SENATORIAL candidates under Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) kicked off their election campaign in Pampanga on Tuesday, while the opposition Liberal Party’s eight candidates under the Otso Diretso banner began their stumping in Caloocan City, a hotspot in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s drug war.
Ms. Carpio herself led the caravan in Pampanga where President Duterte had a landslide victory in the 2016 presidential election, as cited by a representative of the province, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Noong nakaraang halalan, pinakamalaking landslide na nakuha ni Mayor Rodrigo Duterte sa labas ng kanyang baluarte, walang iba kundi sa probinsya ng Pampanga,” Ms. Arroyo said at the rally there, Tuesday. (In the last election, then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte won his biggest landslide in Pampanga).
Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Francis N. Tolentino and Kathrina Yu-Pimentel, representing her husband, reelectionist Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III, spoke of needed reforms in behalf of labor.
Reelectionist Senator Cynthia A. Villar and journalist Jiggy Manicad pushed for agricultural development, while reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito spoke about infrastructure and transportation development. Also seeking reelection is Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara.
Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano of the 2nd district of Taguig City spoke of vaccine hesitancy, amid the continuing Dengvaxia scare. Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos said she will push for the suspension or reduction of the value-added tax, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence T. Go echoed President Duterte’s program of government.
“Galit si Pangulo sa droga, galit din po ako sa droga,” Mr. Go said. “Galit si Pangulo sa kriminal, galit din po ako sa kriminal.” (The President hates drugs, I also hate drugs. The President hates criminals, I also hate criminals).
Representative Zajid G. Mangudadatu of the 2nd district of Maguindanao and former Philippine National Police chief Ronald M. dela Rosa said they will push for peace and order as well as the welfare of the youth.
Former senators Ramon B. Revilla, Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada, both tagged in the mutli-billion pork-barrel scam, recalled their bonding during their detention from that scandal.
The LP’s Otso Diretso slate, on the other hand, is composed of reelectionist Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, former senator and interior secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, Magdalo Party-List Representative Gary C. Alejano, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno, civic leader Samira A. Gutoc, former solicitor-general Florin T. Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal, and former Quezon representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, the opposition slate’s campaign manager and LP president, said they chose to begin their campaign in Caloocan City because the cities in Metro Manila traditionally voted opposition candidates during the midterm elections. Caloocan City Rep. Edgar R. Erice is also an LP stalwart. Caloocan City has about 648,000 registered voters according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The opposition’s slate is set to hold its proclamation rally on Wednesday in Naga City, the hometown of Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo.
Mr. Roxas was not present at the kick-off campaign in Caloocan City. Mr. Erice, his campaign manager, explained that it was Mr. Roxas’s tradition to start his campaign in Capiz, his hometown.
“It is important now that we have listened and we are informed of the real needs of the Filipino family, it’s time that we give back to the people, present to them our plans, and hopefully establish an independent Senate,” Mr. Aquino said.
Mr. Alejano said he will pursue security policies that will assert the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea as well as strengthen the country’s Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Mr. Diokno said he aims to reform the justice system as a legislator, adding that his past experiences to defend human rights before the courts were no longer enough because of the flawed justice system.
Ms. Gutoc said for her part, “The unexplained delayed Marawi rehabilitation, the unexplained distance of government in the provinces is what I’m bringing in my 21-year stay in Mindanao.”
Mr. Hilbay said he will bring to the Senate the perspective of ordinary Filipinos. Mr. Macalintal said he will push for policies that would expand the benefits of senior citizens.
In a statement, Mr. Tañada said he will continue to champion the rights of workers, farmers and fisherfolk.
The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) started its campaign in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. The party’s bets, reelectionist Senator Nancy S. Binay-Angeles and lawyer Dan Roleda, were joined by former senator Juan F. Ponce Enrile and reelectionist Senators Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Joseph Victor G. Ejercito. The province has around 1.6 million registered voters, according to the Comelec.
In a statement, Ms. Binay-Angeles said she would continue to pursue tourism development as well as her advocacy for women, children and senior citizens if reelected.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, who is running as an independent candidate, started her campaign in Payatas, Quezon City, where she held a feeding program for children. Quezon City has around 1.1 million registered voters.
She told reporters that she chose to start her campaign through a school feeding program because the children served as her constant reminder of why she was seeking re-election. She said her legislative agenda would remain the passage of the freedom of information bill.
Ms. Poe has been alternating with Ms. Villar as front-runners in the senatorial polls.
LABOR ISSUES, HOTSPOTS
Also on Tuesday, Defend Jobs Philippines launched #LaborVote2019. “In the upcoming May 2019 senatorial and local elections, Filipino workers will be as empowered and more intelligent voters as ever,” Defend Jobs Spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Defend Jobs said by March, “they are set to release the result of their study on the track record and stance on 10 key labor issues including endo (end of contractualization), wage increase, occupational health and safety, right to self-organization, trade union repression, child labor, migration, tax and high prices, and poverty alleviation.”
The advocacy coalition is also set to release a list of “pro-labor candidates,” and will be holding a series of town hall-type assemblies.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has identified 701 election hotspots as campaign period starts for the midterm elections on May.
“[The] latest validated information of election watchlist of areas identified a total of 701 election hotspots that comprise 42.9% of the 1,634 cities and municipalities across the country,” PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Tuesday.
Of the 701 election hotspots, the data of PNP noted 223 election areas of concern (Yellow Category), 382 election areas of immediate concern (Orange Category), 94 election areas of grave concern (Red Category) and two election areas under the control of the Commission on Elections.
PNP said 27 areas of grave concern or under Red category were identified in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 19 in the Bicol Region, seven each in Calabarzon and Western Mindanao, six each in Mimaropa and Western Visayas, five in Northern Mindanao, four each in SOCCSKSARGEN and Cordillera, three in Eastern Visayas, two each in Central Luzon and Davao region, and one each in Caraga and Cagayan Valley region.
There are no Red Areas in NCR and the Ilocos region.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr. said government troops will be on the lookout for rebels involved in a “permit to campaign fee” scheme.
“Inaano natin sa mga tropa, maging, on the lookout especially for extortionists. Ang maganda rito ngayon may mga areas na nag-declare na nga ng persona non grata ang NPA [New People’s Army], so itong mga lugar na ‘to, definitely hindi na talaga makapag-extort itong NPA terrorists na ito,” Mr. Madrigal told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday. (I’m reminding our troops to be on the lookout for extortionists. Fortunately, there were already areas which declared NPA members as persona non grata. With that, they cannot extort money anymore in those areas.) — reports by Charmaine A. Tadalan, Camille A. Aguinaldo, Vince Angelo C. Ferreras, and Gillian M. Cortez