Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday declared her full support for the Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial slate of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
“All out, all out,” Arroyo told reporters when asked her commitment to the HNP candidates following Tuesday’s campaign kickoff in her vote-rich home province of Pampanga.
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The HNP candidates are reelectionist Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and Aquilino Pimentel III; former Senators Pia Cayetano and Bong Revilla; Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos; Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, former political adviser Francisco Tolentino, former national police chief Ramon dela Rosa, former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go; and former journalist Jiggy Manicad.
While President Rodrigo Duterte supports the HNP candidates, he has also endorsed singer Freddie Aguilar and former Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
His party, the The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan fielded Dela Rosa, Go, Mangudadatu, Pimentel and Tolentino.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President would not approach religious groups or leaders to endorse his senatorial bets.
“It’s not his style,” Panelo said, even though Duterte was supported by the influential Iglesia Ni Cristo when he ran for president in 2016.
Last month, Duterte and his favored senatorial aspirant, Go, paid a courtesy call on INC leader Eduardo Manalo.
In Pampanga, Arroyo thanked Mayor Duterte for launching the campaign there and recalled that her province brought in the second largest number of votes for her father, who was running for president in 2016.
“We hope we can duplicate that,” she said.
Mayor Duterte, playing the role of power broker, pushed Arroyo to take the speakership following a tiff with then-Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte.
READ: Bacolod mayor forms alliance with Hugpong
Arroyo said she herself would not run for office again and would retire from politics to write her memoirs.
Over 60 senatorial bets―including seven reelectionists and six former senators―began wooing voters as the official campaign period for national candidates kicked off Tuesday.
The senators seeking a second term of office are Senators Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Pimentel, Ejercito, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
The former senators are Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Estrada, Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña.
Cayetano, a health advocate, reminded Filipino mothers of the importance of having their children properly vaccinated, in light of the recent outbreak of measles in several parts of the country.
“This is a serious matter. The mandatory immunization was one of my concerns when I entered the Senate,” Cayetano said, referring to the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act (Republic Act 10152), which she principally authored and sponsored.
She lamented the decline in people’s confidence in vaccines.
The Otso Derecho opposition slate started its campaign in Caloocan City. Their lineup includes Aquino, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, civic leader Samira Gutoc, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, and former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada.
Roxas, however, was a no-show in the first day of the campaign, however, because of another event in his bailiwick in Roxas City, Capiz. Other members of the team, however, played down his absence.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, the Otso Derecho campaign manager, guaranteed Roxas would attend their official campaign kickoff and proclamation rally in Naga City, Camarines Sur on Feb. 13.
Aquino on Tuesday warned against a rubber-stamp Senate, saying an independent upper chamber would ensure the welfare and interest of the people are protected.
“This isn’t about siding with the administration or the opposition. We should be siding with the Filipino,” Aquino said.
He underscored the importance of an opposition in the Senate, saying the country and the Filipino people will suffer if the upper chamber simply gives in to every desire of the administration.
Poe and some reelectionist senators are also set to hold a campaign rally in Tondo, Manila, today (Wednesday). But Poe, the frontrunner in the midterm elections, started her campaign with school children in a feeding program in Payatas, Quezon City.
Handing out food packs to about 800 children from the Payatas Elementary School, Poe said it has been her advocacy to reach out and help those who are less fortunate, even though they were not voters.
As she did in her previous run, Poe is running as an independent. Among the seven senator seeking re-election, she is the only one who doesn’t belong to any political party.
Poe, a consistent top placer in opinion polls, said she would focus on providing less fortunate Filipinos with their basic needs such as food, and also ways to fight corruption.
Angara promised to continue the family legacy of “Alagang Angara” anchored on education, health, job generation, social pension for senior citizens, and stronger local government units and barangays.
Angara chairs the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, the political party once led by his father, the late Senate President Edgardo Angara.
Since becoming a legislator in 2004, first as a representative of the lone district of Aurora and later as senator in 2013, the younger Angara has pushed for 173 national and local bills and vowed to continue his legislative agenda of helping every member of the Filipino family if voters return him to the Senate.
Gutoc, a neophyte, said she may not have billboards and political advertisements to boost her senatorial bid, but she believes the stories of Marawi siege victims will serve as an inspiration for her campaign.
She also appealed to the public to not forget the victims of Marawi siege.
Meanwhile, United Nationalist Alliance bets, Binay and Dan Roleda, kicked off their campaign at San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.
They were joined by reelectionist senators Angara and Ejercito, as well as Enrile.
Binay said that the advocacy and style of her leadership were anchored on the daily experiences of every child, mother, and spouse.
READ: Lakas, Tingog, Hugpong seal alliance