Can Makabayan pull it off this time?

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Twice they tried, but both times they failed.

But defeats in the 2010 and the 2013 senatorial elections are not stopping the Makabayan Party, an umbrella group of progressive organizations, from taking another shot at a Senate seat.

The group is more confident now about the chances of Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, his candidacy bolstered by the support of Sen. Grace Poe, who is expected to include him in her senatorial ticket.

Poe and her runningmate, Sen. Francis Escudero, endorsed Colmenares’ Senate bid Wednesday in an affair that also drew supporters in former President Joseph Estrada, and members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño acknowledged Makabayan’s need to have Colmenares included in a "major slate."

That pretty much has been settled by Poe’s endorsement.

But Makabayan knows the party would have to work harder, given its apparent lack of resources to mount a nationwide campaign.


"I think Congressman Neri has a bigger chance (now)," Casiño, who ran but lost as an independent senatorial candidate in 2013, told ABS-CBN News.

"We learned from our mistakes in the past and hopefully, we won’t commit them anymore."

One lesson was clear to another former Bayan Muna congressman, Satur Ocampo, who ran for senator in 2010.

That time, he and former Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza made an unsuccessful run for the Senate under the slate of then Sen. Manny Villar.

Villar, he recalled, "delivered" in terms of campaign funds for his senatorial candidates.

Lack of funds

"But we did not reckon with the other factors that the other individual candidates had their own separate resources, which we didn’t have," Ocampo said.

"So that in the homestretch, we couldn’t compete anymore in radio and television advertising," he added.

It was even worse in 2013.

"With the kind of resources and machinery needed for a national campaign, it’s really difficult especially for an independent candidate like me who’s not rich or backed up by big businesses," Casiño said.

Colmenares said he had been told he would need "at least P100 million" to run a "decent" campaign. He said the actual amount could be double that.

"Definitely, we don’t have the money," he said. "I don’t think we can even raise one fourth of what they say we would need."


But things are said to be looking better for Makabayan for next year's elections.

Ocampo cited offers for Colmenares to run under different presidential candidates, an advantage the party did not have in 2010 and 2013.

Colmenares called it a "new phenomenon" where groups that "traditionally do not support senatorial candidates of Makabayan have expressed support this time around."

"We are encouraged by the thought that this could help us hurdle the (lack) of resources," he said.


Colmenares is aware that joining forces with traditional political parties and politicians might lead people to believe that he and his party are selling out.

But he insisted that the alliance was based on shared advocacies and similarities in campaign platforms.

"These groups know that we are independent," he said. "We will never be dictated upon by them. So when they offered their support for us, they recognized the capacity of Makabayan to continue what I always did in the Senate."


Casiño acknowledged the so-called bias against candidates from Left-leaning organizations.

"There will always be that bias, you know, after two decades of Martial Law. The Left has been disparaged for decades," he said.

"But it’s a problem that can easily be hurdled with effective and sufficient media and communications efforts," Casiño added.

A more serious challenge for Makabayan is convincing voters, especially the youth, to really scrutinize candidates and choose based on platform and track record, not mere popularity.

Said Ocampo: "The 2016 elections will be a test of whether there has been a relative maturation of the voters."