MANILA, Philippines—Reelectionist Sen. Loren Legarda has alleged that another candidate who is within striking distance of the No. 1 slot in the Senate race is engaging in black propaganda to dislodge her from her lead position.
According to Legarda, this unnamed rival has attempted to link her anew to a fictitious bill that would reduce the retirement benefits of government workers, including public school teachers, policemen, fire fighters and local government employees.
Legarda initially declined to even hint at the identity of her detractor when pressed by reporters during the First Inquirer Senate Forum at the University of the Philippines on Wednesday.
But she later told the Inquirer that the perpetrator was one of the topnotchers in the candidate preference surveys.
The most recent Social Weather Station voter preference survey placed the “topnotcher” candidates in the following order: Legarda followed by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, with Sen. Chiz Escudero and JV Ejercito tied at third place, and Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III in the 5th to 7th places.
The senator said her rival apparently wants to put her on the bad side of the thousands of retired state pensioners who would understandably be angered by such a bill. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, another reelectionist senator, was reportedly the target of a similar smear campaign earlier this year.
Legarda, who has consistently placed first in the various candidate preference surveys, said she would reveal her detractor’s identity at her victory party after the May 13 elections.
“I really have to come forward and challenge those behind it. I know who you are. Don’t hide behind false text messages,” said Legarda, who is running under the administration’s Team PNoy coalition.
“Besides, you’re just wasting your money sending those texts,” she added.
Legarda, a reserve lieutenant colonel of the Armed Forces, said the armed services’ intelligence network helped her to unmask her detractor.
“I had this thing investigated. Perhaps this person forgets that I am a lieutenant colonel of the AFP and I have a strong intelligence network so I know who this person is,” she said.
“How I wish this person would just engage me in a legitimate debate. We know who the person is but I cannot reveal the identity right now,” Legarda said.
She said she has written to Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima to assure them that she has not drafted a bill that would severely hurt their rank and file.
She intends to submit similar letters to the AFP and the Civil Service Commission.
“Secretary Luistro has already dismissed the rumor while Gen. Purisima laughed it off saying the police do not believe it at all,” she said.
Meanwhile, Team PNoy spokesman Ben Evardone advised the opposition United Nationalist Alliance to brace itself for defeat as senatorial candidate preference surveys already indicate that the administration slate would dominate the May 13 results.
“The die is cast… It looks like the trend is holding in favor of the administration coalition with barely a month left in the campaign period,” said Evardone, a congressman from Eastern Samar.
“All the polling agencies are showing the same 9-3 trend for Team PNoy. As they say in sports, it could be all over but the shouting,” he said.
Aside from Legarda, Team PNoy bets who consistently make it to the Top 12 in the surveys include Cayetano, Escudero, Pimentel and Trillanes.
Other administration candidates who are also Top 12 regulars are Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Edgardo Angara Jr.
Risa Hontiveros, Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal have yet to break into the group.