MANILA, Philippines – Heavy rain poured at the UP Sunken Garden a few minutes before the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates' thanksgiving concert started on Wednesday, May 8.
The crowd who came to see them were soaked from head to toe, their shoes muddy from the wet earth. The slate's staff members even held up tarpaulins to keep the stage dry, but puddles of rain found their way onstage anyway.
But the crowd stayed, cheering their lungs out as each Otso Diretso bet took turns thanking them.
"Parang ito po ang naging simbolo ng ating kampanya. Kahit anong itapon nila sa atin, tayo po nandito pa rin!" reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino said. (READ: 'Enthusiasm edge' props up Otso Diretso, says Constitution framer)
(This is like a symbol of our campaign. No matter what they throw at us, we'll still be here!)
"Lahat po kayo dito, umikot na sa mga palengke, sumuyod na sa mga parokya, pinuntahan na lahat ng eskuwelahan, lahat ng mall, lahat ng terminal para po sa Otso Diretso. Kaya maraming-maraming salamat po. Kayo po ang spirit ng campaign na ito. Ang ating volunteers ang dugo ng kampanya po ng Otso Diretso," he added. (READ: From constitutionalist to cancer patient, volunteers are the ‘heart’ of Otso Diretso campaign)
(All of you here have gone around markets, went around parishes, visited schools, malls, and terminals for Otso Diretso. So thank you very much. You are the spirit of this campaign. Our volunteers are the blood of the campaign of Otso Diretso.)
At one point during the thanksgiving concert – the slate refused to call the event their miting de avance even if it was their last preelection gathering – thunderclaps were heard from the sky.
To show his solidarity with the audience, former interior secretary Mar Roxas went down the stage briefly and waved to his supporters.
"Hindi puwede na kayo lang 'yung nababasa, kaya pati kaming mga kandidato bababa rito, magpapaulan din! Palagay ko kumbinsido na kayo!" said Roxas, who later called his wife Korina Sanchez Roxas to stand beside him onstage.
(You can't just be the only ones who are soaked, so even us candidates will go down the stage and get soaked as well! I think you're really convinced now!)
"Mula sa aming pamilya, mula sa aming puso, hinding-hindi namin makakalimutan ang inyong pagsama, pagsuporta, pagtiwala sa aming lahat. Maraming-maraming salamat," Roxas said.
(From our family, from our hearts, we will never forget the camaraderie, the support, the trust you gave to all of us. Thank you very much.)
To get the crowd going, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay also expressed gratitude to his girlfriend and actress Agot Isidro.
"Gusto ko rin pong magpasalamat sa isang napaka-espesyal na tao. Mahal natin siyang lahat – si Agot Isidro. Ang pagmamahal ko sa bayan ko ay parang pagmamahal ko kay Agot Isidro," said Hilbay, making the audience cheer.
(I also want to thank a very special person. Someone we all love – Agot Isidro. My love for my country is like my love for Agot Isidro.)
Prior to delivering their speeches – which the candidates had to shorten due to the rain – all 8 senatorial bets stood side by side onstage as they sang "Salamat" by The Dawn.
Opposition Senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan, Otso Diretso's campaign manager, briefly waved to the crowd onstage.
Vice President Leni Robredo no longer appeared during the thanksgiving concert proper, but gave a brief speech during the Ahon Laylayan Coalition event held before the concert.
Fight for an independent Senate
It has been an uphill battle for Otso Diretso, given their limited campaign funds and the few politicians willing to publicly endorse them. This has forced the slate to turn to a volunteer-driven campaign.
Former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada hopes their supporters will not stop their door-to-door efforts until the end of the campaign period.
"Mayroon pong 5 araw na puwede po tayong magkumbinsi ng ating mga kapitbahay, ng ating mga kamag-anak, na kailangan ibuo po natin ang Otso Diretso sa Senado," Tañada said.
(We still have 5 days to convince our neighbors, our relatives, that Otso Diretso should be complete in the Senate.)
"Dahil gusto po natin, isang Senado na hindi takot, tama? Na hindi magnanakaw, tama? Na hindi bastos, tama? Na may takot sa Diyos, tama? Kaya kailangan po tayo magkaisa," he added.
(Because we want a Senate that is not afraid, right? A Senate that is not composed by thieves, right? A Senate that is not disrespectful, right? A Senate who fears God, right? We need to work together.)
The opposition bets also promised their supporters they will not be corrupt should they win the Senate race.
"Nangangako kami sa inyong lahat: Hindi kami magnanakaw kailanman sapagkat 'yan ay commitment namin sa inyo," election lawyer Romy Macalintal said.
(We promise this: We will not steal because that is our commitment to you.)
In her speech, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc slammed some of their opponents who are facing cases yet still running for senator. (READ: Gutoc throws shade at pork-tainted Bong Revilla in his bailiwick Cavite)
"'Di ako kagaya ng mga iba na mayroong kaso at mayroon pang kapal na tumakbo! Samira Gutoc po, maninidigan para sa lahat ng babae, at mga kabataan, at mga katutubo," Gutoc said.
(I am not like others who have cases yet have the gall to run! I am Samira Gutoc and I will stand up for all women, children, and indigenous peoples.)
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano promised that Otso Diretso would be independent senators if they win.
"Kailangan natin mag-provide ng independent Senate na 'di puwedeng tatahimik o tatango-tango na lamang sa kagustuhan ng present administration. Kailangan nating bawiin ang dignidad ng bansa at ng mga Pilipino," he said.
(We need an independent Senate who will not just agree to the whims of the present administration. We need to take back the dignity of the country and Filipinos.)
For the CHELdren
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno was last to speak. He used a pun to thank not just Otso Diretso's volunteers, but also his children who helped him campaign across the country.
"Marami po akong paCHECHELamatan! Unang-una siyempre 'yong aking mga CHELdren (I have a lot of people to thank. First of all, of course, are my children.)," said Diokno, making the audience laugh.
"Naku, lahat po kayo mga volunteer, talagang grabe napalapit sa aking puso, na para na rin kayong mga anak ko. Para na rin kayong mga CHELdren ni Chel," he added.
(All of you volunteers have become close to my heart, as if you are my own children already. You are now like the CHELdren of Chel.)
When all Otso Diretso candidates left the stage, most of their supporters left the UP Sunken Garden as well, leaving only a few to watch the performers lined up for the night.
The concert was later cut short as the rain did not stop on Wednesday evening. – Rappler.com