MANILA, Philippines—A private group closely associated with the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo endorsed Wednesday the candidacies of four Senate candidates of Team PNoy who, the group believes, exemplify the values the secretary espoused and practiced until his tragic accident last year.
Harvey Keh, lead convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Government and Ethical Leadership, endorsed reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and social entrepreneur Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV in simple ceremonies at the historic Club Filipino.
The presence of two Liberal Party senators—Francis Pangilinan and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III—however, raised eyebrows since it appeared to some that they were leaving out the eight other Team PNoy senatorial bets in expressing support for the four.
“We, as Kaya Natin!, are endorsing (the four candidates) throughout the country. Not only endorse but also campaign for them and come up with parallel efforts to ensure we get more support for these candidates,” Pangilinan said at one point.
However, the senator, who is Kaya Natin! chairman, later clarified that the group and LP are two separate entities and that as such, he is campaigning for all 12 candidates of Team PNoy.
Pangilinan also expressed confidence that campaign officials of Team PNoy would appreciate Kaya Natin!’s move to endorse administration candidates who remain outside the Top 12 in candidate preference surveys.
“I’m sure some of those in Team PNoy… will also understand that we have to give an extra push for those outside the winning circle,” he explained to reporters after the event.
Pangilinan was apparently referring to Hontiveros and Magsaysay. However, a third Team PNoy candidate, former Sen. Jamby Madrigal, also remains outside the Top 12 but was not endorsed by Kaya Natin!.
Keh explained that Kaya Natin! has more than 10,000 members from over 100 local government units and private organizations.
He said only the group’s 40 core leaders were consulted about which candidates Kaya Natin! would endorse.
Keh said the core group adhered to criteria related to the leadership style that Robredo exhibited before his unexpected death in a plane crash last August.
Pangilinan said the candidates were selected through a straw vote. Keh added that a candidate had to obtain a “70 percent threshold from all those voting from private organizations, the academe and politics” to be able to gain their endorsement.
Present during the event were “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes and former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio. Panlilio, who is running again for governor, and Robredo were cofounders of Kaya Natin!
Pangilinan explained that the Robredo-based selection process was necessary given that the May 13 election would be critical to the Aquino administration.
“Since reforms are now being put in place by our President, the past three years are not enough, maybe even [his entire] six-year term would not be enough if we are to truly move the nation to a new direction. We see 2013 as an opportunity for new, principled, young or even experienced public leaders [to] be chosen to serve,” he noted.
“Kaya Natin! decided to have this activity to show or at least present what we believe to be choices needed and necessary if we are to continue or sustain efforts at reforms and economic growth in the country,” Pangilinan added.
Keh said Magsaysay was chosen for his “great sense of compassion for the ordinary Filipinos” as shown in his livelihood programs for grassroots communities, Hontiveros as “a champion of women and peace,” Pimentel for his campaign for clean and honest elections and Aquino for “actively seeking social change” through his Hapinoy entrepreneurship program.