MANILA - Former Malacañang spokesperson and now presidential aspirant Ernesto Abella on Monday said that he is confident that he would not be included in the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) list of nuisance candidates in the 2022 presidential race.
Abella, an independent candidate, is among the 97 individuals vying for the presidency next year, but has neither been included in several nationwide pre-elections polls nor invited to public fora discussing platforms of presidential contenders.
"The fact that I am part of the top 10 in certain surveys tells us that we are not a nuisance, that we are being considered for serious matters," Abella told ABS-CBN News.
"I haven't really started to work, I haven't really started to put ourselves upfront and we're already in the top 10," he said.
While Abella acknowledged that his war chest may not be as large as other presidential contenders, the former spokesperson said the Comelec should not nullify his candidacy based solely on the lack of funds to mount a national campaign.
"I believe that the Comelec understands that the landscape of political campaigns has changed," he said.
"What used to be such a necessity is no longer such and I believe the Comelec is sufficiently enlightened to realize that," he said, noting that the internet and social media has democratized the way politicians campaign.
Under Comelec's rule of procedure, a candidate can be considered a nuisance if he or she:
- wants to put election process in mockery or disrepute
- wants to cause confusion among voters
- clearly demonstrated to have no bona fide intention to run
In 2016, the Comelec deemed 124 presidential aspirants as nuisance bets, and also nullified 13 vice presidential candidacies.
Abella said his non-inclusion in pre-campaign polls and features is "understandable" as "mainstream media is mainly interested in big names."
"That's really fine because we're building from the ground up," he said.
"What I am currently interested in is not gaining popularity at this stage but strengthening our networks on the ground," he said.
A 'LISTENING GOVERNMENT'
Abella, who also worked as an undersecretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, said he decided to run for president after realizing that the Philippines needs a "listening government."
"It began to grow in a sense that government really needed to listen to the people on the ground because we may have programs, we may have projects, but unless one listens, one cannot answer those questions," he said.
The former DFA official cited the current reintegration program of the government for returning overseas Filipino workers as an example of his push to gather more input from the public when it comes to policy making.
Several retired construction workers from overseas are given the option to learn how to cultivate tilapia (fish) or start a poultry business, Abella said.
"Ang interest niya welding. Ang layo ano? Balut, tilapia tapos welding?" he said.
(He is interested in welding. It's so far from duck eggs and fish, right?)
"It was this sense that something could be done for the nation especially for the people that i finally took on the responsibility to file my COC," he said.
This, however, does not mean that the Duterte administration failed to heed the concerns and clamors of the public, the President's first spokesperson said.
"It's not about Duterte. It's about the government in general," he said.
"I felt that the listening part could be institutionalized. It could be part of the political structure, not just a president doing this," he said.
NO CABINET MEMBERS IN ABELLA'S SLATE
Despite working with the Duterte administration for half a decade, Abella said he did not invite any Cabinet member to join his senatorial slate.
"Cabinet members who are running [for senator] are part of the administration [slate]... Ayoko sila ilagay sa alanganin (I don't want to put them in an awkward position)."
Abella said he is instead in talks with several party-lists that may help endorse his candidacy.
"We can probably reach out and have alliances... mga party-list," he said.
"There seems to be a stream of people who are looking for an alternative... There is also a stream of people who are interested in what we have to say," he said.
Abella said he is hopeful that some friends from the religious sector and Filipino communities abroad would help fund his campaign.
"Our community building on the ground level is picking up very fast," he said, noting that Metro Manila seems to be his bailiwick even if he hails from Davao City.
"I am very surprised. Even without this huge amount of money that people tend to throw around, we're ale to generate enough attention, not just attention but commitment," he said.
Abella said the "biggest challenge" of his presidential bid "would just be to see it through," admitting that having a limited campaign kitty may be an issue in the long haul.
"Pero hindi nangangasim ang tiyan ko sa mga nangyayari," he said.
(But my gut is not being discouraged by the turn of events.)
"There is a certain burning conviction I have inside."