Mirror, mirror who are the wisest senatorial bets of them all?
MANILA, Philippines – Day One of the 90-day campaign period for the senatorial derby kicked off on Tuesday with the usual pomp, gimmicks, giveaways and glowing political speeches of aspirants.
Did somebody say something that’s music to the voters’ ears?
Take a look at how various candidates from political parties and coalitions put up their best to sway the decision making of the electorate:
Breakfast at Old Balara
Bayan Muna chair and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares found a unique way to start his campaign for the 2019 midterm elections on Tuesday: answering questions of senior citizens during a breakfast in Barangay Old Balara, Quezon City.
Around 50 elderly residents of the barangay asked Colmenares’ views and plans on issues like the pension of senior citizens and beneficiaries of the Social Security System.
The former lawmaker vowed to continue fighting for the causes of the masses, as this has been his advocacy since his stint as a congressman in the House of Representatives.
The breakfast was one of Colmenares’ events on the official start of the campaign period, including a forum at the University of the Philippines at 10 a.m., a noise barrage along East Avenue at 2 p.m., and a proclamation rally in Muntinlupa City at 5 p.m.
Hugpong ng Pagbabago for continuity
In Angeles City, the senatorial slate of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) vowed to carry out the Duterte administration’s agenda.
Composed of President Duterte’s allies and supporters, HNP’s 13-man senatorial lineup pledged to continue supporting the President in the remainder of his term to fulfill his promised change to the nation.
The HNP is endorsing the candidacies of Senators Cynthia Villar, Koko Pimentel, Sonny Angara and JV Ejercito; former senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Pia Cayetano; Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, former presidential aide Bong Go, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and journalist Jiggy Manicad.
In HNP’s back-to-back campaign sortie in the cities of San Fernando and Angeles in Pampanga, Ejercito touted Duterte’s infrastructure initiative that would generate thousands of jobs for Filipinos.
As Duterte’s former chief of police, Dela Rosa, meanwhile, defended the administration’s brutal crackdown on narcotics, which he said the President launched to protect the youth from the drug menace.
“We wanted to save your future. Kayong kabataang Pilipino, you are the reason (kung) bakit ang inyong kapulisan namamatay, nasusugatan o nagkakaso sa war on drugs. Dahil gusto ng inyong kapulisan na bigyan kayo ng safe and secure environment,” Dela Rosa said.
Go and Tolentino, for their part, said that they would continue the President’s fight against corruption and criminality should they make it to the “Magic 12” of the May elections.
Rock star welcome for Revilla
Two months after he was acquitted of plunder over the multi-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla was accorded with arguably the loudest cheers by supporters at the two campaign rallies.
Speaking before the audience, Revilla, who enjoyed a seasoned acting career before joining politics, lamented his detention inside the custodial center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame for four years.
He also said he would continue his fight for the people as he eyes a Senate comeback.
Revilla was accused of allocating P224 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-government organizations of Janet Lim-Napoles, the scam’s alleged mastermind.
Estrada brothers bury the hatchet
The start of the campaign season could also mark the end of the feud of JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada, as the estranged brothers, shake hands with smiles on their faces at the HNP campaign launch.
The two brothers, known for their sibling rivalry, also raised each other’s hands onstage, disproving their alleged feud which was aggravated when their father, Manila Mayor and former president Joseph Estrada decided to support Jinggoy’s bid to return to the Senate return even JV had already expressed his intention to seek reelection.
Duterte-Carpio often pokes fun at the two during HNP gatherings, saying that they are both members of her party’s slate but never attend events together.
The hand-raising gesture of the Estrada brothers was warmly welcomed as the crowd cheered for both candidates.
Pampanga’s political clans
In the provincial capitol event, which drew at least 20,000 supporters, former president and now Speaker Gloria Arroyo reminded her constituents how Duterte won in Pampanga via “landslide” in the 2016 presidential elections.
She then asked them to vote straight for HNP’s slate.
The twin Pampanga event was hosted by Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda, through her regional party Kambilan. This was a complete turnaround from the 2016 presidential elections when they supported the then-ruling Liberal Party. LP is now backing the opposition-laden “Otso Diretso” coalition.
Pineda claimed that since Duterte assumed the presidency, Pampanga has been on the receiving ends of “billions” of development programs, reminding her constituents to return the favor by voting straight for HNP’s slate.
“Pag-upo ni President Duterte, billions and billions ang binigay niya sa probinsiya ng Pampanga. Isa sa mauunlad ang Pampanga dahil sa pondo na ibinigay,” Pineda said.
“Nakikiusap po si Nanay Gov…Pagbibigyan ‘nyo ba si Nanay Gov? Straight po tayo sa Hugpong, ha? Nakikinig si Mayor Sara, sana hindi mapahiya si Nanay Gov,” she added.
Pineda, however, failed to deliver her promise to LP’s Mar Roxas in 2016 as he came in at 4th place in the province’s presidential race. Duterte topped the Pampanga polls followed by Senator Grace Poe and former Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Otso Diretso charms Caloocan’s common folk
The Otso Diretso slate — a coalition of candidates opposed to administration policies — started the official campaign period by engaging people living at the heart of Caloocan City.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, re-electionist Senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada conducted several door-to-door persuasion campaigns.
