LP scrambles to complete its senatorial slate for 2019 elections
While the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is overpopulated with prospective senatorial candidates for the 2019 midterm elections, the once-dominant Liberal Party (LP) is scrambling to complete its slate.
“We are not even sure” if LP can field a 12-person roster, Vice President Leni Robredo, party chair, admitted in a recent interview in Cebu City.
“We are not sure because so few are left in LP now,” she said, noting the party’s decimated numbers following the defection of dozens of its members to the PDP-Laban of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speculations about the LP slate swirled last week after a little-known group calling itself “Coalition ng Demokrasya” circulated a photo on social media of 12 political figures belonging to the opposition and mostly identified with the LP.
The supposed slate consists of former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Bam Aquino, former Sens. Teofisto Guingona III and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, Reps. Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City and Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
Completing the roster were members of the House opposition bloc known as the “Magnificent Seven” – Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, who both belong to the LP, and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, who is allied with LP.
But denials soon ensued when they were asked about their ambitions.
“Thanks for the endorsement by the Coalition ng Demokrasya but I have no intention of running for the Senate at the moment,” Lagman said in a brief statement.
Daza said: “I’m not running for the Senate nor am I with this so-called coalition.”
Belmonte, through his spokesperson Bobby Diciembre, said in Filipino: “It is flattering, but it is not in his plans for now. He will continue his last term as the representative of the sixth district of Quezon City. He has already accomplished a lot but he wants to accomplish more for his constituents.”
Alejano, however, neither confirmed nor denied planning to make a run for the Senate, only saying his party had yet to make a decision.
“On the part of Magdalo, we are still in the process of deciding whether to field senatorial candidates in the 2019 elections or not,” he said. The only Magdalo senator, Antonio Trillanes IV, is on his last term and ineligible to run in 2019.
Robredo, in the Cebu City interview, said it was important that LP field candidates who embodied the party’s values.
She said the LP president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, would lead the board that would screen senatorial aspirants for inclusion on the LP slate.
“First, [the candidates] have to be qualified to be senators. They have to prove they will be a good addition to the Senate. Second, they have to embody the ideals of the party,” she said.
She said prospective LP candidates need not be opposed to federalism, the centerpiece of the rival PDP-Laban’s platform, noting that LP had yet to make an official stand on it. “All our party asks now is that there be a constructive discussion on federalism,” she said.
While LP’s choices are limited, PDP-Laban has begun pitching several names in public for its own senatorial ticket.
Some of the names mentioned by the party’s secretary general, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, as possible members are incumbent lawmakers – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Reps. Karlo Nograles, Albee Benitez, Reynaldo Umali, Sajid Mangudadatu, and Geraldine Roman.
The Speaker also named Special Presidential Assistant Christopher “Bong” Go, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson and Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino on his prospective list.
Though Alvarez stressed that the ruling party should pick from its own members, he expressed openness to supporting two Nacionalista stalwarts: reelection-seeking Sen. Cynthia Villar and Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano.
“They are not members of the party but they are very supportive of the President,” he said in a recent press briefing in Zamboanga del Sur. /atm
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