Circus comes to Comelec
All the festive hoopla of a street party could very well be a plus for the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Monday as it officially fielded its candidates in the Senate race next year, except they were minus one in the effort.
Businessman Joey de Venecia pulled out at the last minute from the coalition slate, although this hardly reflected on the excitement outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).
UNA’s “B 3”—Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—led eight senatorial contenders in filing their COCs, unfazed by a last-minute glitch in its lineup.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Representatives Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr. and Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, former Senators Ernesto Maceda, Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon, and former Tarlac Gov. Tingting Cojuangco filed their COCs past 1 p.m. in a carnival atmosphere in the heart of Intramuros.
Three candidates whom UNA shared with the ruling coalition—Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda, and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairperson Grace Poe Llamanzares—did not appear for the filing.
That the three candidates, who are also guest candidates of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) coalition, were absent and the slate lost its 12th member, De Venecia, just hours earlier did not seem to matter as UNA gave a preview of how its rallies would be come campaign season next year: loud and upbeat in the colors of orange and blue.
Life will be good
The eight-candidate slate, along with Binay, Estrada and Enrile, first assembled at the Manila Hotel before noon and rode together to the Comelec aboard a violet Binay coaster shortly.
Within minutes, the fast-moving convoy arrived at the main Comelec office to the cheers of hundreds of supporters. Competing beats filled the air: a drum and bugle band played Binay’s 2010 campaign theme “Kay Binay, Gaganda ang Buhay (With Binay, life will be good),” while an Ati-Atihan ensemble and even a dragon dance group thumped their traditional beats.
“It’s a very light, jovial mood. We are very confident of having a formidable team and a very good chance of taking most of the seats in the 2013 elections,” Ejercito, Estrada’s son, said in an interview.
“I am confident now that our big three are here. With these people behind us, the support is already there, it gives us courage and a morale boost,” Ejercito told reporters.
Supporters from Valenzuela, San Juan, Olongapo City and Makati City, among others, occupied the street across the Comelec office, holding up placards and chanting the names of their candidates. Curiously, while different groups shouted names of their respective candidates, none chanted the coalition’s name.
Apart from posters and banners traditionally seen in campaigns, some candidates found unique ways of getting their names out there.
Magsaysay went beyond the printed matter and deployed walking ads —an advertising medium one would usually see promoting consumer products.
Legarda did not join the UNA group but made her presence felt with Ati-Atihan dancers who carried placards that spelled her name. She filed her COC separately, when the UNA group had already left. She later visited Binay at his office at the Coconut Palace.
Ahead of the campaign period, Ejercito said he hoped campaigns of both UNA and the ruling coalition would not stray from issues that mattered to the public.
“I’m just hoping that the campaign will be high level, based on the platform and track record,” Ejercito said.
“Besides, we’re not really what you would call a real opposition, unlike during the time of GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). We’re just presenting ourselves as alternatives for the people,” he said.
No-shows irk Binay
The absence of Legarda, Escudero and Llamanzares did not sit well with Binay, leader of the UNA coalition of his PDP-Laban and Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
“What shall be done and shall not be done must also apply with UNA [and vice versa],” Binay told reporters.
“If they will join the [rallies] of the Liberal Party, they should also join us or else we might as well part ways,” Binay said, stressing “fair is fair.”
For her part, Legarda said she had not heard Binay say anything about UNA’s withdrawal of support should she appear in the LP rallies.
“The Vice President knows that the President invited me personally to be in the LP slate because the NPC and the LP have a partnership. It was all done with transparency with the Vice President and former President Estrada as well,” Legarda said in an interview with reporters after filing her COC at the Comelec.
She added that Mr. Aquino also knew that she was first invited by UNA as guest candidate when he asked her to join the LP slate. Next week, other parties would also adopt her as guest candidate, she disclosed.
“[Being a common candidate] is a happy but delicate situation,” she said. “But it reflects on the winnability of the candidate.”
When asked which political party would she join come the election campaign period, she safely answered, “I will go where the Filipino people are.”