Gwen: Let’s make history again
On stage with festive colors of the coalition, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) staked out Cebu as its launch pad for a campaign to challenge President Aquino’s hold over the oldest, largest vote-rich island.
Suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who was introduced as the “true governor of Cebu”, said the opposition would deliver victory for UNA’s 12 senate candidates.
“Here they will make history again,” she told reporters earlier, promising that Cebu would repeat the 2007 election juggernaut that boosted candidates of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Only Cebu delivered the most number of senators for Team Unity in the 2007 election where they practically staged a massacre in the national scene. We have the most number of winners, the most number of local government winners, the most number of incumbent officials and we remain strong,” she said.
Garcia also cited Cebu as the starting point of the country’s history in 1521, when a native chieftain, Lapu-Lapu, slayed Spanish invaders.
The proclamation rally at the tree-lined Plaza Independencia was joined by UNA’s “three kings” – Vice President Jejomar Binay, former president Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
At its peak, the crowd was 25,000 as of 6 p.m. , according to Acting Cebu City Police Director Senior Supt. Mariano Natu-el, who was seen roaming the venue.
The official said that from his vantage point atop the Mariner’s Court overlooking the park, he observed that the crowd went down to about 10,000 by 9 p.m. before the rally ended an hour later.
Earlier in the day, Garcia, Binay and Estrada rode a boom truck leading a caravan south to Talisay City, waving to roadside crowds along the way.
UNA T-shirts, and baller bands were tossed to spectators. (Estrada later got down and transferred to a van, apparently bothered by the heat.) Another UNA team of candidates led by Enrile headed north to Mandaue City.
In the evening rally at the park, Garcia introduced Vice President Binay to the crowd, which coalition organizers said reached 50,000. The estimate was provided by Joey Salgado, head of media relations of the Office of the Vice President.
WHY NOT CEBU?
“Bakit hindi? Bakit hindi sa Cebu? ”
(Why not? Why not Cebu?) said Binay, recalling the surprised reaction of many to UNA’s decision to hold its proclamation rally in Cebu, a first for a national party.
Binay said Cebu was one of the most progressive parts of the country where there was good government service “dahil mahusay ang pamumuno.” (The leaders are effective.)
He urged Cebuanos to vote for UNA’s 12 candidates to advance “new politics” in the Senate.
“Sila ang mag susulong ng bagong politika sa senado” said Binay.
UNA has no Cebuano in its Senate lineup but is relying on the influence of its allies, Governor Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, to make headway in vote-rich Cebu whose latest registration showed 2.5 million voters.
The challenge is daunting as Cebu’s political terrain shifted in the 2010 election where Cebuanos delivered almost one million votes for the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, burying Arroyo’s candidate Teodoro Gilberto Jr.
Governor Garcia yesterday said that having the UNA kick-off rally in Cebu sent a “strong signal” to the rest of the country that Cebu will deliver for the opposition.
“All eyes will be on this opening salvo and everybody will see that Cebu is really the place to be,” she said in an interview after a 7 a.m. Mass attended by UNA members at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
Garcia was initially signed up by UNA for its senate slate but withdrew in June when survey results showed it would be an uphill battle for her.
A six-month suspension order served last December by the Office of the President and a wave of graft charges over the P98.9 million Balili land controversy added to her political troubles but Garcia, head of her own One Cebu party, said she was the victim of “bad politics” and that voters would vindicate her in the May polls.
“They have not only illegally served the suspension on me but they have also padlocked the office of the governor. But by doing that too, they are giving me more time to go around the different barangays and towns,” said Garcia, who is running for congress in Cebu’s 3rd district.
She said there was “such an outpouring of sympathy and outrage over what the Liberal Party has been doing,” and that having the UNA rally in Cebu is “a vindication of what I am fighting for”.
The 7 a.m. Mass was joined by Mayor Rama, Garcia, Enrile and senatorial candidates JV Ejercito, Jack Enrile, Miguel Zubiri, Nancy Binay, Mitos Magsaysay and Margarita Cojuangco. In his homily, Msgr. Roberto Alesna relayed the reminder of former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal for every candidate to keep in mind their role as public servants.
“The main purpose in running is to serve the common good of the people and not to serve themselves,” said Alesna. From Cebu archbishop Jose Palma, Alesna conveyed the reminder to leave a legacy of good performance.
The southbound UNA convoy went to downtown Cebu city, causing some traffic buildup about 9 a.m. Staffers threw Enrile and Zubiri T-shirts and other items to people along the sidewalks of Panganiban Street and in barangay C. Padilla on the way to Talisay City. At Plaza Independencia , urban poor supporters wore stickers marked” “organized group, office of the mayor.” A drizzle at 4:30 p.m. prompted some to pull down tarpaulin banners as shelter.
UNA senate candidates and Garcia family members arrived on a two-deck bus about 5:30 p.m.
Program emcee and former Compostela mayor Ritchie Wagas introduced Governor Garcia to the cheering crowd as the “true governor of Cebu”.
The stage had pictures of UNA candidates except that of Chiz Escudero, who attended the Team Pinoy rally in Manila, where he is a common candidate.
Actress Sheryl Cruz and Brian Llamanzares represented Senate candidate Grace Poe. Antonio Legarda represented his daughter, Sen. Loren Legarda. The three absent candidates have been adopted by both Team Pinoy and UNA.
In his speech, Maceda said an experienced doctor is needed to treat the “sickness” of the country. He offered his record of 54 years n government service in 43 positions.
If he wins, he said he would work for a 20% discount for students, similar to benefits enjoyed by senior citizens, and a P1,400 monthly subsidy for the elderly.
Maceda said that with UNA candidates in senate, people would be assured of an “independent senate”, free of any intervention from the president.
In his speech, Vice President Binay said he would stand by Governor Garcia as his “friend”.
“Ano man ang panghihirap at pang gigipit ay hindi sila magtatagumpay,” said Binay.
“Pero nabubuhayan kami ng loob dahil sa supporta nga mga kaibigan. Governor Gwen at mga mamayan ng Cebu palagi po kami nandito para sa inyo. Sa UNA walang iwanan,” he said.
“We sincerely believe that Governor Gwen does not deserve to be unseated. She is a victim of bad politics.” But Binay said the people of Cebu will be the best judge when election time comes.
Binay said the true competitor of UNA is not the Liberal Party candidates but poverty, lack of employment opportunities and hunger.
UNA executives disputed the “pretenders” tag given by the ruling Liberal Party coalition.
“We are not pretenders. Mga totoong tao kami,” said Binay.
UNA executives earlier said the alliance was forging a “daang maganda,” leading to better lives for the people, apparently to counter the LP’s “daang matuwid,” although they are adamant that they are not the President’s enemy./Chief of Reporters Doris Bongcac, Jucell Cuyos with correspondents Jhunnex Napallacan and Edison delos Angeles
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