LP Senate bets bare secret of their unity

LP Senate bets bare secret of their unity
By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—How come no one is defecting from the Liberal Party? Despite limited funding, the LP remains intact.

Their secret: LP standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III knows how to take care of his teammates.

It’s Aquino’s little acts of thoughtfulness that they find most affecting, according to the LP senatorial candidates—Representatives Ruffy Biazon, Teofisto Guingona III and Rissa Hontiveros, and guest candidate, detained Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, represented by his wife, Aloy.

Even if all of his time is consumed by the campaign, Aquino makes time to give them pep talks, engage in light banter and even share chichiria (junk food) with them during breaks in the sorties, the LP senatorial candidates told Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday.

“You would feel that he really sees you,” said Hontiveros.

Biazon recalled how Aquino kept their spirits up during a long bus ride while campaigning in Albay.

“We were going around the whole day. Most of us were already tired but Noynoy engaged us in light banter,” he recounted.

Leader of the pack

“It was an encouraging thing for me because as the leader of the group, he was keeping our spirits up and we were infected,” Biazon added.

The LP standard-bearer also does not hesitate to spare a few moments for his teammates whenever they need to consult him, Guingona said.

“In Baguio, he had just arrived onstage when I asked him if we could talk. He immediately agreed,” said Guingona.

“I was embarrassed because he had just taken his seat onstage but he stood up and went backstage [to accommodate me],” he said.

Biazon recalled that Aquino had bought chicharon (fried pork rind) for them to munch on while they waited for their return flight to Manila a few weeks ago.

But what surprised Biazon was that Aquino, before boarding, had bought an extra pack for his wife upon learning that she loved the snack. “He’s a good guy,” Guingona said.

They said these were the moments that have served to bind them closely together—more than the party’s funds that have allowed them to run a “decent and efficient” campaign, though far less spectacular than Aquino’s closest rival, the billionaire candidate of the Nacionalista Party, Sen. Manuel Villar.

No expectations

“We came in with our eyes open [that we will run on a budget] so we have no expectations,” said Guingona.

The LP’s Senate bets say they were not promised funding. Only the team’s campaign sorties are subsidized with lots of junk food on the side.

But the candidates said the support for the LP comes from something that cannot be matched by money—the still potent magic of the Aquino name.

“We don’t use star power as much as the other side. But we still have something that’s priceless, that’s beyond that. That’s the connect to Cory (the late former President Aquino, Noynoy’s mother), connect to the people, connect to the Edsa revolution,” said Hontiveros.

People remember Cory

“When people remember Cory, they remember the changes we fought for two decades ago and that it can be achieved again. It’s that second chance that we hardly get in life,” said Hontiveros.

Aquino launched his candidacy following the massive outpouring of grief after his mother died last August. Critics expected the younger Aquino’s popularity to eventually wane, but the LP only saw a surge.

“When we go on motorcades with Noy, the reaction of the crowd is different even if we don’t bring stars,” Biazon said.

“When people hear that I am running under Noynoy, they show their approval. It tells me that they’re pinning their hopes on Noy,” he said.

Fast-food donation

Hontiveros, a first-time senatorial aspirant, said one would be surprised by how the support is sometimes manifested. She recalled how one woman approached her while she was having brunch at a Quezon City fast-food joint and handed her what she said was her campaign donation.

“She said ‘Excuse me, for your campaign funds.’ She then pressed a thin wad [of money] that turned out to be two neatly folded P1,000 bills. I was moved to tears because it was one of those weeks when it was so hard to raise any funds. I felt she just took out whatever she had,” Hontiveros said.

The woman refused to identify herself and walked away after shaking her hand.

Knock off 4 rivals

The senatorial hopefuls also explained why they remained loyal to the party and why they want to knock down four rivals from the so-called “Magic 12” circle of possible senatorial winners.

They said they wanted to stop what they called a “Villaroyo” legislature should Aquino and his running mate, Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, win.

“We don’t want Noy and Mar to be shackled by a neutral or hostile Senate, especially a Congress with [President] Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo there. So we are really working so that voters carry the whole LP senatorial slate,” said Hontiveros.

Knowing how long they still have to go, they are “thinking of ways and means to get up there and be in there,” said Guingona.

The latest Social Weather Stations survey showed that Biazon, Hontiveros, Guingona and Lim are still far from breaking into the magic circle which is dominated by the NP.

‘Villaroyo’ Congress

Biazon said a “Villaroyo” legislature was highly possible if Villar and his running mate Loren Legarda were to lose the elections to Aquino and Roxas and return to the Senate with the winning NP candidates.

If the surveys prove right, Villar would have 10 allies and “sympathizers” in the Senate, he said, adding that the swing votes left would probably be incumbent Sen. Edgardo Angara and the Nationalist People’s Coalition’s Vicente Sotto III, assuming that the latter wins. (Sotto has constantly ranked sixth or seventh in the surveys.)

“They could get the majority. So our call really is for voters to carry the whole team so we can work and defend Noy and Mar,” said Hontiveros.

NP senatorial candidate and party spokesperson Adel Tamano said it was presumptuous of the LP to declare this early who will win or lose in the elections, “unless they have a crystal ball.”

“Win first before you start counting. As far as I know, May 10 is still a couple of weeks away and I think it’s much too early to be toasting the champagne and celebrating victory,” Tamano said.

Villar’s Senate majority

But Tamano agreed with Biazon that the Villar group could get a majority in the next Senate.

“We’re hoping that we will have a lot of Nacionalistas in the Senate, so that might be true that the next Senate will have an NP majority,” he said.

Villar, meanwhile, said he expected Ms Arroyo to become Speaker in an Aquino presidency, while he would “put up my own candidate for the speakership if I win.”

Villar and Legarda, who were at a rally in Lingayen, Pangasinan, on Saturday, said the LP candidates were “guilty of what they are accusing us of.”

They cited the shift of many Arroyo administration officials to the Aquino camp.

“You can see that Team GMA is already completely led by Noynoy. All the economic managers of GMA are with them, so it’s already complete,” Villar said, adding that former Arroyo press secretary Ignacio Bunye will soon join the “Aquino-Arroyo Cabinet.” With reports from Tarra Quismundo and Michael Lim Ubac

Karen Ang

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