UNA ticket: A family affair?

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2013 07:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2013 03:24 AM

Fourth of a Series

MANILA - Among the major political parties, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) was first off the mark in the senatorial race. But it was also first to stumble, ending up with an incomplete ticket that suspiciously looks like a family affair.

Even before UNA was born from the union of PDP-Laban and Puwersa ng Masa (PMP) parties, it was destined to be an opposition group by President Aquino’s own decree.

In December 2011, ABS-CBN asked the President if he saw Vice President Jejomar Binay’s group joining the administration coalition for Halalan 2013. The President said: “That might be difficult.”

Leaders of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) signify their intention for the 2013 polls. Photo by Lito Diaz for ABS-CBNnews.com

When finally the so-called Three Kings of UNA – Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile - sealed their union, some of those orphaned by the previous administration flocked to the UNA banner.

One of them is senatorial candidate Mitos Magsaysay, incumbent representative of Zambales and closely identified with former President Arroyo. That Magsaysay was welcomed by both Binay and Estrada came as a big surprise, as both leaders were bitter enemies of Arroyo.

But Magsaysay says her harsh criticism of President Aquino does not stem from her previous alliance with Arroyo.

“Hindi ko naman kaaway ang national government. Ako'y nagsasalita, probably the point of view that I'm raising is alternative to what the President or the administration wants to hear. But this is not because I want to bring them down. It's because I want to make them to improve the quality of service that we are providing the Filipino people,” Magsaysay explains.

“Kasi mahirap minsan sa mga nakaupo, ang mga pumapaligid diyan yung mga rah-rah boys at rah-rah girls, hindi nila sasabihin yung katotohanan,” she adds.

To complicate matters, Magsaysay will be on the same stage with fellow candidate and former senator Richard Gordon. Their families are also political rivals in Zambales.

Another former Arroyo ally and senator Migz Zubiri also joined UNA.

But UNA had difficulties with its other allies. Two prospective candidates backed out, another candidate who’s also PDP-Laban president switched tickets, two Nacionalista prospects joined the administration, and a candidate already announced by UNA also hopped over to Team PNoy. Even Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe, who had a long history of political alliance and with UNA leaders, accepted President Aquino’s invitation instead.

Nancy Binay: Qualified?

Enter Nancy Binay, the Vice President’s eldest child, whose only experience in government work so far, was serving as her parents’ executive assistant. Nancy says running for senator was a last-minute decision.

“Si Congressman Toby (Tiangco, UNA secretary general and campaign manager) kinukulit niya na ako na bakit hindi ako tumakbo dahil pumapasok nga ako sa survey. Paulit-ulit kong sinasabi sa kaniya, ayoko. Pero nung time nga nung nag-backout si Joey (de Venecia) eh parang wala na rin siyang makita so ako na lang yung naisip nya na ipalit,” Nancy Binay recalls.

“So kinonsult nya dun sa UNA senatorial slate tapos tinanong din niya si Senate President Enrile saka si Presidente Erap kung okay sa kanila and um-oo naman sila kahit ayaw ni Daddy,” she adds.

But Nancy’s candidacy was not exactly a sudden leap of faith. As early as May 2012, on the basis of a Pulse Asia survey where she placed number 13 (statistically, tied for 10th-18th), UNA knew she had a fighting chance in the senatorial race.

Despite the fact that her father is vice president, her brother Makati mayor, and her sister Makati representative, this is Nancy’s first time to run for political office. And so the question is often asked: what makes her thing that she is well qualified to become senator?

“Ako tingin ko since birth parang ano na eh, we were groomed, we were brought up to be in public service. When my mom was pregnant with me, nakakulong yung daddy ko so I was inside (the womb), ang environment outside ay binibisita ng mommy ko yung kulungan because he was a political prisoner at that time so ang orientation ko talaga was in politics. Like for a time nga, yung daddy ko ang tawag sa akin 'makibaka' kasi nga di ba, street parliamentarian siya,” she says.

Nancy Binay is not the only one with family ties with the leaders of UNA.

Family ties: JV, Jack, Tingting

Also a candidate is the former president’s son, JV Ejercito who is on his first term as San Juan representative.

Familiar faces with familiar names dot the UNA senatorial ticket. Photo by Ron Dorendo for ABS-CBNnews.com

And then there is the Senate President’s son, Jack Enrile, who is representative of Cagayan. Aside from the issue of political dynasty and overlapping terms, the younger Enrile is hounded by his past image and reputation as the fearsome son of the architect of martial law.

“Ang sinasabi nila palagi, ay ganyan pala ang itsura mo kasi ang (mental) picture nila long hair, balbas. I used to have that, long hair and balbas. Maitim, matapang, nakakatakot, parati raw masungit,” he says.

“Nalulungkot ako siyempre na people have that image of me, but kung ano man nangyari sa buhay ko noon, eh that was 30 years ago. Siguro kahit papaano, kung yung cells natin nag-iiba every 7 years, siguro yung buong pagkatao rin ni Jack Enrile kung totoo man yung nangyari noon o hindi, eh nag-iiba rin ho yon,” the younger Enrile adds.

Aside from Enrile senior’s only son Jack, the UNA ticket includes reelectionist Gregorio Honasan. Both Enrile senior and Honasan have referred to their decades-long relationship as like father and son.

Yet another candidate who is family, literally, is Tingting Cojuangco. A former governor of Tarlac, Tingting is the wife of former congressman Peping Cojuangco of Tarlac, secretary-general of PDP-Laban and part of UNA’s decision-making.

And who can doubt former Senator Ernesto Maceda’s ties with Erap, having served as ambassador to the US during the Estrada administration.

UNA ended up with only 9 candidates, scrambling to complete the line-up by “adopting” guest candidates Escudero, Legarda and Poe who threw their lot with the administration ticket.

Despite making an early start and a pick of the choice candidates, UNA’s senatorial ticket ended up looking like a family affair. Which leads to the question: were some of these candidates fielded by UNA because they have the capability, or were they included in the ticket because they have the connection?