Otso Diretso to Hugpong: 'Don't want to be called thieves? Then don't steal'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The opposition candidates of the Otso Diretso slate told their opponents in the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) ticket that their anti-corruption messaging is not negative campaigning.

Rather, they are only telling the truth.

This was the message of 4 Otso Diretso senatorial bets on Tuesday, February 19, after Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos of the HNP lineup shunned the supposed "negative campaigning" of her electoral competitors.

"Simple lang naman. Kung ayaw nilang tawagin silang magnanakaw, eh 'di 'wag silang magnakaw. Hindi negative campaigning ang magsabi ng totoo," said Otso Diretso senatorial candidate and former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada. 

(It's simple. If they don't want to be called thieves, then don't steal. Telling the truth is not negative campaigning.)

Former solicitor general turned senatorial hopeful Florin Hilbay added: "Hindi paninira ang pagbatikos at pagsiwalat sa kabulukan, kawalan ng kakayahan, at pagiging kurakot ng ibang kandidato. Ang mga ito ay obligasyon ng bawat kandidatong nagnanais maglingkod nang malinis at mahusay."

(It's not propaganda to criticize and expose the rottenness, the lack of qualifications, and the corrupt character of other candidates. These are the obligations of every candidate who wishes to serve honestly and excellently.)

Most members of the Otso Diretso slate – composed of Hilbay, Tañada, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, and former interior chief Mar Roxas – have been throwing shade at administration bets.

In Taal, Batangas, Macalintal told senatorial candidate Jinggoy Estrada: “Mr Jinggoy, hindi ko tinatawaran ang kakayahan ng mga artista. Iginagalang ko iyan. Ang aking sinasabi, hindi laban sa mga artista, kundi ang aking sinasabi ay hindi karapat-dapat tumakbo sa Senado o manungkulan sa anumang departmento ng pamahalaan ang isang magnanakaw.”

(Mr Jinggoy, I’m not underestimating celebrities. I respect them. What I’m saying is not against celebrities, I’m saying that thieves are not worthy of running for the Senate or to hold office in any government department.)

Macalintal was responding to a statement Estrada made in Vigan City where he challenged the “yellows” to show the bills they have passed.

“Sabi nila, bakit raw boboto ng artista? Bakit hindi? Nakita naman niyo, ang inyong lingkod, nakapag-file ng 600 panukalang batas (They said why vote for celebrities? You’ve seen me file 600 bills),” Estrada said in Vigan on February 18.

In their campaign rounds so far, several Otso Diretso candidates have been saying their team has no records of corruption or amassing wealth from taxpayers' money. (READ: In Naga, Otso Diretso bets throw shade at Marcoses)

It seems to be an allusion to HNP, which counts among its senatorial bets the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' daughter Imee Marcos and pork-linked former senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.

Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who established HNP, already shrugged off the attacks from the opposition. But for Gutoc, HNP must respond to the corruption issues hounding its slate.

"Ma'am Sara, instead of accusing us of 'politicking,' bakit hindi na lang sagutin ang mga isyu? Mali ba na may malalaking billboards ang ilan sa inyo? Mali ba na may nagpalabas ng biopic? Mali ba na may naakusahan sa inyo ng pagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan? O nasasaktan lamang marinig ang totoo?" asked Gutoc. 

(Ma'am Sara, instead of accusing us of "politicking," why not just answer the issues? Is it wrong for some of you to have big billboards? Is it wrong that a biopic of a candidate was shown? Is it wrong for some of you to have been previously accused of stealing money from the nation's coffers? Or is it just painful to hear the truth?)

"Instead of evading these questions, prove that we are wrong instead," she added. 

Alejano, a former mutineer turned Magdalo congressman, then said Otso Diretso will only side with the truth and justice. 

"Ang mga negatibong isyu na kinasasangkutan nila ay kailangang panagutan sa taumbayan. Kami po sa Otso Diretso ay papanig lamang sa kung ano ang katotohanan at makatarungan para sa lahat," he said. 

(They need to be accountable to the people for all the negative issues they are facing. We in Otso Diretso will always side with the truth and what is fair to all.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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