Gutoc and Macalintal, in particular, talked with housewives and vendors in Barangay 13 near Padre Gomez Street, as Tañada persuaded sellers inside the Poblacion Market.
On the other side of the road, along 10th Avenue, Alejano and Hilbay went to barbershops, food stalls, and tricycle terminals to discuss the Otso Diretso’s platform, while Aquino and Diokno met campaign volunteers at the plaza of the Old Caloocan City Hall.
But aside from Caloocan, at least 2,000 volunteers have already started campaigning in 50 districts all over the country, Otso Diretso campaign manager Senator Kiko Pangilinan said.
According to him, Otso Diretso’s grassroots campaign dubbed as “Project Makinig” is an ode to political campaigning before the advent of technology — a face-to-face interaction with constituents in an attempt to understand their problems.
“Ang unang sigaw no’ng rebolusyon no’ng 1896 ay sa Caloocan. Pangalawa, as we speak today, 50 districts nationwide from 2,000 volunteers are going door-to-door knocking (to campaign),” he explained when asked why they chose to start their campaign in Caloocan.
Recent surveys for the 2019 elections showed that of all the eight candidates, only Aquino and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas made the cut. However, Pangilinan said it was still too early to tell if it was really a losing cause, noting that elections would not be held tomorrow.
“This is a 90-day campaign. Kung bukas ang election baka dalawa lang ang mananalo sa amin pero di bukas ang election,” he explained.
“Dahil tayo nakinig, maliwanag sa atin ang sinabi ng saloobin ng mga kababayan […] Lahat hahanapan natin ng paraan para makumbinse – manlilimos tayo ng boto kahit saan,” he added.
During the press conference before the sortie proper, the candidates introduced their legislative agenda which they claimed are based on needs of the Filipino people. Alejano, for example, said he would continue to uphold the security of the Philippines’ territorial claims, especially in the West Philippine Sea.
“Ang programa na gusto kong dalhin ay seguridad ng bayan at buong mamamayan ang pagdepensa ng ating karapatan at kalayaan sa West Philippines Sea,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, on the other hand, vowed to strengthen national justice in the Philippines.
“Matagal ko na rin pong pinagtatanggol ang katarungan sa ibang arena, para sa manggagawa, estudyante, biktima ng EJK, biktima ng trahedya. Pero ako na ang magsasabi sa inyo, kulang na kulang na ang laban para sa hustisya,” Diokno explained.
“Kailangan na kailangan nating isulong ang katarungan sa ating bayan. ‘Yan ang nagiging hadlang — ang pagbabaluktot ng hustisya sa ating bayan sa pagasenso ng bayan at sa pag-angat ng buhay ng mga Filipino,” Diokno said.
For re-electionist Senator Bam Aquino, he promised to continue bolstering the Free Tuition Law which offers free tuition and miscellaneous fees in all state universities and colleges. Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc took from her experience in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, in seeking to enact laws which would establish relief centers for victims of war, conflict and calamity.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said his priority bill is the institutionalization of the government’s cash transfer program, throwing a swipe against the administration.
“It is possible for a populist government to be not pro-people. May mga hamon sa ating demokrasya dahil sa wave ng populist governments,” Hilbay said in jest.
Meanwhile, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said he will champion senior citizens’ rights by improving discounts and benefits of the elderly, while former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada assured Filipinos that he would put emphasis on the rights of workers and fisherfolk by expanding insurance and wage benefits.
All of the Otso Diretso candidates were present in Caloocan except for one — Roxas. According to Roxas’ team, he was in his hometown of Capiz province for a separate send-off program.
However, Roxas’ absence only added fuel to speculations of discord between him and the rest of the Otso Diretso. It did not help that Tañada, who was supposed to be absent for the event, arrived sometime when the press conference started.
And then, comedienne and social activist Mae “Juana Change” Paner slammed Roxas’ absence, urging him to be more supportive of his co-candidates. In a separate interview, she also asked Roxas to accept that the opposition, including candidates outside of Otso Diretso, has a greater chance of winning if it was united.
The candidates and other officials from Liberal Party (LP) dismissed the rumors, stressing that Roxas would join the rest of the slate in their official kick-off rally in Naga City, Camarines Sur.
Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice who acts as Roxas’ campaign manager clarified that Roxas has a tradition of starting his campaign in Capiz — as he did in the 2016 Presidential elections.
Starting, ending with prayers
The Caloocan sortie actually began and ended with a prayer. Around 10:00 a.m., Gutoc was accompanied by the Muslim community in praying for peace in Mindanao and the whole country, especially during the election season.
“Wala akong billboard pero ang kwento ninyo ang billboard ko. Wala akong advertisement, ang advertisement ko ang kwento niyo. Ang kayamanan ko, ang kwento ng mga katutubo,” she said.
After the candidates roamed around Caloocan, a concelebrated Mass led by Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez was heard, which was attended by Vice President Leni Robredo, former president Benigno Aquino III, and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV in a show of solidarity.
