Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo has named six more candidates in her senatorial slate, including former political foes of her allies, bringing the total up to 11. The 12th slot is still open.
Several of the new senatorial bets have also been chosen by other presidential aspirants for their own line ups of senatorial candidates.
In a press briefing on Friday, Ms. Robredo named senators Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, Richard “Dick” J. Gordon, and Emmanuel Joel Villanueva as part of her senatorial ticket for the 2022 elections. Also on the list are former Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” C. Binay, Sr., lawyer Alex Lacson, and former senator Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero.
The three incumbent senators were among the members of the upper chamber who ousted Senator Leila M. De Lima as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights. Ms. De Lima is also running for reelection as part of Ms. Robredo’s slate.
Mr. Gordon, who is now leading a Senate investigation into the government’s questionable pandemic deals, has been criticized by civil society for enabling President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s attacks against Ms. De Lima, who is still on trial for allegedly allowing the illegal drug trade to flourish in the country’s jails when she was Justice secretary.
Witnesses against Ms. De Lima, who was arrested while heading an investigation by a Senate panel into alleged atrocities committed during Mr. Duterte’s drug war, were drug convicts serving time at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
Meanwhile, when she was justice secretary, Ms. De Lima filed a complaint against Mr. Villanueva, alleging misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Ms. Robredo also said former Vice-President Jejomar Binay will run for senator under her ticket.
The opposition leader’s top ally, Antonio F. Trillanes, was among the pre-Duterte era senators who led a months-long probe into alleged corrupt activities of Mr. Binay and his family. Political experts have said that the corruption allegations that hounded Mr. Binay weakened his 2016 presidential bid. Mr. Trillanes is also on Ms. Robredo’s senatorial slate.
Ms. Robredo said lawyer Alex Lacson, the senatorial bet of conservative political party Ang Kapatiran, is also included in her senatorial ticket, as is former senator Francis Escudero.
The tandem of Ms. Robredo and her running mate Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan earlier said Mr. Trillanes, Ms. De Lima, Sen. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Tadeo “Chel” I. Diokno, and former congressman Teodoro “Teddy” B. Baguilat, Jr. would run for senator under her ticket.
Ms. Robredo said human rights activist Neri J. Colmenares and labor leader Joe Sonny G. Matula are among her camp’s top choices for the 12th spot in their Senate slate.
“’Yung number 12 gusto sana namin who will best represent the marginalized sectors,” she said. (We would like No. 12 to be someone who will best represent the marginalized sectors.)
“Linawin natin ang pangunahing layunin sa susunod na halalan: Ang magsulong, lalo na mula sa tuktok, ng isang pamahalaang matino, mahusay, makatao, at tunay na interes ng bayan lagi ang uunahin. Nagkakaisa po tayo sa layuning ito, at kaisa natin ang labing-isang pangalang inihain ko para sama-sama, tulong-tulong, makapagpanday tayo ng pagbabago. Ididiin ko ang ating pilosopiya: Ang pagiging bukas; ang pagpapalawak ng hanay ayon sa prinsipyo at pangarap para sa bansa,” Robredo said.
Five of Ms. Robredo’s senatorial candidates — namely Messrs. Zubiri, Gordon, Villanueva, Binay, and Escudero — were also endorsed by presidential candidates and incumbent senators Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao and Panfilo M. Lacson.
Antique Rep. Lorna Regina “Loren” B. Legarda was also picked by both Mr. Lacson and Mr. Pacquiao for their senatorial slates.
Mr. Pacquiao also endorsed the senatorial candidacies of Mr. Colmenares, labor leader Elmer Labog, former Eastern Samar Governor Lutgardo B. Barbo, and broadcast journalist Rafael T. Tulfo
Also on Friday, Mr. Lacson’s running mate, Sen. Vicente C. Sotto III, said their senatorial ticket includes Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, former Quezon City mayor Herbert Constantine M. Bautista, former senators Joseph Victor “JV” G. Ejercito and Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II, and former Agriculture secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.
In a statement, Mr. Colmenares said his exclusion from Ms. Robredo’s opposition slate is “based on what she thinks is best for the interest of her candidacy.”
“My resolve to run for the Senate is based on the need to give the poor and marginalized a strong voice in the legislature,” the former BayanMuna representative said. “We in Makabayan have always relied on the support of various groups and the people for progressive and pro-people independent candidates like me.”
He was referring to the Makabayan bloc in the House which is composed of lawmakers representing progressive party-list groups.
Ms. Robredo, chairperson of the Liberal Party, earlier said that her decision to run as an independent candidate is a symbolic way of showing that she is open to working with different political groups critical of the Duterte administration.
The Vice-President, who has criticized Mr. Duterte’s leadership style, is now under fire for excluding labor leaders and activists who have been critical of Mr. Duterte from the start of his term from her Senate slate.
“What does it say about building the broadest unity vs Duterte and (Ferdinand “Bongbong”) Marcos but excluding the forces that represent the marginalized sectors?” Bayan Secretary General Renato M. Reyes asked.
“In any case, we have not lost hope that unity can be achieved and Duterte and Marcos will be defeated.”
Progressive coalition Laban ng Masa said in a statement that “the platform and agenda of the working class and marginalized sectors should be at the forefront in every election.
“Traditional Philippine politics is the playground of the elite, landlords, billionaires and giant corporations. It is a game of numbers, popularity, bailiwicks and money, and it is within this framework that VP Leni Robredo has chosen her Senatorial slate,” the group said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Makabayan lawmakers filed House Bill 10387 that would seek to ban candidate substitution by withdrawal.
It seeks to limit substitution to cases of a candidate’s death, permanent incapacity, or disqualification before election day.
The bill also proposed that any candidate who has shown or expressed that their position is as a placeholder, that this could be presented as evidence of lacking intention to run for office.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James B. Jimenez on Wednesday said that the admission by a candidate that they had filed a certificate of candidacy to serve as a placeholder is not enough grounds for them to be declared a nuisance candidate.
Lakas-CMD secretary-general Prospero A. Pichay, Jr. admitted to reporters Monday evening that their party had fielded placeholders for president and vice-president as they still hoped that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio would agree to run for president.
Senator Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa, who filed to run for president under a faction of the PDP-Laban party, has also said he is ready to give up his slot to Ms. Carpio (who had filed for reelection as mayor in Davao) if she decides to join the presidential race.
A similar bill was filed by House Deputy Speaker Rufus B. Rodriguez on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Senator Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos said she is appealing to the Comelec to resolve registration issues for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) voters.
“There’s been a deluge of complaints from OFWs who couldn’t register as voters. It’s not a problem that just came up suddenly these last few days,” she said in a statement on Friday.
She is asking the Comelec to allow OFWs to walk in and register. “We’ve been trying to contact the Comelec to help resolve the problem but have not been answered.”
“Our OFWs have a right to vote and should not be disenfranchised. Let’s give them due importance. They have always contributed to the national coffers,” she added, noting that there was still time to take action in favor of overseas workers. — Kyle Aristophere Atienza with reports from Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Russell Louis C. Ku