MANILA - The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates felt relieved but at the same time saddened over the delisting of guest candidates Senators Loren Legarda , Francis Escudero and former MTRCB chair Grace Poe from their lineup.
UNA deputy secretary-general and senatorial candidate Nancy Binay regrets that the three guest candidates did not stand up for their principles, just like when they were all together during the 2004 elections under Fernando Poe Jr.
"Noong 2004 magkakasama kami sa laban ni FPJ, ngayun andun sila sa kalaban," she said. “Yun mga kasama nila ngayon, sila yung naninira at kumekwestyon sa capability ni FPJ."
Grace Poe is the daughter of the late presidential candidate and action king Fernando Poe Jr., and Escudero was Poe's spokesperson during the 2004 elections.
Senatorial candidate JV Ejercito Estrada admitted that his father, former Pres Joseph Estrada, was hurt and slighted by Grace Poe's continued snubbing of UNA campaign activities despite consistent invitations.
"Hindi po maiaalis na medyo masaktan o magtampo ng kaunti," Ejercito said. "FPJ and my father are more than brothers."
He lamented that Grace Poe may have forgotten who her real allies was. He said, "noong 2004 (elections) ito yung mga panahon na ang Liberal Party ay hindi naniniwala sa kanyang tatay, kami dugo at pawis ang binigay kay FPJ.”
He said, however, that his family will still help Poe in the campaign. "Nag-usap na kami at kung may sortie na pwede kami magkasama, we’re still looking forward to that," he said.
Binay said the last straw for the UNA executive committee was the guest candidates’ absence in more UNA campaign sorties, specifically in Pampanga on Wednesday and in Zambales today.
Senatorial candidate Richard Gordon felt relieved that the issue of the supposed "delicadeza" of Escudero, Legarda and Poe was finally put to rest.
"Lumalabas kasi ginagamit nila yung dalawang partido, namamangka talaga sa dalawang ilog," he said.
All three should explain to the public, he added.
Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda, another UNA senatorial candidate, said the unfair treatment is finally over.
"It’s not really fair,” he said. “It’s not fair that we will be endorsing them and [they will not be] returning those favors.”
Re-electionist Senator Gringo Honasan, on the other hand, said he did not feel that there was a loss on the part of their coalition slate. "Magtawiran man o hindi, mabawasan man kami, solid pa rin kami.”
Candidates Migz Zubiri and Tingting Cojuangco both said they felt sad over these developments.
"Personally, sayang, pero kaya naman namin tumindig sa sarili namin" Zubiri said. "We just have to proceed, we just have to take good care of our candidacies," Cojuangco added.
The UNA candidates wished the three good luck in their campaigns. They said it would be easier now to campaign without the extra baggage.
"Mas madali ang 9-0 kaya sa 12-0," Binay said, referring to a possible clean sweep of candidates during the elections by either dominant party.
Ejercito, meanwhile, confirmed that talks on the possible inclusion of Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and former Presidential candidate and Jesus is Lord Movement church leader Bro. Eddie Villlanueva in the slate.
He said Teddy Casiño of Makabayan Coalition is the possible third candidate.
"Bro. Eddie has been talking to my father, hindi malayo yun," he said. "Mayor Hagedorn is a good friend of the family (Estrada).”
As for Casiño, talks were not realized before due to some problems but it may push through this time, he said.
"Hintayin na lang natin magiging desisyon ng mga higher ups," Ejercito said, referring to party founders Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Maceda insisted these will remain as rumors for now. “It’s too late to make replacements at this time.”
Gordon also does not have any confirmed information on such replacements, but said he "would not mind standing with them.”
Gordon said what is more important than a complete senatorial slate is the ability, performance record and background of each candidate.
In a statement early Thursday, UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco they would have wanted and they were looking forward to having Escudero, Legarda and Poe join the nine UNA candidates in their rallies and sorties. It was the fourth time that the guest candidates snubbed an UNA campaign sortie.
Since the proclamation rally in Cebu last Feb 12, the three candidates have never been seen campaigning with team UNA. Legarda and Poe both sent representatives to Cebu but Escudero never did.
UNA added that they have tried their best to accommodate Escudero, Legarda and Poe.
Tiangco said they know that the Liberal Party, through Sen. Franklin Drilon, has warned the three repeatedly about joining UNA election activities.
He said they have held on to the words of the three candidates that they will join UNA sooner or later. Unfortunately, Tiangco said, none of them have taken any concrete move or extended any meaningful gesture to assure the party that they will live up to their commitments.
On the contrary, public statements have been made by at least one of the three candidates ruling out participation in UNA events. Grace Poe has previously said that her priority is the Liberal Party.
UNA said it is clear that the three have made up their minds and they need to move on. UNA wished all three good luck in the forthcoming elections.