LP’s initial Senate slate for 2019: Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada

Mara Cepeda

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LP’s initial Senate slate for 2019: Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada
(UPDATED) The Liberal Party formally nominates Aquino, Diokno, and Tañada as senatorial candidates for the 2019 elections

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Liberal Party (LP) announced its first 3 senatorial candidates for the 2019 elections, all of whom were scions of opposition leaders during the Martial Law years.

Reelectionist Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and former Quezon representative and LP internal affairs vice president Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III have formally been nominated as the LP’s initial bets for the 2019 senatorial polls.

They were nominated on Tuesday, September 25, in a resolution of the LP’s National Executive Council (NECO). The resolution was approved in a meeting of the NECO with several party members held in Barangay Loyola Heights in Quezon City.

Aquino, Diokno, and Tañada are relatives of opposition senators who staunchly fought against the dictatorship of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Aquino is the nephew of the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, whose assassination in 1983 is considered to be one of the key events that led to the 1986 People Power Revolution.

The younger Aquino is known to be a champion of legislation on entrepreneurship like the Go Negosyo Act of 2014 and education like the free tuition law.

REELECTIONIST. Senator Bam Aquino delivers his speech during the NECO meeting. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Diokno is the son of ex-senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno, who is regarded as the father of human rights advocacy in the Philippines. The younger Diokno is the chairperson of the Free Legal Assistance Group and the founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law.

Tañada, an LP member since 1992, is the grandson of the late senator Lorenzo Tañada, who was known for his fiery speeches against the abuses of the Marcos administration. Tañada’s father, ex-senator Wigberto Tañada, staunchly fought to rid the country of American military bases in Clark and Subic.

Prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, Tañada was a student activist during Martial Law.

What will they advocate for? In their speeches, Tañada and Diokno called for economic reforms and upholding the rule of law, respectively.

Tañada said he wants to amend labor laws in the country so Filipino employees will no longer be victims of labor contractualization or “endo.” He wants to reduce the value-added tax from the current 12% to 10% as well as go after rice cartels and traders who take advantage of the high prices of fuel.

Tañada said he also wants to review the imposition of excise taxes under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law and further strengthen the agricultural sector.

GUNNING FOR HIGHER OFFICE. Ex-lawmaker Erin Tañada waves to his supporters. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Diokno said he has strived to fight for justice the same way his father and grandfather did – an endeavor he hopes to continue at the Senate.

He said now that the country is in a time when even the 1987 Constitution is being disregarded by the government, it is time someone fights for the rule of law to prevail.

“Inaatake po mismo ngayon ang ating Konstitusyon na siyang pinakasaligan sa batas. Hindi na po bulag ang hustisya. Pumapabor ito sa mayayaman at makapangyarihan, sa matataas at malalakas,” said Diokno.

(Our Constitution, which should be our main foundation in law, is being attacked. Justice is no longer blind. It now favors the rich and the powerful, the mighty and the strong.)

“Panahon na para dalhin ko ang labanan sa ibang arena. Panahon para gawing bahagi ng pambansang agenda ang hustisya,” he added.

(It’s time I bring the fight to another arena. It’s time that we make justice a part of the national agenda.)

A NEW ARENA. Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno wants to bring the fight for rule of law to a different arena. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Aquino, meanwhile, talked about the 3 Ls of LP: “laylayan,” referring to how the party aims to be of service to those on the fringes of society, “laban” or fighting for the rights of Fiipinos, and love of country.

He then dedicated the rest of his speech rallying the crowd to throw their support behind him, Diokno, and Tañada.

How did Robredo endorse them? Vice President Leni Robredo, LP chairperson, showered the 3 senatorial bets with praises.

“Tatlong pangalan ‘yung ating ‘pinakilala ngayong umaga, tatlong pangalan na nagpakita na ng kahusayan, katatagan ng paniniwala at pagkatao, at dignidad sa panunungkulan,” said Robredo.

(We introduced to you 3 names this morning, 3 names who have already shown excellence, solid beliefs and character, and dignity in service.)

LIBERALS. (From L-R) Ex-president Noynoy Aquino, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Diokno, ex-Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc, Robredo, Diokno, and Bam Aquino. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

She said that while Aquino, Diokno, and Tañada are relatives of opposition leaders during Martial Law, they have earned their keep in politics today.

“Hindi nila minana ‘yung posisyon. Ang tanging minana nila, ‘yung magandang pangalan na naiwan ng nauna sa kanila. Pero ang tinatayuan nila, galing sa kanilang pawis at dugo,” said Robredo.

(They did not inherit the position. The only thing they inherited was the good name left behind by those ahead of them. But what they’re standing on now was a product of their own sweat and blood.)

But what about their poor survey standings so far? Aquino, Diokno, and Tañada were in the initial list of 18 names being considered for the opposition coalition’s senatorial slate.

The 3 senatorial hopefuls, however, failed to make it to the so-called winners’ circle in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

Aquino ranked 17th in the latest survey with a voter preference of 20.1%. Tañada ranked 36th to 46th with a 3.4% voter preference, while Diokno is at 44th to 62nd with a 1.6% voter preference.

Robredo is unfazed. She recalled her own experience during the 2016 vice presidential race. She started with low awareness ratings and even lower preference numbers, but emerged victorious in the end.

“Klaro sa amin na hindi kami magpapadala sa popularidad bilang iyon iyong pinakamalaking batayan para sa pagpili ng kandidato. Klaro sa amin na mayroong, parang, checklist. Saan ba tumatayo iyong nominee na ito sa ilan na mga issues?” said Robredo.

(It’s clear for us that we will not let popularity be the main basis for choosing our candidates. It’s clear to us that we have a checklist. Where do our nominees stand on certain issues?)

LABAN. Diokno, Aquino, and Tañada flash the Liberal Party's "Laban" hand sign. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Former president Benigno Aquino III, chairman emeritus of the LP, also urged the party’s members to vote for the right people in 2019.

“Kung ayaw natin ang nangyayari sa kasalukuyan sa napakaraming dahilan, hindi pupuwedeng boboto lang tayo. ‘Di puwede ‘yung, ‘Basta nakaboto na ‘ko, okay na ‘yun. Sana walang makakita ng binoto ko….’ Siguraduhin natin ‘yung good ang pumasok at hindi ‘yung malabo,” he added.

(If we no longer like what is currently happening around us for various reasons, we can’t merely vote. We can’t just say, “As long as I have voted, that’s okay. I hope no one sees my vote….” Let’s make sure the good ones will make it, not those with questionable character.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.