Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio (left), founder of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, leads the campaign kick-off for senatorial candidates endorsed by the group during a sortie in San Fernando, Pampanga yesterday. Attending the event were (clockwise from top left) Sen. Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, former corrections bureau chief Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa, former special assistant to the president Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, journalist Jiggy Manicad, Rep. Rajid Mangudadatu, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, Ramon Revilla Jr., Sen. J.V. Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, former adviser Francis Tolentino and Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Michael Varcas
Hugpong ng Pagbabago kicks off campaign in Pampanga
Robertzon Ramirez, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Twelve of 13 senatorial candidates allied with the administration joined the kick-off campaign rally organized by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in San Fernando, Pampanga yesterday.

Re-electionists Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, JV Ejercito and Cynthia Villar as well as returning senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. attended the campaign rally at the Capitol grounds. Another re-electionist, Aquilino Pimentel III, was a no-show and was represented by his wife Kathryna.

Also present were first timers in the senatorial race: former special assistant to the president Christopher Go, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and former journalist Jiggy Manicad.

Former corrections bureau chief Ronald dela Rosa also attended the rally, as did Maguindanao Rep. Rajid Mangudadatu and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she felt honored by Hugpong’s holding its campaign kick-off in Pampanga and stressed its senatorial bets could count on her and her province mates’ “all out support” in the May polls.

“That is in recognition of the fact that in the last elections, the biggest majority of then mayor Duterte outside his bailiwick was here in Pampanga. We hope to duplicate that,” she added. 

In an unexpected show of solidarity with his younger half brother, Estrada raised Ejercito’s hand and shook hands with him just after the latter’s name was called for his turn to speak before the audience.

Ejercito later said he was surprised by his brother’s gesture.

“That really surprised me. After so many years, it’s our first time to shake hands – and in front of all of you here in Pampanga,” Ejercito said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

“I’m surprised. Let us see where it will bring us. I’m hoping for the best,” he later told The STAR over the phone, referring to his brother’s friendly gesture.

Also in a telephone interview, Estrada said he just wanted to show Filipinos there is no bad blood between him and his brother. “I am more than willing to be with him on one stage during the campaign,” he said.

Reacting to the episode, their father Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said “words cannot express” his happiness.

“I expect that time will come that they will patch up their differences. It’s normal for siblings to sometime have differences. But I know that they love each other also. I want to see them united with one objective and that is to serve the people and our country,” the mayor said.

True to form as a tough-talking comical guy, Dela Rosa cracked jokes and serenaded the crowd with the song “You are the reason.” He said he was dedicating the song to the youth that he said motivated Duterte to launch his war on drugs.

He also joked about getting advice in his PMA days when he was wooing a Kapangpangan – that the best way to learn the dialect was to kiss a local lass on the lips. His joke elicited some laughter – mostly from women.

Revilla’s and Estrada’s remarks, meanwhile, were focused on clearing their names in the multimillion-peso pork barrel scam. They both claimed to be victims of “selective justice” during the previous administration. The Sandiganbayan cleared Revilla of plunder and allowed Estrada to post bail for the same offense. Plunder is a non-bailable offense.

The rally was capped by a ceremonial exchange of “symbols” between Duterte’s Hugpong Ng Pagbabago and Gov. Lilia Pineda’s Kambilan Pampanga as a sign of their comment to support each other’s party. 

Accomplishments cited

Meanwhile, re-electionist senators vowed to continue building on their accomplishments in seeking a fresh mandate.

Sen. Nancy Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance launched her campaign in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan along with other UNA candidates, former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and lawyer Dan Roleda.

Angara and Ejercito arrived from Hugpong’s rally in Pampanga to join her.

Sen. Grace Poe spent the first day of the campaign highlighting her legislative advocacy guaranteeing free nutritious meals to public school students by holding a feeding program for grade school students in Payatas, Quezon City.

Ejercito said he would continue to work hard for improving the health and wellbeing of Filipino families, not only through the Universal Health Care program, but also by reducing the costs of medical treatments.

He said he would also push for more funding for major infrastructure projects throughout the country to create more jobs and help the economy grow more.

Angara, for his part, promised to continue what he described as his family’s legacy of “Alagang Angara,” anchored on education, health, job generation, social pension for senior citizens and stronger local government units and barangays.

“Our track record speaks volumes of what I have accomplished as a lawmaker and a staunch advocate for giving every Filipino equal opportunity for a better life through quality and free education and decent jobs,” he said.

Poe said her school-feeding program serves as a constant reminder of her reason for seeking re-election.

She recalled when she was campaigning in 2013, she vowed to push for a nationwide school-feeding program for students. Her advocacy is now a law, Republic Act 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act.

In Pampanga, Villar told the crowd that while there are many bright political leaders, she could boast of her being hardworking as a plus factor.

She said she has not only been pushing for projects to protect the environment but has managed to integrate it with her livelihood programs for the poor through the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance.

Binay said her advocacy and style of leadership were anchored on the daily experiences of every child, mother and spouse, as encapsulated in her slogan, “Katulad Mo, Karamay Mo” (Like You, With You).

In an interview on the sidelines of her campaign rally, Binay said she would continue pursuing tourism development. Binay chairs the Senate committee on tourism.

The senator also said her not getting endorsement from both the administration and the opposition is “both a challenge and an opportunity.”  – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Jess Diaz

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