Aquino clan banks on 'family effort' to deliver second Senate term for Bam

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2019 08:10 PM

Aquino clan banks on 'family effort' to deliver second Senate term for Bam 1
Bam Aquino files his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila with his wife Timi and their daughters Rory and Coco, October 16, 2018. Photo from Bam Aquino's Instagram account

MANILA - A pair of Chanel pearl drop earrings dangled from Kris Aquino's ears as she animatedly told reporters about her latest albeit indirect political endorsement. 

Instead of the Aquinos' signature yellow campaign color, Kris donned a pink graphic tee bearing the face of her cousin Bam Aquino as she tapped her star power to help rally votes for the 41-year-old lawmaker. 

It was a necessary boost: despite having a high-profile last name and a reputable track record, Bam continues to dangle in the bottom half of the winning circle in pre-election surveys.

"Kailangan tumayo ka para sa kapamilya o kadugo mo," said Kris, a celebrity and entrepreneur, noting that her lawyers reviewed her endorsement contracts to skirt provisions that prohibited her from directly campaigning for a candidate in the 2019 midterm polls.

(You have to stand up for your family and blood relatives.)

"We're all in this together... At the end of the day, bitbit ni Bam ang apelyido namin," said the "Crazy, Rich, Asians" actress, youngest daughter of the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino.

(At the end of the day, Bam carries our family name.)

Bam, unlike other reelectionists who consistently top pre-election surveys, landed on the 11th to 16th bracket in Pulse Asia's March 23 to 27 survey. He attributed his survey performance to the "concerted effort" to bastardize the Aquinos, saying wielding the family name has always been a double-edged sword.

"It goes all ways. May mga tao who will like me or vote for me because of things my relatives have done. That's a plus, tanggap mo 'yan. So, of course, kapag may negative, tanggap mo din dapat yan," he said in an earlier interview on ANC's Headstart.

(It goes all ways. There are people who will like me or vote for me because of things my relatives have done. That's a plus, you have to accept that. So, of course, if there are negatives, you have to accept those too.)

"Ganun talaga ang buhay (That's life). Even naman early on, there will be people who will support the Aquinos and there are people who won't. So, ever since, it's always an advantage and in some places, a disadvantage," he said.



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The Aquino family is pulling out all the stops to help deliver a second Senate term for their bespectacled scion who has been delivering public speeches in pro-Cory rallies since he was around 10, Ramon Casiple told ABS-CBN News.

"That's the end of the Aquino dynasty if Bam is not elected at least on the national level," he said, of the senator who is currently the last with the fabled family name in national politics. 

"Wala na sa pamilya nila ang politiko na viable at this moment. Lokal siguro meron pa, may mga pinsan diyan, pero national level [wala na]," he said.

(There is no other in the family left who is viable to be a politician at the moment. At the local level, maybe they still have cousins, but at the national level there is no one left.)

Aquino's uncle, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., is considered a hero and martyr, slain in 1983 after his arrival at the airport upon return from exile in the United States. He was a staunch critic of the dictatorial regime of then strongman Ferdinand Marcos and earlier detained for criminal charges he said were "trumped up."

His assassination inspired a groundswell of dissent to the dictatorship, culminating three years later in a peaceful revolt that installed his wife, Corazon Aquino, as president of a restored democracy. 

In 2009, the death of the democracy icon, the country's first female president, prompted clamor for the presidential bid of her only son, then Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, the incumbent senator's cousin. 

Bam's other uncle, Agapito "Butz" Aquino, and aunt Tessie Aquino-Oreta, also served in the Senate. 

Other Aquinos have also served in the House of Representatives and local positions in their bailiwick Tarlac. 

Bam debuted as a national politician in 2013 when he first ran for the Senate under the "Team PNoy" slate named after his cousin, the then president.

Bam, whose full name is Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, is the fourth Benigno in the family, sharing the first name of his martyred uncle and his ex-president-cousin. 

His Senate bid was his first for an electoral post, having been known previously for his work as head of the National Youth Commission, and then as a social entrepreneur. 

A summa cum laude graduate in management engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University, Aquino hosted several television shows, including those centered on business, in the early 2000s. 

In 2008, five years before his foray into politics, he took up the Executive Education Program on Public Policy and Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University in the US. 

He succeeded in his 2013 bid, placing 7th overall with 15.5 million votes. 

When Aquino's presidency ended in 2016, Bam became part of the Senate minority under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Others in the Team PNoy slate, now reelectionist Senators Grace Poe, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel IV, Sonny Angara and Cynthia Villar, bolted to the majority bloc. 

Bam's 2019 bid is more difficult than his premiere in politics, said his nephew and election campaign representative Simon Aquino. 

"Name recall played a big role noong (in) 2013 kasi (because of) the name, the advantage of the Aquino name," he said.

"Wherever we go, there was always that 'Aquino effect' because PNoy was the one handling him so it was relatively easier," he added, noting that the Aquino last name had not yet lost its luster in the previous midterm polls.

Now, Bam is part of the Otso Diretso slate, led by the Liberal Party and supported by its stalwart, his cousin Noynoy. 

The slate takes pride in the competence of its candidates, most of whom have yet to occupy national positions in government. It's a stark contrast from his 2013 run when he campaigned alongside political titans equipped with their own war chests and machineries.

"Ngayon, parang we're standing on our own. The network is still there pero may mga iba, with the biases, nahihirapan kami to tap them, may mga takot," Simon said.

(Now, it's like we're standing on our own. The network is still there but there are some, with the biases, who became harder to tap because of fear.)

"Let's just say na mas marami [ang campaign funds] noon, definitely," Bam told ABS-CBN News in a separate interview on the sidelines of a sortie in Tondo, Manila.

