Can Aquino sell his senators?

MANILA, Philippines - It's hard to get over the interesting mix in the administration's senatorial slate for the 2013 elections. But they were handpicked by President Benigno Aquino III himself. He's all in.

The administration ticket started airing its TV and radio commercials on Monday, January 28, or 3 weeks behind its rival United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). The ad revealed its strategy to win: capitalize on Aquino's popularity and hope this will transfer to his candidates.

The 45-seconder ad introduces the administration ticket as "Team PNoy." All the candidates need to do is smile at the camera. Aquino does all the talking but does not appear in the ad.

"Sa daang matuwid, marami ang gustong sumali. Pero mayroon ding nagpapanggap lamang," Aquino begins.

"Ang siguaradong mapagkakatiwalaan," he says and proceeds to name his 12 annointed candidates. Their names alone take all of 25 seconds.

In alphabetical order: Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Risa Hontiveros, Loren Legarda, Jamby Madrigal, Ramon Magsaysay Jr, Koko Pimentel, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes, and Cynthia Villar.

Three are in white shirts: Nationalista Party members Cayetano, Trillanes and Villar. The rest wear the Aquino trademark color - yellow.

Aquino ends the ad by saying "Sila ang Team PNoy. Mga tunay na tuwid sa daang matuwid."

Produced by the same team behind some of Aquino's ads in the 2010 presidential campaign, the slate ad seeks to establish a continuing narrative. It even uses the same photoshopped forkroad that Aquino used to symbolize his "Tuwid na Daan" slogan.

"Our slate strength is that we have an anchor, who is the President. It's basically his endorsement," said advertising agency Woo executive Abby Jimenez.

[Watch how the commercial was shot here: Shooting Aquino's senators]

Midas touch?

But how effective is President Aquino's endorsement?

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang believes it counts for a lot.

"When you are a President with high approval rating, that's very good. And your credibility is so high. When you tell people these are my people, these are the people who will hlep me continue what I've started, I think that's going to mean a lot to the voters," he told Rappler.

Based on surveys conducted in November 2012, Aquino enjoys a high 72% performance ratings and 74% trust ratings.

"There's a big chance he can carry [the entire slate]. That's what we are banking on," said advertising agency Woo executive Abby Jimenez.

The administration is a rainbow coalition of Aquino's Liberal Party, Senator Manuel Villar Jr's Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People's Coalition, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, and Akbayan.

But LP's flagbearers are the ones trailing in the surveys - Bam Aquino, Madrigal and Magsaysay. (READ: Cynthia Villar and strange bedfellows)

The strategy, however, has its precedence.

In the 1987 senatorial elections, the first senatorial elections after the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, then President Corazon Aquino's senatorial ticket dominated the race. By her endorsement, her Laban party won 22 of the 24 seats.

The same thing happened in the 2001 senatorial campaign, only 4 months after the ouster of President Joseph Estrada. The candidates of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - still very popular then - walloped Estrada's ticket. 

Aquino versus Binay?

But UNA's patron Vice President Jejomar Binay is more popular than Aquino. Latest polls show Binay has a performance and trust ratings of 83%. Aquino's ratings are 72% and 74%, respectively.

Binay does not appear in UNA's slate ad, but he's not shy about his presidential ambitions for 2016. He has been very active on the campaign trail.

Liberal Party (LP) member Ben Evardone said the Team PNoy commercial is also meant to attack UNA candidates. 

Evardone said Aquino was referring to UNA candidates when he said in the ad that some of those who claim to be administration allies are mere posers.

"I think this initial ad is very clear that the Team Pnoy are the administration candidates and that the bets of UNA are the opposition," Evardone said in a statement on Monday.

UNA has declared itself as the "constructive" opposition. They maintain that they support President Aquino, but promised to offer alternatives. 

Binay is very close to the Aquino family. He was the first local government appointee of the late President Corazon Aquino.

'Sipsipolitics?'

“In the end, the President’s reform agenda could suffer because of sipsipolitics. That is the price that to be exacted by the LP’s decision to open its doors to just about anyone willing to wear yellow and flash the ‘L’ sign,” Tiangco told reporters.

Tiangco also attacked Evardone as a political butterfly. Evardone, after all, was a rabid supporter of Mrs Arroyo. - Rappler.com