CEBU – The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) kicked off its campaign in the vote-rich province of Cebu today.
Led by party stalwarts Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, UNA started their 90-day national campaign with a Mass at the Cebu Cathedral where they were greeted by local party leaders, suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
In his first official campaign as leader of the party, Binay hit hard on President Aquino and the Liberal Party's (LP) campaign pitch of "daang matuwid pretenders."
Binay said it’s a clear attack against him and their candidates who also vouch for clean and good governance.
"We are not pretenders," he said.
"Walang ganunan, walang tapunan ng putik, walang siraan ng pagkatao, charges of being pretenders, excuse me!” Binay added.
The Vice President hit back at the Liberal Party's references to "black and white," a challenge posed by LP to leaders of UNA to bare their true color and identity.
"Ngayong halalan, black and white daw, si Jojo Binay ba porket black masama na," he said. "Problema, inaangkin nilang lahat eh, bakit, yellow rin naman ako ah, gabinete rin ako ni Presidente Noynoy ah."
Binay clarified that they are not holding their proclamation rally in Cebu because they need to gain more support after he lost in the province in the 2010 elections.
Binay said they are here in Cebu because they recognize Cebu as one of the provinces close to the hearts of their candidates.
"Hindi po ako mapagtanim," he said.
Suspended Governor Gwen Garcia said it is just but logical for UNA to kick off their campaign in a province with about two and a half million voters and where UNA dominates the local race.
"We have the most number of local officials here, UNA will make history," Garcia said.
Garcia leads the pack of local officials from One Cebu Party who are in a coalition with Binay's UNA.
When Garcia was suspended, it was the so-called "3 kings" of UNA, Binay, Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada, who came to the rescue of the beleaguered governor by advising her to camp out in her office as long as possible.
After the mass, the entire UNA senatorial candidates went to ride their respective floats for the motorcade.
Voters lined up on the streets as UNA candidates, together with their "3 kings," waved to the delight of the crowd.
But the common candidates, Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, and former MTRCB chair Grace Poe, did not join the UNA campaign sorties today.
Estrada, another leading figure in the UNA leadership, expressed dismay over the absence of three of their candidates who are also candidates of Team PNoy.
"Gusto nila kanila lang eh, hindi naman tama ‘yun," Estrada said.
But despite this, newcomer in the Senate race, Juan Ponce "Jack" Enrile Jr., said he excited about the 3-month campaign trail. He also said he and his father, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, are very cautious of what they do as a father-and-son tandem in Philippine politics.
"Whatever my father does will affect, whatever I do will affect him," he said.
But veteran senatorial bets like Richard "Dick" Gordon hopes that the level of campaign would be far smarter this year, than just motorcades, rallies, and confetti.
“It should be an intelligent campaign na ang mga tao hindi dapat binobobo,” he says.
If the Liberal Party has the Plaza Miranda as its venue for its proclamation rally, UNA has the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City, a historical site that can accommodate as many as 50,000 people.
The stage is set, campaign tarpaulins are everywhere as well as the live set-ups of various media organizations are in place to cover the opening salvo of the three-month campaign trail for those running for senators who will be proclaimed by Binay, Estrada and Enrile at 5 p.m. today.
Binay said a good test of political strength can be seen tonight by looking at how many people will be present at the proclamation rallies of the two leading political parties, UNA in Plaza Independencia in Cebu, and the Liberal Party in Plaza Miranda in Manila.