This was followed by an ecumenical prayer which focused on a peaceful campaign period and conduct of the 2019 elections.
The Otso Diretso will formally kick-off the campaign in a program in Naga City, Camarines Sur, on Wednesday, February 13.
The real deal from Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe launched her campaign in Payatas, Quezon City, declaring: “Wala nang kaplastikan ito.”
This was how Poe described her approach as she returned to the campaign trail on Tuesday clad in her signature white long-sleeved polo shirt as she seeks reelection in the May 2019 midterm polls.
The senator said she would push for the “very basic” needs of Filipinos if she would be given a chance to serve another term.
“Basta kung ano lang ang sa tingin ko na magagawa kong tulong, wala nang kaplastikan ito; ako, ito ang gusto kong gawin para sa ating mga kababayan, very basic, pagkain nila, mabigyan sila ng pagkakataong labanan ang korapsyon, ‘yun ang inaalay ko, sana maging katanggap-tanggap sa kanila,” Poe told reporters.
“Alam mo sa panahon ngayon talagang inaalay ko lang ang sarili ko. Parang, kung tatanggapin ako ng ating mga kababayan natin muli, marami talagang salamat, kasi napansin ko, hindi lamang batas ang dapat itinutulak, dapat ang implementasyon din, na may sapat na pondo para mabigyan ng buhay ang mga proyekto na makakatulong sa mga bata, sa ating mga kababayan,” she added.
Just three years ago, she ran for president but lost to President Rodrigo Duterte.
But far from her proclamation rally in 2016 which included a medley song number by the female group Aegis, Poe started her campaign with a simple feeding program of school children in Payatas.
She chose to spend the first day of the campaign period with kids to remind herself of the reason why she started to run for an elective post.
“Yung mga bata…sila talaga ang simbolo ng pag-asa kaya gusto ko dito mag-umpisa kasi masaya, hindi man sila botante pero napapaalala sa akin kung bakit ako tumakbo sa unang pagkakataon at bumabalik ako dun,” she said.
She also noted that it had been her advocacy to reach out and help those who were less fortunate.
“Hindi botante pero sila naman talaga yung sa umpisa pa lang…yun yung talagang pinaglaban ko sa Senado na dapat yung pinakamahihirap at yang mga nangangailan, talagang unahin, eh yung mga bata talaga yun,” she said.
“Akalain niyo kung lahat ng public schools bibigyan ng mainit na pananghalian ang mga bata eh ‘di ang laking tulong yan sa pamilya,” she added.
Children from pre-school, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 6 and those with special needs were given food packs during the program.
Around 800 children filled the covered court with cheers when Poe entered and went around to greet them. The senator was also crowded by both teachers and little kids who approached her for a photo.
The lesson from past campaigns
Poe, who won a Senate seat in 2013 but lost in her presidential bid in 2016, said she had learned a thing or two when she campaigned during those years.
“Ang natutunan ko talaga, unang-una dapat respetuhin natin kung ano man ang kagustuhan ng ating mga kababayan. Pero pangalawa, natutunan ko rin sa pag-iikot ko, marami talaga tayo puwedeng gawin para makatulong maibsan ang kahirapan,” she said.
“Hindi ko sinasabi na ako lamang ang may sagot nito pero sana ‘yung 12 na makakasama ko lahat kami makatulong para mas maging maayos naman ang kalagayan ng ating mga kababayan,” she added.
The senator also said she would push for the Freedom of Information as she saw this as a way to watch over public funds. She vowed to ensure that these funds went to government projects that would serve Filipinos.
“Tataasan natin ang tulong pagdating sa cash transfer, pagdating sa edukasyon, pagdating sa pagkain; at ‘yung coco levy funds na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin nadi-disburse ‘di ba, so tututukan natin ‘yan na mapupunta talaga sa mga magsasaka natin; mga drayber natin, mga pasahero natin, lahat ‘yan patuloy nating gagawin,” Poe said.
“Pinangako ko ‘yan at ang mga pangako ko sinisikap kong hindi mapako,” she added.
While Poe expressed gratitude for her consistent lead in the pre-election surveys, she admitted that it posed a big challenge for her.
“Unang-una siyempre, nakakataba ng puso ‘yan ‘di ba…pero ‘yan ay malaking hamon sa kahit na sinong kandidato kasi alam naman natin na kapag nangunguna ka, malaki ang expectation sa’yo,” she said.
Poe may also face another challenge as she is running as an independent candidate.
However, she said she was banking on the support of family and friends to help with her campaign.
“Sa tingin ko naman ay sapat naman para matugunan natin ang pangangailangan ng kampanya, may mga kaibigan naman tayong tumutulong, ang aking nanay ay tumutulong rin pero higit sa lahat katulad nito, itong pagpunta rito, hindi naman ito napakalaking bagay na dapat i-organisa,” she said referring to her first campaign-related event.
On Wednesday, Poe and other reelectionist senators were set to boost their Senate bids as they come together for a kick-off rally in Tondo, Manila./ac
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