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LP to launch campaign at Plaza Miranda next week

MANILA, Philippines - The senatorial ticket of the Liberal Party-led administration coalition will launch its election campaign at Plaza Miranda in Manila next Tuesday, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, LP secretary-general, said yesterday.

“We chose Plaza Miranda because it is historical to us. It is where our leaders were bombed on August 21, 1971. Of course, we hope it doesn’t happen again,” he told a news conference.

During the opening rally, Sarmiento said President Aquino will present his Team PNoy senatorial slate and tell his supporters that its members are the candidates he could trust to support him and his reform program until the end of his term in 2016 and beyond.

“He would stress the need for continuity in leadership so that the economic growth that the nation is enjoying can be sustained,” he said.

He said all 12 Team PNoy members would attend the Plaza Miranda “opening salvo,” including the three candidates that the coalition is “sharing” with the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“We expect them to be there even if the other side is having its own rally in Cebu,” he added.

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The three are Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero and Grace Poe-Llamanzares. In a separate interview, Legarda and Escudero said they have not yet confirmed their attendance in the Plaza Miranda campaign.

The three are close friends of former President Joseph Estrada, who is challenging the reelection bid of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, host of the LP coalition campaign’s launch. They are also Lim’s friends.

There are speculations that they might stay away from their own proclamation rally.

Sarmiento said LP leaders have sent invitations to all 12 Team PNoy members.

In the same news conference, Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal said the ruling party expects its local candidates and those of its coalition partners - the Nationalist People’s Coalition and Nacionalista Party - to support Team PNoy.

“But our leaders will understand if we dump one or two in favor of friends from the other side. In my case for instance, I have told Mel (Sarmiento) and other party leaders that I would replace one Team PNoy candidate with JV (San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito), who is a close friend of mine,” he said.

Another LP leader, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, urged UNA to “raise the bar of public debate on election issues to enable the electorate to intelligently choose between the UNA ticket and Team PNoy.”                   

“Let us stick to issues and avoid a personality-based campaign. The statement of Sec. Abaya in trying to draw the line between the opposition and the administration candidates does not refer to the color of the skin of an individual. To interpret it like that is a very myopic view. It is far from that. What we are trying to say is that people should choose between those who embrace reforms and those who don’t,” he said.

Evardone made the appeal after Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, UNA secretary-general, criticized Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, acting LP president, for making a “racial slur” and referring to the color of Binay’s skin when he compared Team PNoy and the UNA ticket with choosing between white and black.

Plaza Miranda was the site of an LP campaign rally on Aug. 21, 1971. Two grenades tossed on the stage holding party leaders killed nine persons and injured 95 others.

The injured included then senators Jovito Salonga and Gerry Roxas, father of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. Though the bombing was initially blamed on the Marcos regime, Salonga would later express belief that the Communist Party of the Philippines was the real culprit. – With Christina Mendez

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