MANILA, Philippines — Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) stalwarts hinted at a possible withdrawal of support for the political party and allies of the Team PNoy candidate harassing Senator Loren Legarda.
The NPC members are hurting over the “character assassination” launched against party mate Legarda, the target of a smear campaign allegedly by another senatorial candidate running with her under the Team PNoy coalition.
Team PNoy is the administration coalition that includes the ruling Liberal Party (LP), the NPC where Legarda belongs and the Nacionalista Party (NP).
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) pulled a fast one and issued a statement in support of Legarda who was one of his rivals in the 2010 vice presidential election.
And while several Team PNoy members expressed their support for Legarda, they were quiet about whether punitive action would be meted against her tormentor.
Legarda earlier claimed another Team PNoy Senate bet has been behind the effort to dislodge her from the No. 1 spot in national surveys on preferred candidates.
Legarda alleged that, apart from spreading malicious text messages against her, the candidate has paid a publicist to send derogatory “column feeds” to journalists with a request that these be used in their columns.
Legarda also hinted that the two convinced self-styled public interest advocate Louis Biraogo to publicly accuse her of filing a series of erroneous statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) from 2007 to 2011.
Sen. Tito Sotto, an NPC senior member, did not bother to mask his indignation at the way Legarda is being treated within Team PNoy.
“They are just making us (NPC) all the more unsupportive of the coalition with NP and LP,” he fumed in a text message sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Sotto has complained about the shabby treatment of NPC candidates by the LP.
He said that while the Team PNoy coalition arrangement should be observed at the local level, the LP still fielded candidates for local positions in areas where the NPC had incumbents seeking reelection.
Sotto did not reveal whom he has suspected to be behind what he tagged “black propaganda vs. Loren.”
“But I have bad news for those people who are doing this to her. She has gone through worse and she always pulls through because she simply is right! The people love her. They may not want her for Vice President or President, but they will always vote for her as senator,” he said.
Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, NPC spokesman, said the “vicious attacks through text messages…and social media” against Legarda were “totally unfair” both to her and “the NPC as well.”
Gatchalian reminded Team PNoy that the NPC has given its “full support and commitment to all the senatorial bets under the banner of Team PNoy,” including the one targeting Legarda.
The Team PNoy leadership has requested Legarda to use part of her allotted eight minutes onstage during rallies to introduce her fellow candidates.
“It is unfair to Senator Legarda who has been working very hard to ensure the victory of all of her fellow Team PNoy bets, to be the subject of a purported demolition job by some personalities from her own team,” Gatchalian complained.
Vice President Jejomar Binay sent a public statement vouching for Legarda’s integrity amid allegations aired by Biraogo.
“The allegations against her are politically obviously motivated and I’m confident she would get through these unscathed,” he said.
Members of Team PNoy took turns defending Legarda against the anonymous insider.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, the Team PNoy campaign manager, and senatorial candidate Edgardo “Sonny” Angara issued statements urging voters to be more discerning of issues and to look beyond what Drilon described as a “venomous smear drive” against Legarda.
Former Sen. Jamby Madrigal of Team PNoy warned the still unnamed colleague allegedly behind the smear campaign about karma, saying the candidate would also reap what he or she has sown and should already stop.
Reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, another Team PNoy candidate, said Legarda would still emerge number 1 on May 13.
Senatorial candidate Jamby Madrigal expressed her sympathy for Legarda. “Kahit ako ang nasa kalagayan ni Loren ay masasaktan din ako sa mga nangyayari at mas lalong masasaktan kapag nalaman kong ang mismong nanlaglag sa akin ay kasamahan mismo sa partido na inendorso din ng Presidente para sa Matuwid na Daan (I would be hurt if I were in the Loren’s place and more so if I learned that those I campaigned with in the party that the President endorsed for his Straight Path campaign, were the ones that dumped me),” Madrigal said in a text message.
“At ako ay naniniwala din na masasaktan yung kasama niyang gumagawa nito kapag sa kanya ginawa ang ginagawa niya kay Loren. Masama ang balik ng karma kaya dapat ay tigilan na ang ganitong gawain (And I believe that the person doing this would be hurt if what was done to Loren was done to him. Karma striking back is painful and that is why this smear campaign should stop),” she added.
Drilon said he was “appalled by the continued use of black propaganda and character assassination” in the last days of the campaign “despite our efforts to elevate the debates to significant issues and platforms of government.”
“I find the timing of questions raised against Senator Legarda on her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) highly suspicious given the proximity of the May 13 elections. Why bring it up only now?” Drilon asked.
The senator however, was quiet when asked whether disciplinary action would be thrown against the Team PNoy senatorial candidate allegedly behind the offensive.
Representative Sonny Angara said the effort to sully Legarda “reveals the dark side of Philippine politics.”
“On the one hand, this is expected since she has consistently topped the surveys. But on the other, we should put a stop to all the mudslinging. Philippine politics should be a race to the top, built on a sober discussion of policies, platforms and issues. It should not be a question of pushing others to the bottom,” Angara reminded Legarda’s attacker.
The congressman urged voters “to be discerning about the candidates. We implore them to be critical of everything that is said in the media and to actually investigate on their own.”
“With the Internet and social media, information exchange has been made much easier. However the same is true for black propaganda. Voters should see through the games and vote for candidates based on track record and performance,” Angara added.