By Sandy Araneta
ILOCOS Norte Gov. Imee Marcos warned Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago Monday that she could be the next target in a smear campaign against presidential candidates running against the ruling Liberal Party’s bet Manuel Roxas II.
The warning came after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, once seen as a presidential hopeful, blamed the Roxas camp for rumors that he had throat cancer, an allegation that he denied.
Marcos, in her Filipino-language column in a tabloid, dismissed Roxas’ protestations of innocence and lashed out at him for picking off his opponents one by one.
“For all we know, maybe in the next few days, it may be Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who will be the next target of the feared Roxas camp,” she said.
Marcos, sister of vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said reports had also linked Roxas to Rizalito David, who filed the first disqualification complaint against the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, Senator Grace Poe.
Rumor had it, Marcos added, that a Liberal Party congressman even called up Poe to say that he did not pay David to file the complaint against her.
Reports had earlier identified Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, the Liberal Party vice president for political affairs, as the one who paid David P1 million to file a complaint against Poe before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
“If they can do these things now, how about at the start of the campaign and in the coming elections? Scary right?” Marcos wrote.
On Monday, former Senator Francisco Tatad filed the third disqualification complaint against Poe.
In a statement, Poe responded: “Every Filipino has the right to avail of the remedies afforded by law. The former senator is entitled to his opinion and we will respect that. In the end, the rule of law prevails and the vibrancy of our democracy is sustained. It is, however, our position that all the requirements to seek for higher office have been met by Senator Grace Poe.”
Poe’s spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, said it was unfortunate that dirty tactics were constantly being employed to derail Poe’s presidential bid.
“Since topping the presidential surveys, she has been in the receiving end of baseless suits that are meant to harass. Clearly sinister minds have launched a premeditated and concerted effort to condition the minds of the public that Senator Poe will be disqualified,” Gatchalian said.
“Senator Poe is ready to face these harassment suits in the proper forum. We are confident that all these suits will be dismissed because the law is on her side.
“The documents will show that she has met all the requirements to seek the presidency and which she has already made public. These documents will answer these suits... and will bear her out,” he added.
Gatchalian said the Poe camp would not respond in kind, but focus on “positive campaigning” by laying out her platform of governance.
Roxas on Monday again denied accusations that he was behind the attacks on Poe and Duterte.
“I mean, what are the facts, right? We’ll stick with the facts. We’re for what’s actual and truthful, because all of these, if they are intrigues, there is a saying that the truth will always come out,” he said in a chance interview at the LP headquarters in Quezon City.
He also denied he had anything to do with Tatad’s complaint.
“It’s clear that Senator Tatad and I are not colleagues or even party mates. Senator Tatad has his own opinion,” Roxas said.
He said he expected Poe to respond to the cases being filed against her, but said the Liberal Party would not get involved or jump on the issue.
Roxas said he had called Duterte to assure him that he wasn’t behind the cancer rumor, and told him that Philip Lustre, who spread the rumor, did not work for him.
Roxas also criticized his political opponent, Vice President Jejomar Binay, for accusing the police of harassing and intimidating the Binay family.
He added that Binay had a chance to clear his name before the Senate investigation, but he never appeared before the Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating corruption allegations against him.
“What can you expect from the camp of Vice President Binay? What harassment?” Roxas said.
Roxas said there would be no campaign sorties this week as the Liberal Party shifts its focus to ongoing relief efforts for victims of Typhoon “Lando,” which slammed into the northern provinces of Luzon over the weekend.
The Palace, on the other hand, said the accusations being hurled against Roxas was a sign that his opponents see him as a threat in the 2016 elections.
“Now, why is Secretary Mar [Roxas] being linked to this? Perhaps because his numbers were—in the last survey, getting better. Maybe they see him as a threat,” said Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
Lacierda said there was a presidential candidate who filed under the same name as Roxas to confuse voters.
“That’s part of the campaign,” Lacierda said. “Whatever a candidate has to do, the candidate will do it.”
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. added that President Benigno Aquino III would never engage in smear campaigns.
“President Aquino only engages in higher level of political discussions, and not on smear campaigns or accusations with no basis at all,” said Coloma.
Earlier, the Binay camp criticized the Philippine National Police for trying to harass and intimidate the vice president as part of the administration’s grand plan to destroy and malign his character.
“By now it is evident that the Philippine National Police is part of the all-out administration effort to harass and intimidate the vice president,” Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, said in a statement.
“We will not be surprised if these police officers, to further demean their uniform and the integrity of the institution, will raise old issues against the vice president or even go to the extent of filing cases against him to divert attention from their unlawful and unconstitutional acts, knowing full well that the principle of immunity from suit applies to the vice president,” he added. With Vito Barcelo
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.