Legarda: Why NP’s left, right, center fit together

Legarda: Why NP’s left, right, center fit together
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—If you can believe its vice presidential candidate, the Nacionalista Party is an oasis of calm compared to rival camps beset by infighting and clashes of egos among the big-name politicos running under their banners.

There is unity and coherence within the NP camp and a high respect for each other, said Sen. Loren Legarda, who is running as a “guest” candidate of the NP.

“The difference in this campaign—we have no tension between and among us,” Legarda told Inquirer editors and reporters recently.

She credited the pivotal role played by the party’s standard-bearer, Sen. Manuel Villar, in gathering under one roof candidates from every political spectrum—left, right and center.

“Manny is a calm person. You never hear him say anything bad about the candidates. And even with the senatorial candidates—they are easy to be with. We have a genuine camaraderie … just like friends,” she said.

Serene and effortless

She described Villar’s handling of the affairs of the campaign as “effortless… that’s why we fit together.”

If anything, Villar’s “serene character” needed a “fighter” like her to complement it, said Legarda.

To hear Legarda—who has run in three national elections since 1998 under different parties with different partners—tell it, running under the NP is pure heaven.

“In 1998, there was so much tension. In 2004, tension and internal bickering were also present. In 2007, I was also with the united opposition, which had its share of bickering,” she said.

Unity slate

But now, with the NP, “there are no clashes of personalities,” she said, adding that the members of the NP treat one another with kindness.

She cited the case of senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., two unlikely teammates in the Villar ticket whose differences—and past encounters—go beyond ideology.

Marcos’ father and namesake, the late dictator, was Ocampo’s jailer and tormentor when the latter was part of the underground communist movement. Ocampo still bears the marks of the torture inflicted on him while in detention during Marcos’ martial law regime.

Ocampo has long ago given up the armed struggle in favor of a peaceful “parliamentary struggle” and is now a candidate for senator after serving for three terms as a party-list representative.

After returning from exile with his family, Marcos Jr. and his family have succeeded in maintaining a firm grip on Ilocos Norte, alternating with his sister, Imee, in occupying the province’s second congressional seat. He has also served as the province’s governor.

Asked to explain this unexpected campaign alliance, Ocampo said: “We exercise mutual respect, mutual accommodation among ourselves in the NP senatorial slate.”

Were it not for Villar’s goal to have a “unity slate,” detained Col. Ariel Querubin would not be running in the same slate as Ocampo, either.

Some of the other members of the NP slate also have their own parties and are running as guest candidates.

The other NP senatorial candidates are Susan Ople, Gwen Pimentel, Ramon Mitra Jr. and Adel Tamano—the progeny of familiar political names—Gilbert Remulla, Liza Maza and reelectionist Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Pia Cayetano and Ramon Revilla Jr.

‘Feeling so loved’

Legarda said she felt most at home with the NP, which has coalesced with her party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and Sen. Edgardo Angara’s Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, which is in coalition with the NPC.

She said she felt “welcome and protected” in the NP, especially by Villar and his wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar.

“And they (the senators) are very protective and supportive of me. I feel so welcome, so loved by the group—left or right. It’s so easy (to get along) with Cynthia and Manny maybe because the leader is not emotional, is very calm and has a serene personality,” she said.

Legarda is confident she will succeed in her second stab at the vice presidency. She lost when she ran in 2004 with the late movie star Fernando Poe Jr. in what she described as one of the country’s “dirtiest” elections.

Come-from-behind victories

With less than a month to go before the elections, Legarda is lagging far behind LP candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas, but is undeterred.

“I’m a fighter. My victories are always come-from-behind. In 1998, I was No. 17 in the surveys,” she said, pointing to her No. 1 finishes in the 1998 and 2007 senatorial races.

“I just need to go around and cover more areas in this campaign as much as I can in the next few weeks,” she said.

The formula that will give her the vice presidency is a combination of media exposure and personal appearances, she said.

“Even if we have Internet, media and all of that, people still want to see the candidates in person to give them importance. I guess it’s a Filipino trait,” she said.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.