Binay finally completes UNA Senate slate

Ayee Macaraig

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Binay finally completes UNA Senate slate
Binay's senatorial slate is composed of celebrities, current and former lawmakers, and labor and security advocates. Only 6 are official UNA candidates.

MANILA, Philippines – After months of negotiations, Vice President Jejomar Binay finally completed his senatorial slate, with migrant workers’ rights advocate Susan “Toots” Ople taking the last slot as guest candidate. 

The daughter of the late senator Blas Ople announced on Wednesday, October 21, that she accepted the offer of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to be one of its 6 guest candidates, after filing her candidacy for senator last week as a member of the Nacionalista Party.  

“I am in this race because I have ideas to share and concerns to raise. My father had always waged his political campaigns based on issues, not personalities. I shall endeavor to do the same, no matter how difficult that may be, given the weird political environment that we are in,” she said in a statement. 

In a previous interview with Rappler, Ople said Binay was “proactive” as a former presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) concerns, and chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). Ople sat on the IACAT as NGO representative. 

“He regularly called for IACAT meetings, and we were always asked to present. All the agency members would present what cases they’d been handling, and so I think he was effective and I think he was quite professional about it,” Ople said. 

UNA’s vice presidential bet Senator Gregorio Honasan II told Rappler that he recommended Ople to UNA’s selection committee after he met with her on Monday. 

“Her programs for the OFWs, her primary advocacy, fit squarely with UNA’s platform which is employment, poverty alleviation, including security,” said the senator, also vice president of UNA. 

Honasan said he knew Ople from way back, as he treated her father as a statesman and mentor when he was still a neophyte senator. 

As Rappler earlier reported, half of Binay’s Senate slate is composed of guest candidates or those also running with presidential bet Senator Grace Poe or as independent aspirants. Only 6 of the 12 UNA senatorial contenders listed the party in their certificates of candidacy. 

Binay finalized his senatorial ticket after the October 16 deadline of candidacy filing, usually the period where political parties announce their candidates.

A former Makati mayor, Binay had a tough time finding a running mate and senatorial candidates as he faces multiple corruption allegations. The Vice President is the subject of a yearlong Senate inquiry, as well as Ombudsman and money-laundering probes into allegations he earned kickbacks from overpriced projects when he led the financial district for 21 years. 

The controversy and legal woes took a toll on the opposition leader’s popularity. He now ranks third in presidential surveys, down from his top ranking before June

The ruling Liberal Party (LP) of administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II was the first to announce its ticket on October 12. 

Poe is also finalizing her Senate slate but unlike Binay, she does not have a political party. The tandem of Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr also have not identified their senatorial candidates. 

Celebrities, lawmakers, advocates 

UNA is a new political party that Binay created last year to be his vehicle for the May 2016 polls. It was accredited only in May 2015. 

Its senatorial slate is composed of celebrities, current and former lawmakers, and labor and security advocates. 

Here is the list of UNA senatorial candidates, their backgrounds, and plans if elected into the 24-member chamber. Watch and read about them. 

Official or so-called original UNA bets: 

1. Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao

The world-renowned boxing champ has a poor attendance record in Congress, present in only 4 session days at the House of Representatives in 2014. 

A member of UNA, Pacquiao chose to run under Binay’s party despite an offer from the LP. 

His platform includes “quality, free public education,” protecting abused OFWs, providing incentives and subsidies to farmers, going after rice smugglers and hoarders, and a sports development program for the youth. He said he wants peace in Mindanao but is unclear about how he intends to help achieve this. 

He said: “Hayaan ninyong pagsilbihan ko kayo bilang kamao ng paglaban sa kahirapan.” (Allow me to serve you as your fists against poverty.) 

2. Former Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas

Napeñas drew controversy for the January 25 Mamasapano operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. While the SAF troopers killed Marwan, 44 of them were among the 67 killed in an encounter with Moro rebels. President Benigno Aquino III blamed Napeñas for the costly mission that endangered the peace process.

The ex-SAF commander hailing from La Union said he is running to improve the welfare of law enforcers, and to seek justice for the slain SAF troopers. 

He said a group in Mindanao “mercilessly killed” his men while in peace talks with the government, referring to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“It was VP Binay who first paid tribute to the SAF. He was also the first to help us. I consider as priceless his recognition of the heroism of the SAF 44,” Napeñas said. (READ: Binay uses SAF 44 to hit Aquino)

3. Parañaque Councilor and actress Alma Moreno 

Moreno is the chairperson of the Philippine Councilors League, and a 3-term councilor of Parañaque.

In her speeches in sorties, the actress cites services she offers to her constituents like burial assistance, drug stores, and benefits for senior citizens – much like Binay’s line on the programs he instituted as Makati mayor. She has yet to detail how her work in Parañaque could be translated to national legislation. 

Moreno said senators do not need pure skill. “Dapat may puso para sa masa.”  (A senator must have a heart for the masses.)  

4. Princess Jacel Kiram 

Kiram is the daughter of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who sent his brother and 200 armed followers to Sabah in February 2013 to pursue the Sulu Sultanate’s claim over the now Malaysian state. The clashes killed over 60 people, and heightened tensions with Malaysia. (READ: Bloodshed in Sabah and the peace process)

Princess Jacel said her candidacy is meant to regain Sabah from Malaysia. She said Sabah “earns $72 billion a year,” which Filipinos do not benefit from. 

