TWO virtually unknown personalities were among the 12 senatorial candidates composing the national slate of the administration-backed Liberal Party (LP).
Nariman Ambulogto, an assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Coop-Natco party-list Rep. Cresente Paez have taken the slots earlier reserved for resigned Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and either Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
The administration national ticket, led by standard- bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd and his running mate Camarines Sur. Rep. Leni Robredo, will be called the Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid.
Ambolodto said her senatorial run is a “tawag ng tadhana [call of destiny].”
Tolentino, who had announced his intention to run for senator, was embroiled in a controversy involving an allegedly lewd performance by an all-female trio in an LP event in Laguna.
He as repeatedly denied allegations he was behind the incident but nonetheless apologized for the damage it created.
Tolentino also asked the LP to drop him from its slate when he announced his resignation from the MMDA last week.
Bautista, meanwhile, has reportedly asked the LP to consider him in its senatorial ticket but decided to instead seek a third and last term as Quezon City mayor.
A ranking LP official disclosed that boxing champion Pacquiao, who earlier dropped hints
that he would be a common candidate of the administration and opposition parties, was excluded from the administration slate as he reportedly preferred to be allied with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“We were told that he said it would be shameful if he doesn’t ally himself with somebody from Mindanao,” Caloocan City (Metro Manila) Rep. Edgar Erice told reporters in Filipino.
Pacquiao, who was present during the launching early this year of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), is in the US and is expected to file his certificate of candidacy for senator on the last day on October 16.
Veteran lawmakers in the LP slate are: Senate President Franklin Drilon, reelectionists Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona 3rd, former senators Francis Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson and Rodolfo Biazon.
Also making the ticket are former Pampanga Gov. Mark Lapid, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, resigned Techinical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Joel Villanueva and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. director and former party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros.
Lacson, the former Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation czar who quit his post earlier this year, did not attend the LP event in Quezon City where the line-up was publicly revealed and instead went to the Commission on Elections office in Intramuros (Manila) to file his certificate of candidacy as an independent. He did not issue any statement.
Lapid, outgoing head of the Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Zone Authority and a former governor of Pampanga, is vying to replace his father, Sen. Manuelito Lapid, who is serving his final term.
Hontiveros was in the LP senatorial ticket in the 2010 and 2013 elections but was unsuccessful in her bid.
Villanueva said he will set aside his animosity with de Lima for the greater good.
“Feelings are feelings, nothing has changed. [What one feels], especially… personal feelings, should not hinder [one’s wish to create more jobs, to help realize a good future],” he told reporters.
“We can set aside [our differences]for the greater good,” Villanueva said.
De Lima led the filing of a criminal complaint against Villanueva, among other congressmen who were linked to the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Justice department under de Lima ordered a manhunt for Lacson in 2010 in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder case after a warrant of arrest was issued against him by the Manila Regional Trial Court.
The Court of Appeals, however, later nullified the arrest warrant against Lacson in March 2011.
“I’m a professional. I don’t put personal feelings here. They are welcome here because every one of us in the slate has something to contribute in terms of continuing the gains of the administration. There’s no problem with me,” de Lima also told reporters.
“Wala kaming alitan [There’s no bad blood between us] as far as I am concerned. I was given a heads up that they would be a part of the team, and that we need to work with each other and be with each other harmoniously. I don’t feel awkward,” she said.
Speaking at the program launching the LP national ticket, President Benigno Aquino 3rd took a swipe at the opposition, particularly Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is running for Vice President.
“First, there are the empty promises, where they say that they will give us everything, while always forgetting to mention how they will fulfill these promises,” Aquino said in Filipino.
“In my opinion, when the time comes that these promises do not come to pass, we already know why. Let me also emphasize that, back when they were still pretending to be on our side, they had plenty of opportunities to contribute to the solution,” he added.
The Vice President had called the administration inept and uncaring.
In response, Aquino repeatedly criticized Binay’s campaign promises and his failure to help the administration.
The President also made a veiled attack on Marcos, son and namesake of the late strongman president Ferdinand Marcos.
“There are those who lie to our faces. I just shake my head whenever I hear the statements they make, as if they were not among those who oppressed us before,” Aquino said.
“There they are, hoping that the Filipino people have become forgetful. And they just say, it’s time to move on,” he added.
Aquino said the 2016 campaign season will be easy, expressing confidence that voters will not choose the administration’s foes.
He, however, noted that their opponents will try to grab credit for the country’s achievements under his watch.
“I believe that this campaign will be easy, because it is extremely clear to all that other candidates, the opponents of the straight path, will lead us astray,” Aquino said.
“The upcoming campaign will be noisy. But for those who keep their eyes and ears open, it will be very easy to choose, and these choices are standing before you today,” he added.
The President maintained that the administration coalition is intact.
He claimed that it has a true track record and platform that is based on principles and reforms.
“In my opinion, and in that of our bosses, the most important factor is principle. And for the LP and our entire coalition, let me emphasize [that]we do not only have proof, we also, and more important, have principles,” Aquino said.
“It is clear that, while the groups of others are being pieced together, we have a true tandem. We have a true record and a true platform. We are on the side of principle and reform. We are the straight path,” he added.