MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III has an explanation why the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) was first to launch TV ads and sorties ahead of his Liberal Party (LP).
“Kailangan nating unawain siguro ‘yung kabilang panig na mas marami silang kailangang pruwebahan kaysa sa amin na palagay ko naman ‘yung pruweba ay nakita na doon sa ginawa namin,” Aquino said in an ambush interview in Cebu on Wednesday, January 16. (We need to understand the other side that they have more to prove than we do. I think our proof is already seen in what we have done.)
Aquino added, “So they have to catch up, hence the need to have all of these sorties at this point in time.”
The President was in Cebu for the opening of the Austral Philippines Shipyard Operations. Yet he also attended an LP event where he campaigned for his senatorial ticket. Watch:
Administration bets Aurora Rep Sonny Angara, former Sen Jamby Madrigal, former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros, Sen Koko Pimentel, and former Sen Jun Magsaysay accompanied the president. The son of former Las Piñas Rep Cynthia Villar, Mark, was there to represent his mother.
Aquino also said the LP is focused on other matters at this time.
“Well siyempre, meron din kami (ads and sorties) but we are actually also tasked to run this government. So running this government has to take precedence to politics.” (Of course, we also have our own ads and sorties.)
Aquino was responding to UNA’s senatorial slate ad that aired starting January 7. The opposition coalition also began its provincial sorties on January 8 ahead of the campaign period for national candidates that will begin on February 12.
Despite the LP’s own event in Cebu, Aquino said, “I think we will religiously comply with not just the letter of the law but the spirit of the law.”
UNA Secretary-General and Navotas Rep Tobias "Toby" Tiangco took exception to Aquino's words.
“It's an arrogant statement. Ano ba ang papatunayan? It's public service and public service never ends and ‘di mo pwede sabihing, ‘Napatunayan na namin.’ Araw-araw iyang papatunayan sa tao na pagandahin ang buhay nila. It doesn't end,” Tiangco said in a phone interview with Rappler. (What do you need to prove? Public service never ends so you can’t say we have proven it. You need to prove it daily to the people that you can improve their lives.)
He added, “The reason why our candidates are running is to take up that challenge. The challenge does not stop as long as you are in public service.”
Tiangco also said that based on the Social Weather Stations' December 2012 senatorial survey, it's the LP that has to catch up and not UNA. He said only UNA bets and those from LP's coalition partners made it to the survey.
“I think someone has to show that to the President. They don’t even have one single original member in that magic 12 so why do we have to catch up? So maybe it's his LP original members who have to catch up.”
The only LP members running for the Senate are Magsaysay, and new members Bam Aquino, the president's cousin, and Madrigal.
Cebu is the province with the biggest voting population. As of 2010, it had 2.43 million voters. It has 8 congressional districts (including the two in Cebu City), 9 cities, and 44 municipalities.
‘Why do their candidates have many issues?’
Aside from the national candidates, Aquino also joined local LP bets in Cebu: gubernatorial bet Hilario “Junjun” Davide III, and his running mate, Acting Governor Agnes Magpale.
Aquino responded to the criticism of UNA that the LP is engaging in “political persecution” in relation to the 6-month suspension of UNA leader Governor Gwendolyn “Gwen” Garcia.
UNA has said that the report that the LP is planning to file 16 more cases against Garcia shows that “a creeping crackdown on the LP’s political rivals is now in full swing.”
Aquino defended his party from the charge.
“Pinilit nating daanan lahat noong prosesong minandato ng mga kaukulang batas. Ngayon, baka dapat ang mas tanungin ng taumbayan bakit ‘yung mga kakampi niyo napakaraming issue ‘di ba? Bakit?” (We tried to ensure that all processes comply with what the law mandated. Now, maybe what the public should ask is why your allies have so many issues, right? Why?)
The Office of the President suspended Garcia in December 2012 for grave abuse of authority in bypassing the Office of the Vice Gov and the provincial council in hiring contractual employees.
The case was based on a complaint filed by the late Cebu Vice Gov Gregorio Sanchez Jr. It is now being tackled in the Court of Appeals.
The Garcia camp has cried political persecution, saying the suspension order on the governor violated the Local Government Code and an administrative order setting a 120-day rule for administrative cases to be settled. UNA's top leaders including Vice President Jejomar Binay defended Garcia and questioned the order.
The LP's Davide will go up against Garcia's brother, Cebu 3rd District Rep Pablo John Garcia, for the gubernatorial post. He is the son and namesake of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
Aquino said, “There was no political factor here. The issue here was the case was filed in 2010 but if I’m not mistaken, it could have been an issue if it was our ally and the case was only resolved in 2012? Of course, the intervening event was the death of [Interior] Secretary Jesse Robredo. There was a review of processes.”
“Our job is to execute laws. We think there was a law violated. It went through the process and it was proven. In the case here in Cebu and the other is undergoing an investigation to determine precisely the veracity of the charges and complaints filed against the other governor.”
‘No standoff in Cebu’
The President also stood by Acting Gov Magpale as Garcia still refuses to leave the provincial capitol a month after the suspension order was released.
“My position is there is no standoff per se in the sense that Governor Magpale is able to exercise the functions of governor and the provincial government of Cebu is able to deliver the services and carry out its functions to the benefit of the people of Cebu.”
Aquino also denied that the government is using excessive force in dealing with the Garcia camp. The Garcias have accused the police and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of imposing “martial law” in the province.
“We have adopted a maximum tolerance policy. We do not want to foster any untoward incidents and therefore, we will exercise this so long as all parties adhere to the law and do not create situations where we will be forced to take more drastic actions.”
The President added, “Let me reiterate: besides some attempts at trying to hype it up in the media, there is no standoff that we are aware of. In fact, the report is the police have actually diminished their present about 3 weeks ago."
Asked what message he will give Garcia, Aquino said he was not inclined to give her unsolicited advice except to follow "the proper protocol."
Aquino said if Davide and Magpale will win in May, he will help them address the province's reported P900 million in debts.
“Siguro kung kayong dalawa nga ay papalarin ng bendisyon ng taumbayan, puwede ko siguro unang sabihin sa inyo (na) hindi kayo nag-iisa dahil ‘yong dinatnan ko ganoon rin e. So, I am ready to teach you everything that we did in trying to solve the seemingly unsolvable problems that were bequeathed to us.” (Maybe if you two win, perhaps I can tell you that you are not alone because that’s like the problem I encountered when I took over.) – Rappler.com