MANILA, Philippines – The coalition led by the ruling Liberal Party (LP) said on Wednesday, October 14, that it does not have “no hard and fast rules” for senatorial candidates whom it shares with other political camps.
Coalition spokesman and Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo told Rappler that their candidates, being “people of deep maturity and competence,” are expected to make the right call.
“There was a lot of formal discussions on how to proceed [but there are] no hard and fast rules. But the default is they are senatorial candidates, they are people of deep maturity and competence, and we expect everyone to be able to decide [on their own],” he said.
On Tuesday, October 13, Quimbo said in a press conference that senatorial candidates may accept endorsements from other camps, but are not allowed to share the stage with presidential and vice presidential bets other than LP’s Manuel Roxas II and Leni Robredo.
Yet he said on Wednesday, they “can’t impose rules” on their senatorial bets because “these are not kindergarten students.”
The candidates are free to accept endorsements “from as many people as [they] want” as long as the endorsements won’t “go in conflict with the coalition,” he said.
The Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) coalition is a mix of Senate veterans, former Cabinet secretaries, Aquino appointees and sectoral representatives. Of the 12 bets, only 6 are members of LP.
At least two of those on the slate have been in talks with other camps for their possible inclusion in other coalition slates. It’s a phenomenon known in Philippine politics as shared candidates, where the Senate bets of one party are allowed to be “guests” of other camps.
‘Height of arrogance’
Two of the Daang Matuwid coalition’s bets – former senator and rehabilitation chief Panfilo Lacson and former Technical Education and Skills Development Director chief Joel Villanueva – have admitted to be in talks with other camps prior to being announced as members of the LP-led slate.
Villanueva, in previous interviews, said he was in talks with Senator Grace Poe and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte about his 2016 plans.
“Sakali naman pong i-adopt tayo, hindi naman natin ito mapipigil…. Alam naman po natin that politics is addition,” he said in a chance interview with reporters on Monday, October 12. (If ever we’re adopted by other camps, we can’t stop that. We know that politics is addition.)
Lacson, meanwhile, said he’s also spoken to Poe about his “in their coalition.”
“On both counts, I was very transparent to each of them about my talks with the other party. I know exactly what I have committed to do and not to do when I agreed to be adopted by them,” said Lacson in a statement to media on Wednesday, October 14.
The former national police chief added: “Having said that, I think it is the height of arrogance to decline an invitation to be a guest candidate of any legitimate and serious presidential candidate, not to mention that I consider it a huge privilege to be offered such.”
Lacson said he was also invited by UNA standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay to be part of the opposition slate when the two met when they filed their certificates of candidacies on Monday, October 12. “I did not decline his invitation as well,” added Lacson.
“I value my word as I value my integrity and honor. I need not be told and worse, in a veiled threat manner that some people want to project,” said Lacson in the statement released as a “response” to Quimbo’s earlier
Speaking to Rappler, Quimbo said theirs is a coalition “not based on coercion or threats.”
“That’s the last thing we want to be doing. We’re in the business of courting, not threatening people. If ever that was the impression, I sincerely apologize because it wasn’t meant that way,” said Quimbo.
Sign of strength?
In the Philippines, it’s rare for a party to field a full 12-person Senate slate composed only of party members, which is why coalitions exist.
In the 2013 mid-term elections, the LP allowed its coalition candidates to be “guest” candidates of other camps but prohibited them from joining their sorties.
The 3 “guest candidates,” Grace Poe, Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda were eventually dropped by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) because they chose to campaign with the LP.
Pundits see “shared candidates” as a sign of weakness in the Philippine political system.
For Quimbo, himself a member of the LP, having “shared candidates” is a sign that the LP-led coalition “chose the right 12 people.”
Of the 12, only 5 are within the circle of possible winners if elections were held today, according to the Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations surveys as of early September. – Rappler.com