Coalition firming up Senate slate for 2013 midterm polls

Posted on June 12, 2012

THE POLITICAL coalition emerging as possible challenger to the administration party in next year’s midterm polls has added three individuals in a bid to complete the Senate slate, amid a disagreement between two prominent bets.


Former senator Juan Miguel "Migz" F. Zubiri, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia and Rep. Maria Milagros "Mitos" H. Magsaysay (1st district, Zambales) have joined the Senate lineup of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said spokesperson Jose Virgilio "JV" L. Bautista, adding to the initial list of five candidates.

"Today the executive committee [of UNA] has decided on three additional names," Mr. Bautista told the media after the coalition’s meeting at the Coconut Palace in Manila.

Mr. Zubiri made it to the list despite opposition from Senator Aquilino Martin "Koko" D. L. Pimentel III, of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), who replaced the former lawmaker over a poll fraud case. Mr. Pimentel vowed not to share the campaign stage with Mr. Zubiri.

Mr. Zubiri, formerly from the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats of then president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district), resigned from the Senate in August last year ahead of the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that declared Mr. Pimentel as the 12th winner in the 2007 elections. Misses Garcia and Magsaysay were also former allies of Mrs. Arroyo.

Mr. Bautista, however, noted that "in the covenant of unity of UNA…, any member endorsed by party automatically becomes part the senatorial slate. No less than Erap [nickname former president Joseph E. Estrada] formally endorsed the candidacy of Migz Zubiri," he said.

Mr. Estrada heads the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino which has coalesced with PDP-Laban of Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay, who is party chairman, to form UNA.

"We respect Koko’s personal sentiment but the alliance is not going to delve into any personalities. We have to respect the integrity of the alliance," Mr. Bautista added.

Asked about reports of Mr. Pimentel joining the Senate slate of the Liberal Party (LP), Mr. Bautista said: "We call upon him to exercise better judgment and remain with UNA."

LP is the party of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III.

Mr. Pimentel, who is PDP-Laban president, could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bautista said UNA is now ready to accept candidates at the local level.

Prospective bets could either join PDP-Laban or PMP, or have their parties affiliate with UNA, he said.

"All members of PDP-Laban and PMP are automatically UNA candidates," he added.

Mr. Bautista also said the "next names may be announced in the first week of July."

UNA’s initial list of Senate bets are Mr. Pimentel III, Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II, Rep. Juan "Jack" C. Ponce Enrile, Jr. (1st district, Cagayan), Rep. Joseph Victor "JV" G. Ejercito (San Juan) and businessman Jose "Joey" P. de Venecia III. Twelve Senate seats are up for grabs in next year’s elections. -- A. S. O. Alegado