Otso Diretso: We campaign to talk about issues, not entertain voters

Mara Cepeda
But the opposition senatorial bets say they are not necessarily going on the offensive against administration candidates. Rather, they just want intelligent discourse during the campaign

ISSUES-BASED. Otso Diretso candidates Florin Hilbay, Romy Macalintal, and Erin Tañada hold a press conference in Marikina City on March 6, 2019. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Otso Diretso candidates once again took a swipe against the administration’s senatorial bets for refusing to attend debates and public fora to answer key issues in the country. 

In a press conference in Marikina City, Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Florin Hilbay said there is a “clear campaign of contrasts” among the opposition lineup and the several administration-allied senatorial tickets this campaign season.  

“So on the one hand, you have an entertainment-based campaign and on the other hand, you have an issue-based campaign. Makikita niyo naman (You can see) the way we conduct ourselves and the way we talk to the press and the way they do their campaign,” said the former solicitor general on Wednesday, March 6.

Hilbay mentioned a recent television interview of former police chief-turned-senatorial candidate Bato dela Rosa, who said people go to Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s campaign sorties to be entertained. 

“So they’re there to entertain the crowd na hinakot nila, whereas kami dito, we talk about issues because sa tingin namin, ‘yon talaga ‘yong importante para sa trabaho ng mga senador na may kapasidad at kakayahan na magsalita tungkol sa mga isyu na hinaharap ng bayan (where us, we talk about issues because we think are important in the job of senators who have the capability to talk about issues being faced by the country),” said Hilbay.

In the past days, Otso Diretso candidates have been slamming specific administration candidates in their speeches and statements, including Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos for lying about earning her degrees and reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara for championing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. 

In their meeting with their campaign volunteers in Rizal, Otso Diretso candidate Romy Macalintal also criticized Senator Cynthia Villar for pushing for the rice tarrification law and former senator Jinggoy Estrada for counting as a legislative achievement his filing of 600 bills. (READ: NEEDS CONTEXT: Jinggoy Estrada ‘filed 600 bills’ in Senate

Not attacking the admin bets

But Macalintal and former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada said they are not necessarily going on the offensive against their opponents. 

Rather, they only want intelligent discourse during the campaign.

“‘Di naman [kami going on the] offensive kundi hinihingi ng pagkakataon, ano ha, dahil lang sa may mga debates na ginagawa ang iba’t ibang mga networks, may mga invitation, may mga forum. Nagtataka lang kami bakit ayaw nilang humarap doon. So ang taongbayan, marami kaming nakakausap na sinasabi sa amin, ‘Bakit hindi kayo mag-debate?’” said the veteran election lawyer. 

(It’s not that we are going on the offensive but it is what the situation calls for, since there are debates being done by networks, their are invitations to fora. We’re just wondering why they don’t want to appear there. We have met a lot of people who have been asking us, ‘Why not have a debate?’

Tañada said candidates’ attendance to such debates will help voters discern their true character. 

As an example, the former Quezon congressman said the reelectionist senators who voted for the TRAIN law should explain to the people why they voted for the controversial tax increases.

“So ito ‘yong mga tanong na kailangan-kailangang harapin nila, dahil dito natin mapapatunayan kung ano ‘yong character at ano ‘yong posisyon ng isang kandidato kapag harap niya sa isang debate,” said Tañada. 

(This is the question they must face, because a debate will test their character and show a candidate’s position on issues.) – Rappler.com

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.