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#PHvote Week 1: Drawing the lines

Carmela Fonbuena
Posted on 02/17/2013 3:14 AM  | Updated 07/06/2014 7:36 PM

The first week of the official campaign period drew many lines between the administration slate Team PNoy and rival ticket United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

If the administration slate's message was a bit nuanced in the first TV ad it released in January, President Aquino during Team PNoy’s proclamation rally on February 12 made it more categorical: his handpicked candidates are different from the other candidates being pushed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada.

“They say they support me but when they turn around and join the other side, they attack the reforms I have initiated,” Aquino said and those on the stage – most of them from the ruling Liberal Party – clapped.

The President did not categorically name UNA, but the opposition slate has initially presented itself as a supporter of the Aquino administration.

“I cannot do this alone. We should make sure that the entire Team PNoy slate makes it to the Senate,” the President added.

On the same day, UNA began to attack President Aquino's administration - particularly its supposed failure to make sure that the economic growth trickles down to the poor. "In the country, many are still hungry. Many are still jobless. Many people still suffer," Binay told the crowd in Cebu.

"The stock market is doing well. The businessmen are happy, but you should be happy, too. Growth is not just for businessmen and rich people only. It is for all Filipinos," Binay added.

It's a change in strategy. UNA (or Binay for that matter) has always called itself as the "constructive opposition," avoiding a frontal attack against the Aquino administration -- until February 12. Obviously hurt by the "pretenders" tag from the Team PNoy slate ad, Binay added: "We are not pretenders. It was never in our vocabulary."

UNA even tried to frame Team PNoy bets as Aquino's puppets. The administration bets were quick to protest the tag.

Cebu vs Plaza Miranda

The proclamation rallies also show the different strategies of UNA and Team PNoy, which reflect the campaigns that their stalwarts have mastered.

Team PNoy launches a campaign made for TV in Manila's Plaza Miranda. The venue is small but historic. It evokes memories of the heroism of President Aquino’s parents in fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

It is a continuing narrative of the 2010 elections, where President Aquino benefitted from a sympathetic media and public. In the May 2013 elections, he remains the central character. The 12 candidates of Team PNoy are supporting characters who need to win in May so the beautiful story that the administration painted in the past 3 years may continue.

UNA’s selection of Cebu, on the other hand, suggests that the opposition slate will play a strong ground game. Cebu has 2.5 million votes, the biggest in the country.

Team PNoy's narrative caters to the general voting population, while UNA's messaging identifies itself with the poor. This is not surprising because this is the solid support base of UNA's so-called kings: Binay and Estrada, who both won on the basis of a pro-poor platform.

It's a tried and tested formula. The poor voters comprise the biggest chunk of the voting population.

Both strategies have worked in the past. It will all boil down to execution.

Nacionalistas and common candidates

The senatorial candidates of Sen Manuel Villar Jr's Nacionalista Party also defined its coalition with the President's Liberal Party. The party supports President Aquino but its candidates won't wear yellow in the campaign trail.

Villar's wife Cynthia -- who is running under the Team PNoy ticket -- told Rappler they have decided to wear white.

Senate Minority leader Cayetano said they don't have to lose their identity just because they had coalesced with the Liberal Party. "It's a coalition. Hindi maganda na just because you are in a coalition, you will all be one. Nagsasama-sama ang colors," he said.

A hanging issue is where the common candidates -- Senator Loren Legarda, Senator Chiz Escudero, and former censors chief Grace Poe -- really stand.

When the 3 joined the administration ticket, one of President Aquino's conditions was they may only join the campaign stage of the administration. All 3 were present in the Plaza Miranda rally. Legarda and Poe sent representatives to join UNA's rally in Cebu.

Now, Vice President Binay is complaining. Not satisfied with mere representatives, he is making the candidates choose again.

Legarda, Escudero, Poe obviously want to have the best of both worlds. But for how long? –

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