(Let's just say that we had more campaign funds then, definitely.)

"Dito maraming poster dito pero sa buong Pilipinas, medyo dehado tayo. 'Yung mga giveaways kulang-kulang na din. May mga baller pa kami noon. It's just very different kapag wala ka sa administrasyon," he said.

(Here in Tondo, we have a lot of posters here, but we are at a disadvantage if we're talking about the entire Philippines. We're also short in giveaways this year. Before, we even had ballers. It's just very different when you are no longer with the administration.)

"Kailangan mo makipag-compete. You have to raise funds. That's the reality sa ano mang kampaniya," he said.

(You have to compete. You have to raise funds. That's the reality in any campaign.)



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To augment the leaner campaign kitty this year, Aquino's immediate family has joined the trail to help spread word that Bam is not only a spitting image of his Uncle Ninoy, but also a capable lawmaker who has authored important legislation, including one on free college education and a law on easier access to small capital.

"Family effort talaga. Tulong-tulungan lang. Ang dami na naming branches na nag-iikot for him," Simon said, underscoring that Bam's wife Timi and his mother Melanie are also campaigning around the country to cover more ground.

(It's really a family effort. We have to help each other out. Our family has a lot of branches doing rounds for him.)
"We just make sure that his presence, his name and 'yung mga nagawa niya (and his achievements) are felt on the ground," he said.

In 2013, Mrs. Timi Aquino stepped down from the helm of the country's largest hair care company to help in her husband's campaign. This time, she gave up her position as a fast-food chain executive to do the same.

"Noong boyfriend-girlfriend pa kami, nag-long distance relationship pa kami, nagtrabaho pa ako sa ibang bansa pero never ko na-feel na I was bogged down by Bam," Timi said.

(When we were still boyfriend-girlfriend, we went through a long distance relationship because I worked abroad, but I never felt I was bogged down by Bam.)

"Every single day, sobra akong supported. Every single day, sobra 'yung paniniwala niya sa akin to succeed so kung dumating 'yung panahon na it's my turn to take the backseat and support him... It's a very, very small sacrifice," she said.

(Every single day I felt so supported. Every single day he really believed that I would succeed so I knew that if the time came that it's my turn to take the backseat and support him... It's a very, very small sacrifice.)

Bam's eldest daughter Rory has also been campaigning for her dad in her own way, Timi said.

"Our 4-year old daughter wears a Bam campaign shirt to her Montessori pre-school every day... So yes, she is participating in the campaign, with consent," she said beaming.



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Bam said having daughters, Rory and Coco, changed the way he campaigned and the way he pushed for public policies.

"On a personal level, 'yung pagkakaroon ng 2 anak, talagang naiiba yung pangangampanya mo," he said. 

(On a personal level, having 2 children changes your campaign style.)

"Siyempre nung 2013, bago kaming kasal pero walang anak, kahit 4 na araw na mawawala ka sa bahay okay lang. E ngayon, hinahanap ka na ng anak mo, kailangan ka makauwi," he said laughing.

(In 2013, we were newlyweds who had no children, so even if I campaigned for 4 straight days, it's okay. Now, you have to go home because the kids are looking for you.)


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Juggling fatherhood with public service also made the legislative business "more special," Aquino said.

"Mas malalim kapag kinukuwento mo 'yung kapakanan ng mga bata. Pagkakaroon ng edukasyon para sa mga susunod na henerasyon e talagang mas seryoso, mas malalim 'yung mga hugot mo," he said.

(Talking about the welfare of children has a deeper meaning now. Talking about providing education for the next generation, it has become more serious and deeper for me.)

"Mahalaga 'yun sa mga laban na mabigat, sa mga laban na mahirap kasi mas tutuloy-tuloy ka talaga kung alam mo na 'yung mga pinaglalaban mo e kitang-kita mo din sa bahay," he said.

(That's important for stressful, difficult fights because you will persevere more when you see who you're fighting for in your own home.)

Timi, who started dating the senator when they were students, said her husband has matured and has "become really more patient" over the years.

"A younger Bam Aquino was really driven by a sense of achievement to make sure that he and his team were working as quickly and as effectively as possible to get their agenda done," she said.

"I think now that he is part of a bigger playing field which is the Senate of the Republic, I think he's understood that it's much more complex and complicated and you need to be more patient and more inclusive to get the same agenda forward," she said.



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Aquino's political posturing of working alongside other senators while keeping his opposition stance is laudable, said Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza.

"I'd like to give credit to Bam Aquino for sticking to his principles and essentially bucking the trend of other politicians who essentially adjust to the winds of power," he added.

"It's not easy being in the opposition, but he does stand for a few things he believes in. I think that will matter to our voters."

On the homestretch of the campaign, Aquino's camp continues to barrel through to dispel worries over Bam's statistical chances of winning.

"Every time na makakakita kami ng survey... na-fuel kami lahat na, 'Okay, magdodouble kami,'" Simon said.

(Every time we come across a survey... we are fueled by the fact that we have to work double.)

"We need to fight harder. 'Yung dating ginagawa namin, dapat double, triple. Lahat doble kayod talaga," he said.

(We have to double, triple our efforts. Everybody must work twice as hard.)

Victory in the May 13 polls remains uncertain for the Aquino scion, but what his wife can guarantee is that he would always have a supportive family to come home to.

"The best advice I've given Bam is I've told him, 'You chose this life so you need to stand by it,'" Timi said.

"All of its challenges and all of the unfairness, fake news despite your good track record, you chose this life and sabay tayo, papanindigan natin (we will see it through together)," she said.