Oro; caught fish with the “bangus” farmers of Pangasinan and Laguna de Bay; harvested strawberries with the farmers of Benguet; and discussed oil price hikes with tricycle and jeepney drivers in Baguio and Metro Manila.
He has also met with the senior citizens in Bulacan, coconut farmers in Legazpi City, furniture factory workers in Cebu City and construction workers in Makati City.
The latest Social Weather Stations survey showed nine Team PNoy candidates in the top 12 of the senatorial races, with Cayetano in the third spot.
“This administration has brought down corruption,” Cayetano said. “Now, we have to address the needs of the people. They should feel the progress brought about by the drop in graft and corruption.”
He said that while he had launched his campaign in a marketplace, “my goals are not limited to this sector alone. Pitik addresses the needs of every Filipino—from CEOs (chief executive officers) down to the people in the slums.”
“This campaign is about the people we are fighting for,” he said.