UNA junks Chiz, Loren, Grace Poe

Ayee Macaraig

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(4th UPDATE) UNA says it is no longer 'obligated' to include the 3 in its list of senatorial candidates for the May elections

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Thursday, February 21, decided to drop from its slate the 3 senatorial candidates it shares with Team PNoy: re-electionist senators Loren Legarda and Francis “Chiz” Escudero, and former censors chief Grace Poe.

In a statement, UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco said: “We would have wanted and were looking forward to having them join our 9 UNA candidates in our rallies and sorties. We tried our best to accommodate them.” 

But in the end, UNA decided “that it is no longer obligated to include the names of Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace Poe-Llamanzares in its list of candidates.” 

The announcement comes more than a week after UNA founder Vice President Jejomar Binay asked the 3 to “make up their mind” about their status as common candidates.

“Unfortunately, none of them have taken any concrete move or extended any meaningful gesture to assure us that they will live up to their commitments,” Tiangco said.”On the contrary, public statements have been made by at least one of them ruling out participation in UNA events.”

Tiangco added: “It is clear they have made up their minds. We need to move on.” 

In a phone interview, Tiangco told Rappler UNA’s executive committee – Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile – instructed him to consult local leaders and supporters to come up with a stand on the 3.

The instruction was given after the 3 snubbed UNA’s proclamation rally in Cebu. “Their sentiment was to let them go. Wala na. Di na sila common candidates. Di na sila guest candidates ng UNA,” said the UNA secretary-general.

“Actually mas mainit pa ang local leaders namin eh. Sabi nila ‘Ayaw na nga sa atin.’ Mas gusto nilang tanggalin na lang.”

He said the sentiment was the same every time he would talk to UNA leaders and supporters.

Last-ditch effort

Tiangco said he informed Binay of his decision Wednesday night, February 20, and the Vice President accepted it and did not even ask about details.

As a last-ditch effort, Tiangco said he talked to Legarda, Escudero and Poe over the weekend to invite them to UNA’s Central Luzon sorties this week.

Tiango said he informed the 3 of UNA’s sentiment.

Legarda initially said she might attend the Pampanga sortie but had a schedule conflict.

“I feel I’ve exhausted all possibilities already.”

Bro Eddie, Hagedorn as replacements?

Tiangco also responded to speculation that Bro Eddie Villanueva and Puerto Princesa, Palawan Mayor Edward Hagedorn will be tapped to replace two of the 3 bets.

The campaign manager said Estrada told media he was open to the possibility of talks with Villanueva but UNA still has to decide on the issue.

“Personally, I am already comfortable with the 9. I want to stick with that because they’ve been with us through thick and thin. They deserve our support.”

Tiangco though said the executive committee will have to decide.

Legarda, Escudero and Poe skipped UNA’s February 12 proclamation rally in Cebu City. The ruling Liberal Party, which runs the Team PNoy coalition, has insisted that the 3 are the candidates of President Benigno Aquino III. LP campaign manager Sen Franklin Drilon has repeatedly said there’s no such thing as “common candidates.”

Interviewed on ANC Thursday morning, Tiangco said he spoke to Escudero last Sunday, February 17, regarding an UNA sortie in Pampanga (which happened last Wednesday, February 20). “Whatever happens we will remain friends,” Tiangco recalled telling Escudero. “I will respect the party decision,” Escudero reportedly told Tiangco. – Rappler.com

More from Rappler’s 2013 Philippine elections coverage:

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