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Corruption-tainted vs newbies on the campaign trail

20 February 2019

Voter shows off inked finger. (Comelec photo)

Candidates tainted with corruption charges take the limelight in the Duterte administration lineup while newcomers in the political arena battle it out in the opposition’s slate for the May senatorial election.

The 90-day national campaign period for over 60 senatorial candidates and 154 party-list groups in the May elections officially began on Tuesday, with the pro-administration “Hugpong ng Pagbabago” led by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte launching its campaign in Pampanga, the bailiwick of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo while the “Otso Diretso” opposition slate started house-to-house campaigning in Caloocan City.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), meanwhile, reiterated its warning against electoral offenses such as posting of campaign banners in unauthorized places and vote-buying.

The Senate race is considered to be tight, with seven senators seeking reelection, six others wanting to return to the chamber and several prominent candidates, including those endorsed by President Duterte, fighting over only 12 slots.

Two political groups with senatorial slates are aligned with the administration:  the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the political party of Duterte; and the HNP coalition of Sara Duterte, which is endorsing 14 candidates.

From the opposition, so far only former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV have made it into the “Magic 12” of both the Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations’ latest popularity surveys.

Apart from Roxas and Aquino, the other candidates of the Otso Diretso (Straight Eight) slate are human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.

Included in the administration slate were former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who were both jailed but released on bail for plunder over the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam. With them are Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos whose family has still been embroiled in several court cases for massive corruption during the reign of his late father, Ferdinand Marcos.

President Duterte has not endorsed a complete slate but he has already “spoken in favor” of his ex-special assistant Bong Go, former political adviser Francis Tolentino and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

Also in the pro-administration ticket are reelectionist senators, belonging to different political parties, who launched their electoral campaign separately but together in a rare sortie on Tuesday in Tondo, Manila.

Sens. Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Aquilino Pimentel III were also in slate of Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional party headed by the President’s daughter.

Others in the 14-man slate for Hugpong are Taguig City-Pateros Rep. Pia Cayetano, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu and former journalist Jiggy Manicad.

Otso Diretso candidates except Roxas joined a “face-to-face persuasion campaign” in Caloocan City, where they launched the slate’s eight-point program.

Roxas kicked off his campaign in Capiz, the hometown of his grandfather, the late President Manuel Roxas.

Liberal Party president Francis Pangilinan said the opposition bets will focus on improving the lives of Filipino families. “They themselves will knock on doors and talk to ordinary folk all over the country,” he said.

“This campaign strategy of going house-to-house is a game-changer. It has not been done on a national scale,” said Pangilinan, who is also the Otso Diretso campaign manager.

“Kaya ka ilalagay diyan para tumulong ka, di para sirain ang kanyang mga programa ng gobyerno sapagkat naniniwala kami sa kanya,” Panelo said. (That’s why you are placed there, to help, not to destroy the programs of the government. You should help because we believe in him).

“Our campaign would be uphill as most of them are relatively unknown in the national stage. But I am confident that when the people get to know them more, they will vote for them to become our public servants in the Senate,” Pangilinan said.

Some Duterte allies have been trying to distance themselves from the administration by conducting separate campaign sorties and presenting themselves as independent candidates.

Sen. Grace Poe kicked off her campaign with a school feeding program at a multi-purpose hall in Payatas, Quezon City.

Sen. Nancy Binay launched her campaign with a motorcade from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. She was joined by Angara, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and senatorial candidate Dan Roleda.

Human rights lawyer and former congressman Neri Colmenares, a staunch Duterte critic, is also running for senator as an independent.

Reelectionist senators Angara, Binay, Ejercito, Pimentel, Poe, Villar and Aquino – who is running under the opposition coalition Otso Diretso –were together in one rally in Tondo on Tuesday.

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