MANILA, Philippines – Reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino often repeats this line, which he reiterated during Otso Diretso’s campaign kickoff in Caloocan City on Tuesday, February 12: “Do a background check on us, investigate us, test us.”
The 8-person opposition slate is not lacking in confidence when asked about their stand on issues. Aquino said they practice “politics of principles” compared to what he described as the other slates’ “politics of convenience.”
Despite poor survey numbers, with only Aquino and Mar Roxas breaking into the so-called Magic 12 based on recent polls, Liberal Party President Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan does his best to sound like he’s not worried at all. (READ: Survey says: How 2019 senatorial bets are faring so far)
Their ace – what they say is their “out-of-the box” approach – are their Listening and Persuasion campaigns. These are house-to-house consultations to identify issues close to the hearts of voters, and whether they know the candidates at all. They ask prepared questions from a leaflet such as: If you are not going to vote for Otso Diretso, may we know how else we could convince you?
Pangilinan said they have done 118,000 conversations so far.
The conversations, Pangilinan said, have helped them come up with an 8-point platform, tailored to each one of the candidate:
- Gary Alejano – Security for the nation and for individual citizens
- Bam Aquino – Free college tuition so even the poor can graduate
- Chel Diokno – Rich or poor, those who commit crimes will be punished
- Samira Gutoc – Peaceful homes and peaceful nation
- Florin Hilbay – Help for the poor
- Romulo Macalintal – Care for senior citizens and persons with disabilities
- Mar Roxas – Vibrant business environment and jobs
- Erin Tañada – Comfortable harvest from honest work
“The narrative has already shifted, nag move on na po sila sa labanan ng mga partido, sa mga kulay, nag move on na po ang taong bayan diyan. Kasi ang pangangailangan po nila very immediate,” Aquino said.
(The narrative has already shifted, they’ve moved on from party competition and from colors. The nation has moved on from that because their needs are immediate.)
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said that the campaign will aim to dispel the mystique of populism, that “populist governments are not necessarily pro-people, so w’ere here to focus not on being popular but the story of the people.”
Still, recent surveys don’t seem to agree. The Magic 12 is still composed of old personalities and big-surname politicians. (Check all our #PHVote 2019 stories here)
Pangilinan still cites the 2016 victory of Vice President Leni Robredo, who trailed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in surveys but ended up winning the second most powerful seat.
“It’s too early to tell. This is a 90-day campaign, kung bukas ang eleksyon baka dalawa lang ang mananalo sa amin, pero hindi bukas ang eleksyon,” said Pangilinan. (If the election is to be held tomorrow, maybe only two of us will win, but the elections are not tomorrow.)
The midterm elections see the comeback of 3 former senators once jailed for plunder for allegedly earning millions of kickbacks from their pork barrel as senators. Bong Revilla has been acquitted, while Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile are out on bail.
The Duterte administration is endorsing Revilla and Estrada.
The issue of corruption seems to be missing from the 8-point platform, but human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said holding corrupt officials accountable is part of his main agenda of judicial reform.
“Another proposal that we have is for there to be more transparency and accountability in the judiciary. I am in favor of not only giving greater access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) but also publishing the SALN of justices the highest court, as well as the issue of allowing the Ombudsman to conduct lifestyle checks on members of the judiciary,” Diokno said.
Erin Tañada said he will continue to fight for a Freedom of Information (FOI) law, which he has advocated for since his days as Quezon Representative in the lower house.
“Lahat kami dito may anti-corruption agenda, naka embed dun sa big legislative agenda,” said Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano. (All of us here has an anti-corruption agenda, they are embedded in our big legislative agenda.)
Aquino said that at this point, the public pretty much knows where the opposition stands on issues such as extrajudicial killings (EJKs), and independent foreign policy and respect for human rights.
They now have to work on awareness on economic gut issues, which their campaign has shown to still be the main consideration of voters.
The 90-day campaign will be a tough challenge for Otso Diretso because for one, Samira Gutoc admits that local officials who are administration allies have been refusing to host their events.
But it seems that the Liberal Party, often criticized for being high-brow, is prepared to throw away its pride to give this election everything it has.
“Manlilimos tayo ng boto kahit saan, kahit sa Davao (We will beg for votes everywhere, even in Davao),” said Pangilinan, referring to the home region of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Can they pull off a surprise in 90 days? – Rappler.com