MANILA, Philippines—Senatorial candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) could stand to benefit from the local rivalry between the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in the May 13 elections.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, a senior NPC member, on Friday said disagreements with the LP has forced his party’s candidates for local positions to throw their support behind the UNA senatorial slate.
“The UNA slate will benefit because of the ill feelings between LP and NPC at the local level,” he told the Inquirer, after being asked to comment on an UNA press release quoting the NPC as saying it could not “coexist” with the LP.
The NPC formally joined forces with President Aquino’s LP to help form the Team PNoy senatorial ticket, which also includes candidates from the Nacionalista Party (NP). But the alliance did not hold in the local level after LP decided to field candidates against incumbent NPC officials, according to Sotto.
“They did not keep their word,” Sotto said, recalling that the NPC initially offered the “equity of the incumbent” rule during coalition talks with LP.
The rule would have meant that neither party would support a candidate who would run against a local reelectionist, who belongs to either the LP or the NPC.
“What was more painful for our local officials was that the LP fielded against the candidates who used to be with (former President Gloria) Arroyo,” Sotto said. “I share their sentiments.”
There would have been no issue if a candidate opted to run against an incumbent official of the NPC, the senator said.
“Worse, the LP endorsed these candidates against the NPC despite the existing coalition at the national level,” he said.
Sotto said a case in point is Pangasinan, where incumbent Gov. Amado Espino is an NPC member. He is pitted against Alaminos Mayor Hernani Braganza, who had joined the LP.
The LP-NPC also could not hold in Negros Oriental, the site of UNA’s campaign sortie on Thursday.
“The NPC and the LP alliance on the national level is intact but, in the province, we have party mates who are forced to battle it out with the LP,” Rep. George Arnaiz, NPC chair in the province, told reporters in Filipino.
The NPC has strength in numbers among local officials. In Luzon alone, it has 135 candidates for municipal mayor and vice mayor. LP has 143 while UNA is fielding only 17.