Loren joins UNA’s 2013 senatorial slate

Ayee Macaraig

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Will the administration coalition also ask her to join its ticket?

UNA'S CANDIDATE. The United Nationalist Alliance announces Senator Loren Legarda as one of its official senatorial candidates. Photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

(2nd UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines – The frontrunner in election surveys, Senator Loren Legarda, has accepted the invitation of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to be its “guest candidate” for the 2013 senatorial elections.

“I am thankful to Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for having me as guest candidate in UNA,” Legarda said in a press statement. 

Binay, Estrada and Enrile are the top leaders of UNA and sit on the alliance’s executive committee. UNA is a coalition of Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). 

Binay made the announcement in a press conference in his office at the Coconut Palace on Monday, September 24. He said he, Estrada and Enrile were unanimous in accepting Legarda to UNA. Legarda was absent from the press conference and just released a press statement affirming the announcement. 

“UNA warmly welcomes her to the Coalition, where her passion for service and commitment to good governance is recognized and shared by the coalition partners,” Binay also said in a press statement. 

Asked why Legarda chose UNA, Estrada said in the press briefing, “Because she believes in the objectives of UNA. She’s a veteran senator and she knows which party is better than the other so she chose UNA.” 

UNA sources said it was Legarda who chose the date and time for the announcement. She also requested that the 3 leaders be the ones to announce her inclusion in UNA.

Legarda will be running under UNA even if she is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), which is in partnership talks with the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

NPC spokesperson Valenzuela City Rep Rex Gatchalian said LP and NPC are still discussing Legarda’s situation. “Talks between the two parties are still ongoing. I do not wish to preempt the results of the ongoing talks. These talks revolve around both national and local candidates. The party will support Senator Legarda and [Cagayan Rep Jack] Enrile wherever they end up,” Gatchalian said.

Legarda said she respects the partnership agreement between LP and NPC. “I respect and observe the partnership agreement with the NPC and LP. I will support President Aquino until the end of his term. I share the reform agenda and politics of good, honest, and transparent governance of the administration,” Legarda said.

Earlier, Legarda told Rappler she had been in direct talks with Binay, Estrada and Enrile, but not with officials of the LP. She also said she already talked to her NPC partymates about her plans for 2013 and she thinks they will support her.

“There is an invitation from UNA to be a guest candidate because they respect my being NPC. There is a direct invitation, yes, [from] all of them, the 3 kings,” Legarda said in an interview earlier this month.

Legarda emerged as the “solo first placer” in the September Pulse Asia survey with a voting preference of 67.3%.

The following have so far been announced as part of the UNA slate:

  1. Joey de Venecia, PDP-Laban executive vice president
  2. Cagayan Rep Juan Ponce “Jack” Enrile Jr, NPC and son of the Senate President
  3. San Juan Rep Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, PMP and Estrada’s son
  4. Sen Gregorio Honasan II (independent)
  5. Resigned Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri (PMP)
  6. Zambales Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay (PDP-Laban)
  7. Former Senator Richard Gordon
  8. Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda (PMP)

UNA calls itself the “constructive opposition” to the LP. During the press conference, UNA announced the following designations for its officials: 

  • Chairman Emeritus: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
  • Chairman: Former President Joseph Estrada
  • President: Vice President Jejomar Binay 
  • Vice Presidents: Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr 

TEAM UNA. The top leaders and senatorial candidates of UNA pose during a press conference on Monday, September 24. Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao also dropped by to pay courtesy to the UNA leaders. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

Tingting for senator?

Before the announcement, the UNA executive committee held a meeting to discuss the replacement of Cebu Gov Gwendolyn “Gwen” Garcia in the senatorial ticket.

Last week, Binay announced that Garcia is dropping her senatorial bid and will run for congresswoman of the 3rd district of Cebu instead. Binay denied Garcia withdrew because of her low survey ratings, saying the governor is needed by her family to campaign in Cebu. 

UNA sources told Rappler that the one being considered to replace Garcia is President Benigno Aquino III’s aunt-in-law Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco.

Cojuangco’s husband, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, is an UNA leader, being the secretary-general of PDP-Laban. Peping Cojuangco was silent about the plan during the UNA press conference. 

Also discussed were the invitations of UNA to Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero, and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares to be guest candidates.

The alliance has reserved slots for Escudero and Llamanzares. Binay said the two are “90% to 95%” sure of accepting the invitation but he will still have to talk to Escudero, who remains uncategorical about his role in the administration slate. 

Escudero, however, later issued a media statement saying he will be adopted by both the administration and UNA slates. 

UNA initially did not want to share candidates with the LP but eventually relented because of Llamanzares, whose late father Fernando Poe Jr was the best friend of Estrada.

The alliance then decided to relax the exclusivity rule for other candidates like Legarda and Escudero.

The coalition’s senatorial candidates also decided to jointly file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) on October 1, Monday, at 1 pm.

October 1 is the first day of filing of COCs, which will last until October 5. – Rappler.com

View the Elections 2013 Microsite here. 

More from #PHVote, Rappler’s 2013 Philippine Elections Coverage: 

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