MANILA (UPDATE) - Liberal Party (LP) President and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan on Tuesday said there are efforts to reach out to several possible presidential candidates and incumbent senators to create the "broadest unity possible" for the 2022 national elections.
The LP is seeking talks with Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, and senators Panfilo Lacson, Nancy Binay and Joel Villanueva, said Pangilinan in an online press conference.
"We are open to discussions. We are open to talks with the end in view with having only 1 candidate [for 2022]," he said.
"May mga pinapaabot na kung maari ay magkaroon ng pag-uusap. The LP is willing to help bring together the broadest unity possible come 2022," he said.
(We sent word that we want to talk if possible.)
Non-administration leaders should "come together towards a clear direction" to stand a chance against the political machinery of the Duterte administration, the LP President said.
"Basta administration, malakas na kalaban," he said.
(The administration is a strong opponent.)
Pangilinan admitted that the LP needs to have thorough discussions with the Manila Mayor and some senators before creating a formal coalition as they have different stances on several issues.
For one, Pangilinan has been against the Anti-Terrorism Act, which Lacson authored and sponsored in the Senate.
"There are informal discussions... How do we set aside our differences and come together for the sake of the nation... so that we can get out of this mess we are in?" he said.
"When you go into talks, you don't set terms muna (at first). Anything and everything, we can discuss," he said.
Even Vice President Leni Robredo, chair of the LP, is open to having these talks, Pangilinan said.
"Can you imagine kung lahat 'yun ay magkaisa (if all these figures unite)?" he said.
"Nasa barko tayo, binabagyo tayo, kinakilangan ng kapitan... Otherwise, baka tuluyan ng lumubog ang bapor natin and that's something we don't want to happen," he said.
(We are in a boat and we need a captain. Otherwise, our ship might sink and that's something we don't want to happen.)
When asked if the LP is willing to coalesce with PDP-Laban acting President Manny Pacquiao, who is dealing with oppositors within his own party, Pangilinan said: "Basta sinsero na naghahanap ng solusyon, bukas tayo makipag-usap."
(We are open to talks as long as they are sincere and are looking for solutions for the country.)
Villanueva, who is eligible for a second Senate term next year, thanked the LP for the offer, noting that the Nationalist People's Coalition has also sent word to include him in their line up.
"Bukas po ang ating pintuan sa pakikipag-usap at pakikipag-coalesce sa ibang grupo, lalo na sa malalaking ibang partido," he said in a statement.
(Our door is open to talks and coalescing with other groups, especially large parties.)
"The reality is that no matter how big your party is, you never walk – or work – alone. It is always good to march with a lot of good people. That is how progress is made," said Villanueva, who belongs to the CIBAC party.
Lacson, an independent, said this was "not the first time" he received overtures from the LP.
"All those times that I was approached, I have always responded with an open mind," he said.
"As far as the Liberal Party, it is work in progress," Lacson said, although he said the LP's ties with the 1Sambayan coalition - which admonished him for authoring the Anti-Terrorism Law - may complicate discussions.
Domagoso, on the otherhand, downplayed possible talks with LP, saying he has no time for political discussions at the moment.
"Fighting COVID, feeding Manileños, strengthening our economy is my only concern," he told reporters in a text message.
"Wala muna akong ine-entertain na mga political na bagay. All talks of coalition or any political talk is untimely and premature," added the mayor, who is vice chair of the National Unity Party.
(I am not yet entertaining stuff about politics.)
Binay, meanwhile, issued this reaction: "May mga sugat na dapat munang gamutin bago kami mag-usap tungkol sa 2022." She did not elaborate.
The lady senator's term ends in 2025. She was under the United Nationalist Alliance, the party of her father, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, when she sought reelection in 2019.
The LP has been struggling to dominate the polls since 2016, after former President Benigno Aquino III's administration. Aquino is currently LP's chairman emeritus.
LP standard bearer Mar Roxas lost to President Rodrigo Duterte at the time.
While LP's Robredo won the vice presidency, her victory was challenged by losing candidate former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. The Presidential Electoral Tribunal eventually junked the petition of Marcos.
During the 2019 midterm polls, the LP-backed Otso Diretso opposition slate was wiped out in the senatorial race.
Pangilinan, who headed the Otso Diretso campaign, said the opposition needs to topple the disinformation machinery of the Duterte administration to win the 2022 elections.
"It was a well-oiled, well-funded, well-orchestrated demonization campaign against the opposition," he said.
"We have to come up with a strong pushback," he said.