MANILA, Philippines - The results of next year’s elections will be a “curtain raiser” and a “testing ground” between the newly formed United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay and the administration’s Liberal Party (LP), Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday.
So whoever comes out on top in the 2013 polls will most likely gain the upper hand in the national elections in 2016, Enrile said.
Enrile made the statement as the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada took in former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as a candidate for the Senate in the 2013 midterm elections.
Zubiri and Manila Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso were sworn in as the newest members of PMP in an oath-taking ceremony held yesterday at the Club Filipino in San Juan.
The PMP and the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) had joined forces to form UNA for 2013.
The creation of UNA was a political game changer that forced the LP to answer questions about its own preparations for the 2013 polls.
Estrada is chairman emeritus of PMP while Enrile serves as chairman, with Sen. Jinggoy Estrada as party president.
With Estrada and Enrile at the helm of PMP and Binay for PDP-Laban, several politicians have started knocking on the doors of UNA as potential candidates for the senatorial and local level races.
In spite of these developments, Enrile said UNA is facing an uphill battle against a political giant that is LP.
“I consider this alliance as David and the opponent is Goliath. Many say that it is not true. But if they study the current situation in the country, we are the true David. Why? Numerically, LP controls the House of Representatives. LP controls the bureaucracy. LP controls vast powers of governors, mayors and councilors. What do we control for us to be considered as Goliath?” Enrile said.
As far as funding is concerned, Enrile said that the combined resources of the PMP and PDP-Laban would not be able to match the deep pockets of the LP.
“Our strength comes not from the leaders present here but from your leaders across the nation and especially the support of the masses,” Enrile said, addressing the members of PMP.
Enrile shared what he pointed out to Binay and Estrada during their meeting regarding the alliance between the two parties – that the 2013 midterm election is connected to the 2016 national election.
“Why? Because 2013 is a testing ground on whom the people will support. This is what you call a curtain raiser,” he said.
The creation of UNA was widely attributed to Binay who has stated he is running for president in the 2016 elections.
His victory in the 2010 elections as vice president made believers out of many skeptics on his popularity as a national candidate.
In a bid to solidify the voter base of UNA for the forthcoming elections, Binay has opened the doors of the alliance to candidates coming from different political parties.
Zubiri, for one, was a former Lakas-Kampi-CMD stalwart but parted ways with the party in 2010 because of differences his family had with the party on the campaign for local seats in his home province of Bukidnon.
Sen. Loren Legarda, a long-time member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, is practically guaranteed a seat in the 12-strong lineup of the UNA for the 2013 senatorial race.
Even members of Lakas expressed interest in being part of the UNA ticket.
Another NPC member, Cagayan Rep. Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr., the son and namesake of the Senate President, will also be taking his oath as a member of the PMP and be part of the senatorial ticket of UNA.
Enrile said that during the same meeting he had with Estrada and Binay, he stated his position that UNA should limit itself to members of PMP and PDP-Laban, especially for local posts.
However, as far as the national level is concerned, Enrile said there is more flexibility.
Yesterday’s oath taking of Zubiri and Moreno felt more like a miting de avance for next year’s elections.
Moreno led 28 Manila city councilors as they took their oath before former solicitor general Frank Chavez, PMP’s legal affairs division chief.
Enrile said the decision to recruit Zubiri was not difficult considering that he is an “able politician and senator.”
“He (Zubiri) was working with me in the Senate, he did a very good job. So I think he will be an asset to the country,” Enrile said.
Having been accepted as a new member of the PMP, Zubiri will “consequently” become a member of UNA, Binay added.
“We have to respect the decision of the PMP taking senator Migz Zubiri, and then as a consequence of one of our policies, being a member of one of the parties in the coalition, he is now a member of PMP, they will nominate him to be a candidate of UNA,” Binay said.
Sen. Estrada, for his part, said the entry of Zubiri and Moreno sends a clear signal that PMP is a force to reckon with in Philippine politics.
“As your president, I believe that this is the start of our path towards the dream of progress for our country through our party,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Zubiri’s grand welcome came amidst the objections of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of PMP.
Pimentel took his seat at the Senate last year after Zubiri resigned.
Pimentel openly aired his objection to the entry of Zubiri to the UNA coalition, citing the dispute between them for the 12th seat in the 2007 senatorial elections.
Zubiri took the 12th seat but faced the electoral protest of Pimentel before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
The SET eventually came out with a decision declaring Pimentel as the 12th senator in the 2007 elections but only after Zubiri gave up his post and his counter-protests against Pimentel.
Enrile expressed confidence that the rift between Pimentel and Zubiri would heal in time.
“Eventually all these things will heal. People do not maintain any grudges. If you’re a politician and maintain grudges, in the end you will be destroyed. When you go together in war, you have to work together to survive and politics is actually some kind of a war, in a peaceful way, it’s a struggle for power,” he said.
“I’m confident that the two gentlemen are rational, intelligent human beings and they can thresh out their differences. I respect their feelings. I think we should not look at divisions. We must look at areas of opportunities for co-existence, accommodation and cooperation,” Enrile added.
Zubiri, for his part, said he would continue to reach out to Pimentel, who he considers as his friend, in spite of their political differences.
It makes no sense for the rift to continue, Zubiri said, considering they are among the handful representing the Mindanao region.
“I have no issue with him (Pimentel), there is no rancor in my heart,” he said.
Zubiri said his entry to PMP and UNA was a result of the collective decision of the leadership of the party and alliance and should be respected. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Sandy Araneta, Jess Diaz