MANILA - Daang matuwid or daang maganda, Team PNoy or Team UNA. Which will you choose?
Liberal Party campaign manager Sen. Franklin Drilon said President Aquino agreed to call the administration’s senatorial candidates "Team PNoy" to show that he personally handpicked them to lead in his reform agenda.
"He is going to spend his political capital for his candidates. He is not afraid to spend his political capital because there are a lot of reforms that he has to do in the last three years of his administration. Therefore, it is essential that he should have the majority in the Senate in order that he can push these reforms," he said in an interview on ANC Presents: Election Watch.
“This is the time that we draw the line. We are Team PNoy. Yung hindi po Team PNoy, hindi kasama ni PNoy. Nasa taumbayan po iyan, kung kayo ay naniniwala kay Pangulong Noynoy, ito po ang kanyang hinaharap sa inyo na maging katulong niya sa Senado.”
The administration’s senatorial candidates include members of the LP, of which Aquino is the chairman; the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party and the Laban ng Demokatrikong Pilipino.
On the other hand, candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) come from the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino of former President Joseph Estrada, the NPC and PDP-Laban of Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said that unlike the administration slate, their ticket will not undergo a name change.
He also took a shot at President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” slogan.
"Yung sa kanila daang matuwid; kami naman daang maganda. Maliwanag sa amin iyan. Even sa ads ang sinabi nila daang matuwid; kami daang maganda. Pwedeng tuwid pero lubak-lubak. Dapat maganda," he said.
Drilon said the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing 7 "Team PNoy" bets and 5 United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates in the "Magic 12" shows the public's confusion on who is allied with the President.
The survey showed three common candidates - Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe-Llamanzares - making it to the top 12.
Four Team PNoy bets - Alan Peter Cayetano, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar and Antonio Trillanes IV – also made it to the top 12.
The rest of the top 12 - JV Ejercito, Gregorio Honasan, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Jackie Enrile and Nancy Binay - are candidates of UNA.
Drilon said the President wants his own candidates to dominate the Senate because he has many reforms that need to be carried out in his last 3 years in office.
He said that despite being allied with Senate majority, he still has a hard time pushing for key measures such as the sin tax and reproductive health bills.
“I have always told Toby: let’s define the lines. We are the administration; you are the opposition. There is nothing wrong with that. In democracy, opposition is necessary,” he said.
He said the 3 common candidates – Legarda, Escudero and Poe - are Team PNoy bets who just happened to be adopted by UNA.
“Siguro kulang sila ng kandidato kaya nanghiram sa amin, pero okay lang iyon,” Drilon said.
Tiangco, however, said the common candidates have a more natural affiliation with UNA than Team PNoy.
He said Legarda was allied with former President Estrada and was Fernando Poe Jnr’s running-mate in the 2004 election, Escudero was Poe’s former spokesman while Poe-Llamanzares is the late Action King’s daughter.
He also said the three common candidates would not have been included in the UNA ticket if there was no earlier agreement.
Asked if they have invited the 3 to UNA sorties, he said: “Formally, we have not invited them. But yung isa sa kanila, humingi ng schedule sa amin. Kasi we don’t like to put them on the spot. Ayaw naman naming gipitin sila na alam na nga namin na hindi sila pinapayagan sa amin tapos pipilitin mo silang sumama. Para namang you’re putting them on the spot.”
The UNA spokesman said the common candidates will also have to decide which team to join during the proclamation rallies on February 12. UNA will be conducting its rally in Cebu City while Team PNoy will conduct a rally in Manila on the same date.
“I think it will inevitably be decided – magkakakitaan iyan – doon sa February 12 dahil sabay ang rally namin. Makikita natin kung kaninong entablado sila aakyat,” he said.
Tiangco confirmed that UNA decided not to include the common candidates in the coalition’s TV ad. The names of the 3 common candidates were only included at the end of the ad.
“Doon sa UNA ads, I went to see two of them – kasi yung isa nabalitaan kong sinabihan na – ako yung nagpaliwanag sa kanila. Sana maintindihan ninyo na may 9 kaming kandidato na exclusively UNA at naiintindihan namin na common candidates kayo. Pero kung 12 kayong lalabas, kokonti yung oras para doon sa 9 na candidates namin. I told the two of them na talang ima-maximize namin yung exposure for the nine, pero sinama naman namin sa huli,” he said.
Drilon noted that the 3 common candidates are in an enviable position since both camps are fighting to include them in the ticket.
He said three LP candidates - Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay Jr., Jamby Madrigal and Bam Aquino - who are not doing well in the surveys need more exposure.
"They may not have the benefit yet of exposure that is needed. I am confident that we will recover. Jun Magsaysay was out of office for six years. But hindi matatawaran ang ginawa niya sa Senado. Bam, the moment he is exposed to the public, you’ll be surprised of the approval rating, conversion that he will get. It is just a question of exposure. I am not worried at this stage," he said.
Poe’s surge in the ratings
He also claimed credit for Poe-Llamanzares’ strong showing in the latest SWS survey, which saw her tied with Trillanes at 10th-11th slot.
“Maybe people already knew that she was running; kasi before hindi naman siya nagsasabi na tatakbo siya. When she was taken in as part of Team PNoy, that caused the spike in her ranking. But let me emphasize, this is just the start and a lot of things can happen,” he said.
Tiangco, however, said Poe-Llamanzares could have fared better in the survey if she had remained with UNA.
“Si Grace ang pinakamalaki ang inangat, but I will not hesitate to say na mas maganda sana ang showing ni Grace kung sumama siya exclusively with UNA at hindi as guest candidate. Ang nangyari kasi dito, parang naghiwalay ang nanay at tatay. Si Erap nasa amin. Si VP Binay nasa amin tapos sumama siya sa kabila. So yung mga loyalists ni FPJ napipilitan na mamili,” he said.
“Yung nagmamahal kay FPJ, sigurado nagmamahal kay Erap, sigurado nagmamahal kay VP Binay at sigurado mahal din si Grace. Pero naghiwalay,” he added.
Road to 2016
Drilon noted that one reason why Aquino wants his candidates to win the elections is to ensure that his last 3 years in office will be fruitful.
“Let us call a spade a spade…They will never admit that they are trying to make the President a lame duck. But in their internal meetings, natural iyon. Huwag na tayong maglokohan. You want to make the a lame duck administration so pagdating ng panahon na yung endorsement ng Pangulo ay hindi sa inyo, talagang balewala na,” he said.
Tiangco, however, swiftly opposed this, saying that a working government would be beneficial for the next President.
“It is not true that we want a lame duck president and if we believe that the next president is going to be Vice President Binay, we want Aquino to perform well. Gusto namin na ang mamanahin na gobyerno ng susunod na pangulo na naniniwala kami ay si VP Binay ay maganda ang takbo,” he said.
He also said the UNA is 100% constructive opposition because it will continue to support the good programs of the Aquino administration. “Hindi monopoliya ng isang partido ang magandang ideas sa ating bansa,” he said.