“It seems we have no foreign policy that deals with this vital issue,” she said.  

5. Labor lawyer Allan Montaño 

A pro-bono labor lawyer from South Cotabato, Montaño said he is one of a few candidates who will genuinely pursue laborers’ rights because he is not beholden to patrons in big business. The son of a landless farmer, he has been in the labor movement for 22 years. 

Montaño vows to campaign against contractualization, and make productivity incentives mandatory. He is also in favor of reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes, and corruption involving P10 million ($217,360) and above. 

He wants a parliamentary form of government not just for the proposed Bangsamoro region, but also for other local governments to ensure “even development.” 

“A senator is not mandated to build infrastructure or to be popular,” Montaño said. 

6. Broadcaster Rey Langit 

After his failed 2010 senatorial bid, broadcast journalist Langit is making another try for the Senate. A longtime anchor, he said he wants to participate in politics but has yet to release a clear, specific platform of government. 

Langit said he wants to help address poverty, having witnessed it when he grew up in Tondo, Manila. 

“It was an aspiration to uplift the standards of broadcast and print media, and we want that nationwide for all our fellow Filipinos, the small folk and the greater majority,” he said. 

Guest candidates: 

7. Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III 

A comedian, politician and host of noontime show Eat Bulaga, Sotto is the front-runner in senatorial surveys. He is seeking a 4th Senate term as Poe’s official senatorial bet, and a guest candidate of UNA. 

The deputy minority leader takes pride in being punctual and always present in Senate sessions. Yet he drew criticism for plagiarism and opposing the landmark Reproductive Health law. 

Sotto calls himself “the senator of the Filipino family,” a reference to his stance against the measure. 

I will continue to champion for the betterment of the basic unit of our country, the Filipino family.”

8. Former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson 

After a stint as rehabilitation secretary for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Lacson aims to return to the Senate for the third time. He was initially eyeing the presidency but his low survey numbers discouraged him from pursuing the post. 

Lacson is running as an independent candidate but is included in the slate of the LP, UNA, and Poe. 

The former police chief styled himself as an anti-corruption advocate, and famously refused to accept pork barrel allocations. He criticized provisions in the national budget that allegedly revived the graft-ridden system, which the Supreme Court already struck down. 

Lacson said he will continue this advocacy in the Senate. “Lilipulin natin ang mga bulok sa gobyerno.” (We will go after the rotten in government.) 

9. Former Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon 

After a failed presidential bid in 2010 and losing the senatorial race in 2013, Gordon attempts another return to government by running for senator in 2016. The former senator believes experienced candidates like himself will strengthen the “weak field” of choices. (READ: Gordon: ‘Country isn’t working’)

A former Olongapo mayor and chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Gordon told Rappler that he wants to decongest Manila by dispersing industries throughout the country, and maximizing the use of Clark airport. 

The chairman of the Philippine Red Cross plans to increase the budget for infrastructure spending, and to promote the development of Muslim Mindanao. 

“You have to provide for the poorest sectors: the farmer and the fishermen. I would go beyond giving them subsidies by modernizing fishing and farming,” he said. 

10. Former Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri

Like Gordon, Zubiri was a 2013 official UNA bet who is now a guest candidate of both the Binay and Poe slates. The former senator resigned in 2011 after witnesses came out to expose fraud in the 2007 senatorial race against Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, but Zubiri denied having a hand in the cheating. (READ: This time, Zubiri wants untainted victory

Zubiri is a former Senate majority leader and ex-Bukidnon representative. He was the author of the Renewable Energy Act, and the Biofuels Act. 

The former senator said he was never implicated in any corruption issue, and will work best as an independent candidate. 

He shares Poe’s and Binay’s advocacies to reduce income taxes, and to ensure job generation. Echoing Poe, Zubiri said he wants a food-for-school program to help malnourished children.  

11. Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez 

Romualdez is also a guest candidate of both the UNA and Poe tickets. Officially, he is the president of the Lakas-CMD party of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

A scion of the Romualdez political dynasty of Leyte, the congressman said he wants to empower the youth and persons with disabilities. Overwhelmed when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck his province in 2013, Romualdez wants to focus on climate change and urban disasters. 

The lawmaker also supports lowering income and corporate taxes, and exempting the disabled from the value-added tax.

A graduate of the UP College of Law, Romualdez is president of the Philippine Constitution Association.  

12. OFW advocate Susan “Toots” Ople 

Ople is a multi-awarded advocate of the rights of OFWs and laborers. The daughter of the late senator Blas Ople, she is now president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, which assists OFWs and their families.  

The former labor undersecretary was the recipient of the 2013 Trafficking-in-Persons Hero Award of the US State Department for her work in providing labor trafficking victims with legal and reintegration assistance. 

If elected, she intends to modernize the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and embassies to ensure a quick response for distressed OFWs, exempt OFWs from paying airport terminal fees, and create a department for OFWs, and one for maritime affairs. 

Prodded by OFWs to run for senator, she seeks their support to win. “This will be the very first OFW-driven, social media-oriented national campaign.” – 

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