MANILA (UPDATE) - The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Thursday announced that it has officially dropped guest candidates Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Sen. Francis Escudero and Sen. Loren Legarda from its senatorial ticket in the May 2013 elections.
In a statement, UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco said the coalition has decided it is no longer obligated to include the names of Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace-Poe Llamanzares in its list of candidates.
"They are no longer common candidates and they are no longer guest candidates. We have extended all courtesies and possible solutions to them na makapunta sila," he said in an ANC interview.
He said the UNA will only promote the nine senatorial candidates namely Jack Enrile, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Tingting Cojuangco, Mitos Magsaysay, Nancy Binay, Ernesto Maceda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Richard Gordon and Gregorio Honasan.
"We would have wanted and were looking forward to having them join our 9 UNA candidates in our rallies and sorties. We tried our best to accommodate them. We know that the Liberal Party (LP), through Sen. Franklin Drilon, has warned them repeatedly about joining our election activities," he said.
Tiangco said the decision to drop the 3 candidates was a long process and underwent consultations with coalition members and leaders.
He said that in their Cebu campaign rally, many had been asking him why the UNA leadership had not dropped the 3 candidates after they refuse to appear in the sorties.
He said the UNA leadership tried everything, including allowing the common candidates to send proxies. He said he personally spoke to the candidates and only one candidate, Legarda, offered to send a proxy for their campaign rallies in Central Luzon, which he rejected.
"Mukhang ayaw na nila so we have to go on our separate ways," he said.
"We have held on to their assurances that they will join us sooner or later. Unfortunately, none of them have taken any concrete move or extended any meaningful gesture to assure us that they will live up to their commitments," he added.
Tiangco said at least one of the common candidates have made public statements ruling out participation in UNA events.
Chiz, Loren, Grace accept decision
Escudero admitted being deeply hurt by the UNA decision but said he respects the coalition's decision.
"This is a big loss, but I respect their decision. I can’t dictate on them," he said.
He said he has not given any commitments to UNA. Instead of just keeping quiet about it, “some members and leaders” decided to talk about their criticisms publicly, he said.
He also dismissed Tiangco’s allegation that Liberal Party leader Franklin Drilon has warned them of joining UNA’s activities.
“I can only speak for myself, that’s not true,” he said. Not even President Benigno Aquino III or anyone from Team PNoy has swayed him from joining the UNA sorties, he added.
He said he will not hold any grudges against UNA members or its leaders. “This is political. I consider them as my friends, they still have my respect. Time will heal any hard feelings.”
Like Escudero, Legarda and Poe said they respect UNA's decision to remove them from its senatorial slate.
"I have not been informed. If true, my respect for them will not change. They will continue to be my friends," Legarda said.
For her part, Poe said she is relieved the issue has been put to rest.
President Aquino, meanwhile, gave the following statement on UNA's move. "Noong araw pa namin niyakap ang tatlong kandidatong ito ng buong-buo," he said.
Team PNoy spokesman Rep. Miro Quimbo said UNA's move was "inevitable." He added that the move only confirmed that UNA adopted the 3 candidates to enable it to form a complete slate.
In a statement, Liberal Party spokesman Rep. Erin Tañada said the common candidates were UNA's 3 "saving graces."
He said UNA was "a party in disarray, with no sense of what it represents and where it wants to go. One minute it is anti-GMA, the next minute it becomes her defender just because they are in Pampanga."
Another Team PNoy spokesman, Rep. Ben Evardone likened the UNA to a sinking ship.
"Nobody wants to be with them. It has come to a point that being identified with UNA is a kiss of death. Even independent candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva has declared his refusal to accept their invitation," he said.