Peping Cojuangco: There’s no opposition, only factions

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TARLAC CITY—An uncle of President Benigno Aquino said the battle in the midterm elections was not between the administration and an opposition party, but between pro-Aquino forces supporting different candidates for president in 2016.

Former Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., whose wife, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, is running for senator with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said the administration’s competition was composed of people who backed his nephew for president but who campaigned for Jejomar Binay for vice president instead of Liberal Party (LP) president Mar Roxas in the 2010 elections.

“We [in UNA] are supportive of the Aquino administration,” Cojuangco said. “How can this be opposition, this is the Noy-Bi coalition,” he said on the sidelines of the UNA rally here on Thursday.

UNA senatorial candidates toured Tarlac, the President’s bailiwick. The presence of barangay health workers helped push the crowd count up.

It was the public appearance of Cojuangco that drew the loudest applause, however. Cojuangco has been keeping a low profile and has rarely joined public events.

Cojuangco opened the rally by stressing that he and his nephew, the President, are not on opposing sides.

Cojuangco narrated that he was asked by the President’s father, slain Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., to organize the opposition in 1976, which was how the PDP-Laban evolved.

It was an almost impossible task, he said, but he discovered Binay, a young lawyer who was not afraid to fight the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Cojuangco said they could not encourage the LP to join them at the time because the LP had decided to boycott all political exercises as a form of protest.

The LP maintained this position when Cojuangco’s sister, Corazon Aquino, ran against Marcos in 1986, the former representative said.

“They always asserted boycott,” Cojuangco said, but Binay stood by them. “It is for these reasons I cannot be an LP member and will always be with Laban,” he said.

Mr. Aquino ran and won the presidency in 2010 under the  LP, but Cojuangco said, “Noynoy is Liberal, but in his heart he is always a member of Laban.”

UNA senatorial candidate Jack Enrile said he did not expect the warm reception from the President’s home province.

Vice President Binay’s daughter and UNA senatorial candidate Nancy Binay said, “We crossed party lines, and we are happy that local officials allowed us to campaign. Maybe it helped that there is no UNA slate [running for local office] in the province.”

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