Cayetano eyes 2016 presidency, forms team

Natashya Gutierrez

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Based in a building in Bonifacio Global City, his team monitors surveys and prepares ads to keep him on the radar. The goal: put him within competitive range by June.

NEXT PRESIDENT? Senator Alan Cayetano wants to run for president in 2016 and is said to have started preparations. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is serious about running for president in 2016 that he has put together a team to work on campaign preparations.

According to several sources familiar with Cayetano’s plans, the 43-year-old senator is closely monitoring surveys to make sure he remains in the running and is viewed by Filipinos as a possible and feasible presidential candidate.

The goal is to be within competitive range by June this year, although sources say current surveys already suggest he has a chance.

As early as now, his team – headquartered in a building in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, where his wife is mayor – is preoccupied with making sure he is on the people’s radar.

At least two people close to him say Cayetano is looking to release ads as early as in the next few weeks to create buzz and get a feel of people’s sentiments. He is also tapping a foreign political adviser who is dishing out tips on best practices, running a campaign, and the like.

But Cayetano is not the only one from the Nacionalista Party (NP) – of which he is secretary-general – who has presidential aspirations. His party mate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr has also expressed interest in running for the country’s top post, while there is renewed talk of NP head Manuel Villar Jr running again for president. Villar lost the presidential race in 2010 to Aquino.

Not subtle about intentions

Cayetano has not been completely subtle about his intentions.

While he has not confirmed publicly that he plans to run, he has not denied his political aspirations either. In a television interview, Cayetano dropped hints, but said it depends on timing.

“Anyone who’s in politics, from barangay captain to senator, who says that he or she doesn’t want to be president is hypocritical. Everyone wants it. But are you the best person for a certain time is another question. Is it 2016, 2022, 2028? Those are the questions,” he said then.

On his website, Cayetano’s selection of featured news also hints at his plans.

A story from Abante Tonight on the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) polls was posted on Cayetano’s site on Jan 23, 2014. It was titled “ABC election, patikim sa 2016 presidential elections?” (ABC election, a sneak peek into the 2016 presidential elections?)

The piece talked about the tight ABC presidential race between Edmund Abesamis and Cayetano’s candidate Yasser Pangandaman being a “proxy war.” Abesamis is backed by two possible contenders in the 2016 presidential polls: Interior Secretary and rumored ruling Liberal Party (LP) bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and declared hopeful Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Abesamis won 65-44 over Pangandaman but the report described the polls as a “basis that Cayetano has the capability to activate and fund his own machinery against political powerhouses like Roxas and Binay.”

It also described Cayetano as a “third force” who is making himself and his ability to form a national machinery felt.

Hitting Binay

Additionally, Cayetano has noticeably taken a more aggressive stand against Binay several times in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the senator criticized Binay for calling pork barrel scam conduit Ruby Tuason’s testimony – which implicates his political ally Sen Jinggoy Estrada – a “dud.”

A few days later, he said Binay’s comment “is scaring away possible witnesses.” He also said if Binay were elected president in 2016, “there are fears that the [justice department’s] cases against all of those implicated in the pork barrel scam will not be pursued as those being charged are his political allies.” (READ: Expedite pork trial before ‘Binay admin’)

In December 2013, he also hit the vice president’s family over the Dasmariñas gate incident, saying the actions of Binay’s son, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, smacked of abuse of power.

In an earlier interview with ANC, Binay said he believes “3 political parties [are] vying for the position of president and vice president.” He mentioned the NP, the LP, and his own United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), adding he doubts “Lakas will join, they might just coalesce [with other groups].”

As it stands, Binay’s prediction might come true. While Binay is the only one who has announced his candidacy, Roxas is believed to be LP’s bet after the interior secretary stepped down in 2010 to make way for Aquino’s presidential bid, and subsequently failed in his vice-presidential bid against Binay. If all goes well for Cayetano, he may be NP’s bet, although sources say there is a possibility he could run independently.

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, chairman of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), also said in the past he was not closing his doors to running for President, but that was before he was linked to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, for which he now faces a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman.

Everyone’s critic

Cayetano comes from a political family – he is the son of the late Senator Renato Cayetano, and is the younger brother of Pia, also a senator. His younger brother Ren was councilor of Muntinlupa, while Lino, his youngest brother, is the incumbent representative of the 2nd district of Taguig.

His wife is Taguig Mayor Laarni “Lani” Cayetano. (READ: The Cayetanos: A conjugal rule in Taguig)

He first ran and won as senator in 2007, finishing 9th with 11.79 million votes. Before that, he was congressman of Taguig for two terms.

Cayetano ran in 2013 under the administration’s senatorial ticket, Team PNoy, which won 9 out of 12 seats. The coalition ran against the opposition UNA of Binay. Although the NP and the LP were bitter rivals in 2010, the two parties entered into a coalition with Aquino’s party – dictated by the politics of necessity.

He finished 3rd in the 2013 senatorial race, garnering 17.58 million votes behind Grace Poe and Loren Legarda.

In the 15th Congress, Cayetano headed the minority bloc in the Senate but was, and continues to be, supportive of the Aquino administration, having voted to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona and voting in favor of the controversial reproductive health law. He was also supportive of the sin tax law although he was not included in the voting.

But Cayetano remains a staunch critic of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. As congressman of Taguig-Pateros, he was spokesperson of the team that sought Arroyo’s impeachment.

Later, as chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, he led the probe into controversies involving Arroyo’s close allies, like the botched NBN-ZTE deal and the fertilizer fund scam. He also pushed for investigations into reported election fraud in 2004 and 2007.

Cayetano is an advocate of the Freedom of Information Bill, having proposed his own version in the Senate. His advocacies center on anti-corruption, fighting poll fraud, education, and children’s rights.

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.