The President’s Choice

Posted at 02/13/13 8:01 PM

Third of a Series

MANILA - If one needed proof of the old saying that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, one need not look farther than the administration senatorial ticket.

Team PNoy proclamation rally at the Plaza Miranda. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com

Dubbed Team PNoy, to reflect the fact that most of the candidates were the President’s choice, the line-up raised eyebrows when it was unveiled. It included not only allies and friends, but also rivals and enemies from past elections.

Team PNoy candidate Sonny Angara confirms he and his colleagues were handpicked by the President.

“I think that's the common thread, kumbaga Team PNoy kami. We are all picked by the President kasi naniniwala siya na kami yung magtutulak ng kaniyang reform agenda dito sa panghuling 3-taon ng kaniyang termino,” Angara says.

As early as December 2011, in an interview on ANC, the President made it clear that he would have a hand in choosing administration senatorial bets for Halalan 2013.

At the time, the President named Risa Hontiveros, Ruffy Biazon, Danny Lim and Sonny Trillanes as among those he’d like to see in the ticket. While not everyone in his wish list made it, the names on the final line-up were mostly those the president would want to see.

These include his fellow Liberals Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal; allies Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan, and Antonio Trillanes and Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party; and buddies Chiz Escudero running as an independent and Sonny Angara of LDP.

Team PNoy also has the youngest candidate at 35 years old: PNoy’s cousin Bam Aquino, who admits he applied for a slot in the administration line-up.

“Tinawagan tayo ni Secretary Roxas at sabi niya, you know the slot is yours kung gusto mo pa rin, you can have it, we’re looking for a youth candidate. Then the next day, I met the president. Sabi niya, 'Bam, ganyan dito, may mga panahon na mahirap talaga. Hindi ka pwedeng umalis-alis na lang. Kailangan talagang buong-buo yung loob mo diyan.' And sabi ko sa kaniya, 'Kuya Noy, as I said before, handa ako dito.'"

Outside the circle

Acknowledging it could not put up a full ticket of potential winners from its own ranks, the ruling LP also recruited candidates outside of the administration circle.

Team PNoy members Alan Peter Cayetano and Rissa Hontiveros hits the campaign trail. Photo by Junny Roy for ABS-CBNnews.com
In came Loren Legarda, even though she had already been announced as a candidate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). Legarda was supported by UNA’s so-called three kings – Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile – when she ran with Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential elections.

Even FPJ’s daughter Grace Poe was convinced by the President to try politics--with the administration ticket, of course. But, Poe says, she did not exactly abandon her father’s long-time friends and staunch allies.

“Ang unang nagtanong sa akin na tumakbo ay ang ating pangulo. sabi niya, 'ito yung plataporma ko, naghahanap ako ng makakatulong sa pagsulong nito.' So nagbigay galang naman ako, nagpaalam naman ako sa aking ninong, kay President erap. Sabi niya, 'kahit anumang desisyon mo suportahan ka namin kasi yung tatay mo mayor pa lang ako sinuportahan na ako'," Poe explains.

She said she did not get a clear invitation from UNA to run in their ticket. “Hindi po ako direktang tinanong ng UNA. Hindi ko alam kung anong dahilan.”

Even Koko Pimentel, president of PDP-Laban which accounts for one-half of UNA, hopped over to Team PNoy after UNA’s other party--Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino--took in his long-time rival Migz Zubiri.

An administration political leader reveals everyone in the ticket was handpicked or approved by the President .

Handpicked, except for one...

Except for one candidate: Cynthia Villar, wife of Senator Manny Villar, who was Noynoy Aquino’s main rival for the presidency in 2010. At the height of a bruising, bitter campaign, the Liberals and their allies took to calling him “Villaroyo,” in a bid to link him to the then-unpopular President Gloria Arroyo.

President Aquino with the Angaras at an event in Aurora Province. Photo by Jay Morales, Malacañang Photo
Cynthia Villar admits she was hurt the most, but she was eventually persuaded to join Team PNoy.

“I think yung babae, mas sentimental sila kaysa mga lalake, di ba. That's natural. But I have to think logically, di ba. I don't have to always give way to my emotions, mali din yon in some ways. So I'll just do my best. I'll keep quiet. I'll just do what is asked of me para wala namang trouble. I'm not a troublemaker,” she says.

The three-term congresswoman of Las Piñas says she and her husband have since moved on, and she is ready to campaign on the same stage with old enemies who are now her new political friends. But first, a warning from the outspoken Mrs. Villar.

“Ako naman, basta huwag nila ako aawayin, hindi ako makikipag-away sa kanila. Kaya lang, huwag naman nila i-expect na pagsasalitaan nila ako hindi ako sasagot, iba naman yon. But every time, kung mabait naman sila sa akin, I will be nice to them kasi that's life eh. Pero hindi naman meaning nun na pipintasan nila ako na I'd feel na hindi naman totoo, I will not answer back. E, katangahan naman yon,” she says.

Despite the hurts of 2010, former bitter enemies are now fast friends. But the new alliance is only for the 2013 elections, and only for the senatorial race. 2016 and onward will be a different case.