Festivities, big promises mark glitzy start of election season
AS EXPECTED, the first day of the campaign period for the upcoming national elections was marked by festivities and promises of a better life to millions of Filipinos, which are commonplace in the political landscape of showbiz-obsessed Philippines.
In a bid to clinch the presidency in what was perceived to be one of the tightest races in Philippine electoral history, five aspirants seeking the top political post in the country kicked off their 90-day campaign with some big words here and a little entertainment there, in the form of song and dance numbers.
The candidates brought in celebrities in their proclamation rallies to entertain crowds of supporters and passers-by, including well-known bands, singers, and comedians.
Branding himself as the face of the masses, Vice President Jejomar Binay kicked off his campaign with the rest of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) at Welfareville compound in Mandaluyong City instead of doing such in his bailiwick in Makati City, to “be with the urban poor.”
The opposition leader, who rose from poverty to become one of the most prominent and powerful politicians today, vowed to solve poverty through an improved conditional cash transfer program, free education and medicine for the poor, and by scrapping the income tax of workers earning below P30,000.
“Sa mga nagsasabing hindi ito pwede mangyari dahil malulugi ang pamahalaan, simple lang ang sagot ko: Bilyon-bilyon ang nawawala sa pera ng bayan sa smuggling. Bilyun-bilyon ang nawawala dahil hindi wasto ang pangongolekta ng buwis sa mga mayayaman. Bilyun-bilyon ang nasasayang dahil sa hindi wastong paggastos ng mga departamento ng pamahalaan,” Binay said.
But Binay’s launch of his presidential bid did not end without taking a swipe at the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, whom he is seeking to succeed.
“Malapit nang matapos ang anim na taon, ngunit imbes na mawala o mabawasan man lang, mas lalo pang dumami ang mahihirap,” he said.
Binay lost his lead in preference surveys to Sen. Grace Poe amid the corruption allegations against him over the construction and design of the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building.
It was not exactly where people expected he would kick off his campaign for the presidency, but nothing was really conventional and predictable in the case of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The tough-talking Duterte, who has repeatedly vowed to eliminate drugs and criminality within six months if elected president, took his team to Tondo area in the Philippine capital.
Similar to Binay, Duterte and his team is seeking to symbolize and dramatize the plight urban poor Filipinos who are in search of better life.
In his speech before mobs of supporters, Duterte reiterated his promise to curb corruption and the proliferation of illegal drugs, and vowed to prioritize education and agriculture. He also said he would double the salary of members of the police and the military.
Duterte also took oath as the new chairman of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino after the proclamation rally.
Poll frontrunner Sen. Grace Poe was one of the three presidential candidates who kicked off the campaign in Metro Manila, at the heart of the Philippines’ capital city.
Poe, who is promising of a “gobyernong may puso,” took her slate “Partido Galing at Puso” to Plaza Miranda in front of the historic Quiapo Church in Manila, in a bid to win the hearts of a pre-dominantly Catholic Philippines.
The senator, who is being hounded by citizenship and residency issues, said the church was a symbolic venue to launch her presidential bid as a foundling. Poe, the adoptive daughter of movie stars Susan Roces and the late Fernando Poe Jr., was abandoned at Jaro Church in Iloilo when she was still a baby.
“As my father has told me: In whatever you do in your life, always fill your efforts with prayers. Therefore, in this historic spot – before the people, before God – I offer this pledge: I am Grace Poe, mother, daughter, Filipino. With all my heart and strength, I will uphold and defend programs of a compassionate government, our aspirations for the Filipino family, our hopes for the country and our children,” Poe said.
It was also in Plaza Miranda where Poe’s father, who lost to former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, launched his presidential bid in 2004.
Poe, who brought in popular local band Aegis to serenade her supporters ahead of the rally, appealed to the crowd using famous lines from his father’s movies,
“Puno na ang salop. Our tolerance for poverty, our tolerance for corruption, is at its end. Dapat na itong kalusin. We will beat it out of our system together. We will fight for each one’s right to food, jobs, education and protection,” she said.
The ruling Liberal Party and its standard-bearer Mar Roxas started their campaign trail in the latter’s hometown and stronghold, Roxas City in Capiz.
Roxas, his running mate Leni Robredo, and the “Daang Matuwid” coalition, and President Benigno Aquino III himself kicked off their rally at the Capiz Gymnasium, where they were met by the cheers of about 6,000 yellow clad supporters.
In his speech during his proclamation, Roxas trumpeted the achievements of the Aquino administration and vowed to continue its reforms. Roxas gave way to Aquino’s candidacy in the 2010 elections following the death of democracy icon Corazon Aquino.
“Para sa mga hindi pa nakakaalam, paano natin ipagpapatuloy ang Daang Matuwid? Simple lang ang programa natin ay nakatutok sa tagumpay ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino. Sisiguraduhin natin na ang bawat pamilya ay malaya sa gutom, malaya sa takot at malayang mangarap. Yan ang ating ipinaglalaban, yan ang alam ko, yan ang kaya ko, at yan ang gagawin nating lahat,” Roxas said.
“Hindi magiging madali itong laban na ito may mga kababayan tayo na nagnanais na bumalik sa baluktot na nakaraan dahil dito sila yumayaman o humuhugot ng kapangyarihan. Gagawin nila ang lahat, lahat ng paraan gagamitin nila kasama na mga black propaganda, kasama na mga pagsisinungaling, kasama na ng panloloko para paghiwalayin tayo, para sirain ang ating tiwala sa isa’t isa,” he added.
No less than the President appealed to the public to vote for the administration’s bets in the upcoming May polls, even taking a swipe at political opponents.
There’s no stopping Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago from seeking the presidency for the third time, despite lagging behind other candidates in preference polls.
Santiago, who reiterated that she has controlled her stage 4 lung cancer, kicked off her campaign in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, the hometown and bailiwick of her running mate, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
To the delight of the crowd of students at the Don Mariano Marcos State University, the usually feisty senator cited pick-up lines and took a swipe at her political opponents.
“Ngayon makikita mo sa elections natin kahit sino pwede tumakbo. ‘Yung isa, daming scandals sa pagnanakaw ng pera. Meron isa hindi sigurado kung saan siya pinanganak,” Santiago said, alluding to Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay, who are leading presidential surveys.
If elected president, Santiago also explored the possibility of Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator, taking over her post “if something happens” to her.
“If I am elected as president and something happens to me, we want somebody young and idealistic, as you have witnessed, to take over the reins of government,” she told the Ilocano audience in jest at the Imelda Cultural Center.
Santiago skipped the motorcade to Batac from Laoag Airport and the special mass before the campaign rally. She also did not attend the question and answer portion with students.
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