By Ellson A. Quismorio
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte — Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte endorsed a whopping 14 candidates for the administration’s senatorial slate during a political event here at the Tacloban Astrodome that had the trappings of an election campaign sortie.
Mayor Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, served as keynote speaker of the alliance agreement signing Wednesday between her very own regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), national party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), and Tingog Sinirangan Party-List.
There was a party atmosphere throughout the six-hour event, punctuated by loud music, confetti, balloons, and the wooing of locals to vote for 14 pro-administration candidates in the coming May 2019 midterm polls.
These bets are reelectionist Senators Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito; Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos; former presidential assistant Bong Go; former Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Bong Revilla; former presidential spokesman Harry Roque; Deputy Speaker and Taguig City-Pateros 2nd district Rep. Pia Cayetano; former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Bato dela Rosa; Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu; Dr. Willie Ong; and former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino.
Mayor Duterte justified her call for Taclobanons to vote for these personalities by highlighting the President’s need to have “friends” in the legislature, especially in the Senate.
“Let’s support our senatorial candidates because he (President Duterte) needs senators who will push his agenda in the last three years of his term,” the lady local chief executive said in her speech.
The elder Duterte won the Palace seat via landslide victory during the 2016 national elections.
It should be noted that only the top 12 vote-earners in the 2019 polls will get to win seats in the Senate. But Mayor Duterte made a good effort to put over each name in the administration ticket as vital to the President’s success.
Her appeal was backed up by Lakas-CMD President and Leyte 1st district congressional candidate Martin Romualdez, who in his own speech reiterated “our strong support to President Duterte and his agenda for change by supporting the election of the senatorial candidates of Hugpong ng Pagbabago.”
Romualdez, who is running next year to regain his old House seat, said he believes the endorsed candidates “will carry on President Duterte’s agenda of genuine change.”
The senatorial bets, themselves, made the most out of the event by also imparting a few words to the estimated 3,000 locals who trooped to the Astrodome.
Ong, a cardiologist with a social media following, started off his speech with an apology. “Pasensya na po, hindi po talaga ako sanay tumakbo sa pulitika (I’m sorry but I’m really not used to running in politics.”
Ong went on to express his concern for the public health sector, which he intends to fix.
Roque could not help but praise the Taclobanons for their resiliency, saying they’re proof that Filipinos will always bounce back regardless of the disaster that hit them.
He was obviously referring to the devastation suffered by the city five years ago at the hands of super typhoon “Yolanda,” which killed thousands of people in central Visayas.
Perhaps the loudest cheers from the crowd belonged to former movie star Estrada, who defended himself from allegations of corruption particularly in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) diversion scam.
“Malakas po ang aking loob na humarap sa inyo, tumingin mata sa mata sa inyo, wala po kaming kasalanan sa taumbayan. Wala kaming ninakaw kahit isang kusing sa taumbayan (I have the courage to face you, to look you eye to eye, [because] we have done the people no wrong. We didn’t steal even a cent from the people ),” the former senator said.
Estrada said he and his fellow PDAF scam respondents ex-senators Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile were merely persecuted by the previous administration.
“Hanggang ngayon wala pa rin silang matibay na ebidensya laban po sa aming tatlo (Up to now, they still don’t have formidable evidence against us three),” he claimed.