By Ellson Quismorio
SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga--Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte unveiled on Tuesday noon the final 13 members of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) senatorial slate, which is two bets fewer than the lineup she introduced last November.
Endorsed by the presidential daughter during the HNP’s campaign caravan kickoff at the provincial Capitol were 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; 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; former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, and former veteran broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad.
Of the 13 senatorial candidates, only Pimentel wasn’t able to attend, although his wife, Kathryna Yu-Pimentel, was there to speak on his behalf.
Last November, Mayor Duterte publicly introduced the same candidates along with former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Facebook-famous Dr. Willie Ong as part of the HNP-backed slate.
Roque, citing health reasons, withdrew his senatorial bid earlier this month, while cardiologist Ong had been dropped from the original line up. The two were conspicuously left out when Mayor Duterte endorsed the candidates one by one in her speech.
Roque and Ong’s faces also weren’t present on the stage backdrop, meaning they had already been excluded by organizers during the preparations for the kickoff.
It should be noted that 13 is still one candidate more than the 12 that would be elected to the Senate in the midterm polls this May 13.
Some 30,000 people took part in the HNP campaign launch, which was attended by Pampanga congressmen, mayors, vice mayors, board member, councilors, barangay captains, kagawads (councilmen), barangay health workers, and the “Nanay network” of Governor Lilia Pineda.
Gov. Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda hosted the event, while House Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also graced the occasion.
“We’re very honored [that the launch was held in Pampanga]. We think it’s a recognition of the fact that in the last elections, the biggest majority of [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s [votes] outside of his bailiwick was in Pampanga. So we hope we can duplicate that,” Arroyo, the province’s 2nd district representative, told Manila-based reporters in a chance interview.
The Speaker added that her support to the HNP slate was “all-out” and that she would attend campaign sorties “as needed” especially if it is in Pampanga. “I think they are doing very well.”
Mayor Duterte, in a separate interview after the event here, said she was “overwhelmed” by the support shown by Pampangueños.
Like Arroyo, the lady mayor highlighted the strong support shown by locals to then-Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte when he ran for the presidency in 2016. He won the Palace race via landslide.
A second campaign launch was scheduled Tuesday afternoon at the ASEAN Convention Center in Clarkfield.
Speaking of President Duterte, he was nowhere to be found at the San Fernando kickoff since, according to his daughter, they didn’t bother to invite him because of his busy schedule in the Palace. She said he also will not attend the afternoon event.
“He has a lot of things to do, let’s not disturb him,” Mayor Duterte said. #MatalinongBoto2019