Parties firm up senatorial slates; eye alliances ahead of COC filing

By Jose Cielito Reganit

October 4, 2018, 8:33 pm

MANILA -- A week before the start of the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for next year's midterm polls, political parties are scrambling not only to firm up their senatorial slates but also in forging alliances with their counterparts.

With the parties having a difficult time filling up a 12-man senatorial slate and the possible exception of the administration party, tactical alliances would be a premium not only in boosting the winning chances of their respective candidates, but also in easing the operational burdens of waging a national campaign.

On Thursday, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) will announce its senatorial lineup next week.

He admitted though that there is a possibility that the PDP-Laban might not have a complete lineup due to a strict vetting process they will institute.

Among them is that official nominees are to be limited to only those who are advocates of federalism, Pimentel said.

“There's no shortcut for being (an) official candidate of the party. Next week, we will announce it. Ang usapan namin ni (Our discussion with) campaign manager (Alfonso) Cusi is we will be very strict in the vetting procedure. If we can’t complete the slate, so be it,” Pimentel said.

In case the slate is not be filled up, Pimentel said the party is open to forging tactical alliances with other groups, including the parties of reelectionist senators.

However, he stressed that those from the other parties who wish to ally with PDP-Laban should be at least open to federalism.

Earlier, Pimentel endorsed to President Rodrigo Duterte, PDP-Laban chairman, a list of the party’s possible senatorial candidates, including Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go and representatives Karlo Nograles, Zajid Mangudadatu, Geraldine Roman, Dakila Cua, Monsour del Rosario, and Alfredo Benitez.

Also included were Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, singer Freddie Aguilar, former TV reporter Jiggy Manicad, and Pimentel himself.

Meanwhile, from outside the organization, the PDP-Laban is considering eight individuals who are "friends of the party," -- Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Z. Duterte, Bureau of Corrections chief Ronald dela Rosa, actor Robin Padilla, former senator Lito Lapid, former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III, columnist Ramon Tulfo, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and Rep. Pia Cayetano.

Nograles has since dropped his bid for a Senate run while Pimentel’s reelection bid might be facing some legal hurdles.

Technically, Pimentel would have served two consecutive terms, having been declared winner in the 2007 elections after a protracted election protest against Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

He was proclaimed senator in August 2011 and served only one year and 10 months before running again for the Senate in 2013.

Pimentel, however, said he believes that he can still run in 2019 since he has only served a "minority term or period."

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party (LP) has added election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on its initial list of senatorial candidates for 2019.

Macalintal serves as lawyer of Vice President Leni Robredo in the poll protest filed by former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. at the Supreme Court.

Earlier, the LP formally named reelectionist Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, and former Quezon representative and LP internal affairs vice president Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III in its slate.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) swore in former senator Lito Lapid as member of the party.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Lapid will run for senator as an official candidate of the NPC.

The NPC stalwart added that reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito will take his oath as a new NPC member next week. This was confirmed by Ejercito himself in a text message to reporters.

Sotto earlier said the NPC would be forging alliances with other political groups so long as they share the goals of the party.

The Nacionalista Party (NP) would be fielding three women candidates, which they call the “Tres Marias.”

Aside from reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar, the others are Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Pia Cayetano.

In an interview at the Senate Thursday, Villar said the NP has already signed an alliance with Davao City Mayor Sara’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP).

She said since signing the alliance, they have already attended sorties with HNP in Region 11 (Davao), where the regional party is based, and in several northern Luzon provinces.

Kapag sila (HNP) nagpupunta sa (If they go to) certain places, tinatawagan nila kami, pinapapapunta nila kami kung kaya naming pumunta (they contact us, telling us to go there if we can),” she said.

She, however, added that it is not only the Tres Marias who were invited, but also those being endorsed by the HNP.

Lahat kaming inendorse ng (All of us endorsed by) Hugpong, we went to Vigan, we went to La Union, we went to lahat ng (all of the) Region 11 provinces. Marami na kaming napuntahan (We have been to a lot of places) with them,” Villar said.

She acknowledged that having Mayor Sara on NP’s side would be a plus factor.

Kasi syempre parang ini-endorse ka ng President di ba? Okay iyon (Of course, it's like being endorsed by the President, right? That's okay),” she said.

Villar said NP is also open to alliances with other groups and are in fact supporting the reelection bids of her fellow senators.

Other reelectionist senators looking to forge alliances with other parties besides NP are Senators Sonny Angara and Nancy Binay.

In September, Angara was named new president of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) that his father, the late senator Edgardo Angara, co-founded in 1988.

In the same month, Binay was also named president of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the coalition her father, former vice president Jejomar Binay, founded for the 2013 midterm elections.

UNA turned into a political party for the Binay patriarch's presidential bid in 2016.

Former senator Jinggoy Estrada is eyeing a coalition between the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, the party formed by his father -- former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada -- and the ruling PDP-Laban.

He earlier said if he would not be included in the administration lineup as he would run as an independent candidate. (PNA)