Tañada seeks to bring back family's brand of politics in Senate bid

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2019 10:14 PM | Updated as of May 12 2019 12:57 AM

Tañada seeks to bring back family's brand of politics in Senate bid 1
Otso Diretso candidate Erin Tañada delivers a speech during the 71st anniversary of the University of Luzon. Photo from Erin Tañada's Instagram page

MANILA - Former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III marched under the noontime sun along España Boulevard during a Labor Day protest, clad in a green campaign shirt emblazoned with a decades-old political brand that was his last name. 

The former House deputy speaker has been an active participant in public protests since he was 15 years old, literally following the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, and his father, former Sen. Wigberto Tañada who joined rallies against the Marcos dictatorship. 

"Palagi ko na lang sinasabi, pinapaalala [kay Erin noon] na sana mag-aral ka na lang muna pero talagang hindi mo mapipigilan," his mother Zeny told reporters in a press conference. 

(I always told Erin before that he should focus on his studies instead, but I could not really stop him.)

Tañada said it was hard for him to shrug off activism as he grew up seeing his grandfather "marching the streets, being teargassed and water cannoned at 86 years old." 

"Sabi ng lolo ko sakin, kung gusto ko malaman ang problema ng lipunan, kailangan lumabas ako sa paaralan, kausapin ko 'yung mga manggagawa at magsasaka at makikita ko na meron talagang problema in terms of social justice," Tañada told ABS-CBN News. 

(My grandfather told me that if you want to learn about the problems of society, you have to go beyond the school walls, talk to workers and farmers and you will realize there is really a problem in terms of social justice.)

"Kung ikaw ay papasok sa pagiging lingkod bayan, ito yung dapat binibigyan ng malaking pansin," he said, quoting the late Sen. Tañada.

(If you want to enter public service, that is what you have to focus on.)

The 55-year-old lawyer hopes to bring back this brand of politics into the Senate this year, more than 20 years since a Tañada occupied a seat in the upper chamber. 

But the former Quezon representative is struggling to bring the family name back into the Senate halls. 

Apart from running under opposition slate Otso Diretso - a Liberal Party-backed roster that has been suffering from limited funding - he said most voters may have already forgotten the legislative performance of the Tañadas. 

"There has been a gap and we have admitted this. The people who recognize our name are senior citizens," Tañada said.

"There is that connection still but in an older generation. The challenge here now is trying to introduce Tañada [brand] to the younger generation," he said.

Tañada has mounted a social media team and has tapped youth volunteers to introduce him to a broader segment of voters, but the Otso Diretso bet remained at the 25th to 34th rank with 4.7 percent voter support, according to Pulse Asia's survey conducted less than 10 days before the May 13 elections.

'WRONG PACKAGING, WRONG TIMING'

The lackluster survey performance could be chalked up to Tañada's campaign narrative which was "neither attractive nor compelling," political analyst Ranjit Rye said.

Even if he had no experience in fishing nor farming, the former congressman was marketed as a champion for agriculture just because he was from coconut-rich Quezon province, he said.

"Erin Tañada has more qualities that could have surfaced. He comes from a family of prominent and progressive politicians. He's a fiscalizer," the analyst noted, referring to the lawmaker's performance as a House member.

The timing of Tañada's foray into the national stage was also a problem, Rye said.

"You're running a midterm campaign as the opposition in a campaign where you have basically 2 administration slates that are very well-funded and supported by a very popular president," he said.

"Tañada who comes not just from a prominent political family but is also an accomplished legislator and is extremely qualified for the job, would find it very hard to push up in the surveys also because he has been out of politics for sometime," he said.

Tañada neither occupied an elected nor an appointed position in government for 6 years since 2013, after he ended his 3 consecutive terms as Quezon representative.

The senatorial aspirant admitted he could have fared better if he was fielded by the Liberal Party in the 2013 midterm elections, a time when LP was still the ruling party under former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

During the run-up to the filing of candidacies for the 2013 midterm polls, Tañada had more national exposure as he was one of the 3 spokespersons of the House prosecution panel during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. 

Tañada, who has been an LP member since 1993, was then vocal about his wishes to run for the Senate, but the party opted to field former Sen. Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay Jr. and newly-inducted members Maria Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal and Bam Aquino. 

The LP also made room for allies from other parties including then-Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, who was Tañada's co-spokesperson in the Corona trial.

"Desisyon ng mga namumuno ng partido yan. I would have wanted it differently pero sila yung nasa posistion of leadership," Tañada said. 

(That was the decision of the party leaders. I would have wanted it differently but they are the ones who are in the position of leadership.)

"Maraming mga kaibigan ang nalulungkot na hindi ako napasama pero para sa akin nga eh there's always a plan," he said.

(A lot of my friends were saddened that I was not included in the lineup, but for me, there is always a plan.)

Earlier reports said Tañada was dropped from the 2013 line-up after pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information BIll (FOI), which President Aquino snubbed.

Tañada was also not included in the LP's 2016 senatorial line up. He tried to make a comeback as 4th district representative of Quezon, but was defeated by rival Helen Tan.

Tañada remained loyal to the party even when most of its members jumped to PDP-Laban shortly after Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte defeated Liberal standard bearer Mar Roxas.

"Sa totoo lang, sabi ng mga kaibigan ko, Erin kung gusto mo manalo sa halalan, dapat nag iba ka ng partido pero hindi kaya ng prinsipyo ko," Tañada said.

(To be honest, my friends told me, "Erin, if you want to win in the elections, you have to shift parties." But I could not do that because of my principles.)

"Kung lumipat ako ng partido, baka bumangon [sa libingan] ang lolo ko," he said in jest.

(If I shifted to another party, my grandfather would have risen from the dead.)

'NEXT ELECTION'?

Chances of winning against popular strongman Duterte would be slim, but it is an opportunity, Tañada said.

"I accepted running in a more difficult situation para at least makita ng tao na hindi ako tumatakbo dahil lang nasa advantageous position ako. Ako'y handang lumaban maski na ako ay nasa disadvantaged position," he said.

(I accepted running in a more difficult situation so that people could at least see that I'm not running when I am in an advantageous position. I am willing to fight even if I'm in a disadvantageous position.)

"At least alam ng tao ngayon na ang oposisyon ay buhay na buhay... na yung mga isyu na dinadala ng mga nasa laylayan ay hindi mapapabayaan," he said.

(At least people know now that the opposition is very much alive... that the issues of the marginalized are not forsaken.)

"At least, alam ng tao ngayon na merong mga alternative candidates na puwedeng lumaban sa susunod na halalan kung hindi magiging matagumpay ngayong halalan," he said.

(At least people know now that there are alternative candidates who could still run in the next elections if they would be unsuccessful in this year's polls.)

Was he hinting on another Senate bid should he fail in this year's race? Tañada smiled and marched on with other labor protesters under the heat of the noontime sun.