MANDAUE CITY, CEBU—President Aquino made an appearance with some of the candidates of the administration’s senatorial candidates in the vote-rich province of Cebu ahead of the official start of the campaign period.
It is also the first visit of Aquino here since the suspension of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia who has been staying at the provincial capitol as she appeals her suspension in court.
Acting Governor Agnes Magpale joined the program at the Mandaue City Sports Complex where the senatorial candidates took turns in delivering speeches while waiting for the arrival of Aquino who first inaugurated the shipyard operations of Austal Philippines in Balamban.
Aquino refused to describe the situation in the provincial capitol as a “standoff,” saying that Magpale is able to “exercise control” and deliver services to the people of Cebu.
He said that the situation in Cebu is “quiet” contrary to how “other sectors” may have wanted to “hype” it.
“Pasalamatan ko na rin po [si Magpale] sa kanyang maayos na pangangasiwa. Tahimik ho ang Cebu. Naaasikaso ang mga kababayan natin dito, bagamat merong mga ibang sektor na gustong gumawa ng drama at sabihin nakaka-tense sa Cebu. Mukhang hindi ho yata tama,” Aquino said in his speech.
In an interview with reporters, Aquino said that the administration will continue to adopt a “maximum tolerance” policy as long as “all parties adhere to the law.”
“Our position is there is no standoff per se in the sense that Governor Magpale is able to exercise the functions of governor and the provincial government of Cebu is able to… deliver services and carry out its functions to the benefit of the people of Cebu,” he said.
“We have adopted a maximum tolerance policy. We do not want to foster any untoward incidents and therefore we will exercise this so long as all parties adhere to the law and do not create situations where we will be forced to take more drastic actions. Let me reiterate: besides some attempts trying to hype it up in media, there is no standoff that we are aware of,” Aquino added, saying that the police has reduced its presence around the capitol since the suspension was served.
Aquino stressed that politics wasn't involved in the decision to suspend Garcia, saying that it underwent due process.
He denied that the administration is out to weaken local leaders not allied with him.
“Trabaho namin i-execute the laws. Palagay namin may nilabag na batas, dumaan sa proseso at napatunayan, in the case here in Cebu. The other is ongoing an investigation to determine precisely the veracity of the charges and complaints filed against the other governor,” Aquino said, referring to Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino who is facing charges over his alleged involvement in jueteng operations.
PITCHING FOR HIS BETS
Aquino made a pitch for his Senate bets, saying that he needs them to continue the reforms that he has started.
“Ang tanong: Itutuloy ba natin ang pagtahak sa tuwid na daan ng kaunlaran? O gusto ba nating mag-U-turn pabalik sa kanto ng katiwalian at kalsada ng kahirapan?” he said in his speech.
“Magiging suwabe lang po ang biyahe natin kapag mayroon tayong kakamping hindi magka-counterflow sa tuwid na daan at talagang makikipagbayanihan upang maitulak ang ating mga reporma.”
He said he personally chose these candidates because they share his beliefs.
“Ako na po mismo ang nagsasabi sa inyo: Kailangan natin sila upang tuloy-tuloy nating maisulong ang bayan. Sila po, tulad natin, ay pinili rin ang tuwid na daan ng paglilingkod-bayan. Suportado po natin sila dahil bukod sa hindi sila tiwali ay malinaw rin sa kanila kung ano ang dapat ipaglaban at kung alin ang mali na dapat iwaksi ng lipunan,” he said.
Aquino is unperturbed by the headway that the United Nationalist Alliance has made in going around the country and placing TV ads.
He said the administration intends to “comply not only with the letter of the law but the spirit of the law” against premature campaigning.
“Kelangan natin unawain siguro ‘yung kabilang panig. Mas marami silang kailangan pruwebahan (patunayan) kaysa sa amin, palagay ko naman ang pruweba nakita na sa ginawa namin. So they have to catch up hence the need to have all these sorties at this point in time,” he told reporters.
Asked if the administration candidates would place TV spots soon, he said, “I think we will religiously comply not only with the letter of the law but the spirit of the law.”
Aquino was joined in Cebu by senatorial candidates Jamby Madrigal, Koko Pimentel, Risa Hontiveros, Jun Magsaysay, and Sonny Angara. Rep. Mark Villar represented his mother Cynthia Villar.
The LP head in Cebu, Hilario “Junjun” Davide, vowed to campaign hard for the administration’s candidates.
“Kami po ay handa na para sa 2013. We would like to assure you of our continued support and we would like to assure your candidates for the Senate that we will work hard and ensure their victory in May 2013,” Davide said in his speech.
Davide, son of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, is running for governor against the brother of Gwen Garcia, Pablo John.