Politics may be addition but one should also heed the lessons of the past.
That appears to be former President Joseph Estrada’s message yesterday to President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party as he belittled the new coalition it was assembling and blasted the group for “pirating” senatorial candidates from his United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Estrada, who formed UNA with Vice President Jejomar Binay, said the Aquino camp’s move “shows the weakness of the LP.”
“They’re pirating. That shows they cannot complete their lineup,” the 75-year-old ex-President told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Estrada did not like that Senators Loren Legarda and Gregorio Honasan were being mentioned as possible candidates of the emerging coalition among the LP, the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
UNA earlier drafted Legarda and Honasan as its senatorial candidates.
Estrada said the piracy could boomerang on the administration coalition as what happened to Sen. Manuel Villar, the NP standard-bearer in the 2010 presidential election.
“The people know about it,” he said. “Just like what happened to Villar. He pirated. He lost just the same.”
Estrada initially reiterated UNA’s policy against accepting “guest” candidates.
“We have an agreement. We will not entertain common guest candidates of other parties,” he replied when asked about the possibility of letting go of some UNA bets. He said vacancies could then be filled by “many up-and-coming” candidates.
But later in the interview, Estrada appeared to have changed his tone and sounded confident the new LP coalition would not be able to lure Legarda or Honasan away from UNA.
He said he had been assured by Legarda that she would not “climb the stage” of another party that would include her as its candidate. In the case of Honasan, he said the reelectionist senator would stick it out with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a senior leader of UNA, “no matter what.”
Allegiance to UNA
Another reelectionist being considered by both UNA and the LP is Sen. Francis Escudero, who bolted the NPC before the 2010 presidential election. But Estrada said he remained unsure whether UNA would get Escudero.
He said: “If they bring our candidates as their guest candidates, we will welcome it. But their allegiance is to our party, UNA.”
Estrada joked there was a bill seeking to punish political “turncoatism.” One of the measure’s prime movers is his son, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the Senate president pro tempore.
“There’ll be a law against turncoatism. They’re now practicing turncoatism,” he said.
To overwhelm Aquino
Estrada said he was not alarmed by any LP-NP-NPC alliance.
He said he did not consider such an alliance “formidable” and cited a Pulse Asia survey showing Binay and him among the three top political endorsers in next year’s midterm elections, along with Mr. Aquino, who was listed second.
Estrada said his endorsement—along with that of Binay’s and Enrile’s—would overwhelm that of the President’s. “We’re three so we’ll have the edge over their candidates,” he said.
He said another sign of the LP’s “weakness” was the recent attack on UNA’s senatorial candidate, Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, by administration Sen. Franklin Drilon.
In a media briefing, Drilon endorsed the candidacy of former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. under the LP, describing him as “the real Magsaysay.” Mitos Magsaysay felt slighted by the description and lambasted Drilon.
Estrada agreed with the feisty congresswoman. “So his wife is also a fake Drilon? That’s insulting,” he said.
Mitos Magsaysay is married to the son of Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s cousin, former Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay.
Malacañang sees nothing wrong with the LP bets campaigning alongside the candidates of the NP, whose former standard-bearer—Villar—had been linked to a road scandal before and during the 2010 presidential campaign.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended Villar, saying the Senate never passed a proposed resolution censuring the senator in connection with the alleged C-5 Road extension irregularity in 2010.
“Campaigning is campaigning. There were words that were exchanged during that time but we move on for the sake of the country,” Lacierda said at Friday’s news briefing in Malacañang.
Mr. Aquino revealed on Thursday that the LP has had quite successful coalition talks with the NP and the NPC.
Pressed for comment whether Mr. Aquino would find it acceptable to work with someone linked to the alleged C-5 overpricing scandal, Lacierda said the Senate resolution on Villar’s supposed involvement in the overpricing was never passed.
“The resolution was not carried. Correct me if I’m wrong,” Lacierda said.
A few days before election day in 2010, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile accused Villar of raising P5 billion for his presidential campaign kitty from an allegedly irregular transaction involving his real estate firm’s shares.
Lacierda said Villar had been supportive of the Aquino administration’s legislative proposals in the Senate.
“They recognize what’s important for the country … and so they will rise above political differences and see what’s good for all of us,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda suggested that the public look beyond Villar and see the NP as a party.
“You’re looking at the Nacionalista Party and who will be there? You’re looking at (Senate Minority Leader and reelectionist) Alan Cayetano, who stood for good governance,” Lacierda said. “(Party) principles transcend individual differences.”
Aside from Cayetano, the NP also has in its fold Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., with whom Mr. Aquino has had political and perhaps even personal differences.
Mr. Aquino recently disapproved military honors for Marcos’ father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The Aquino family believes the former dictator was involved in the plot to assassinate the President’s father, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., in 1983.
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