Villar starts ‘90-day journey to a better RP’ in Laguna
CALAMBA, LAGUNA—No, Sen. Manuel Villar did not swim in a sea of garbage, as his popular campaign jingle goes, to kick off what he and his running mate Sen. Loren Legarda called “the 90-day journey to a better Philippines.”
Calling themselves a “united front versus poverty,” Villar, Legarda and senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party (NP) kicked off the formal election campaign with a proclamation rally in Calamba, where national hero Jose Rizal was born.
The rally at the Banga plaza was to have started at 3:30 p.m. It began at 6 p.m., with GMA 7’s Raymond Gutierrez and Valerie Concepcion as program emcees, but the plaza as well as the narrow streets were filled with orange-clad NP supporters and bystanders hours earlier.
An estimated 3,000 supporters, with some coming all the way from Las Piñas City, Villar’s hometown, were present.
At press time, the NP senatorial candidates were delivering individual speeches to a crowd of thousands.
Onstage, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was seated apart from Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza of the militant party-list groups Bayan Muna and Gabriela, respectively.
Ocampo, who was jailed during the dictatorship of Marcos Jr.’s father, clapped perfunctorily when the latter was called to give his speech.
If Villar pulled out all the stops for his pre-campaign ads, his kick-off rally was low-key and only had celebrities like “Wowowee” host Willie Revillame to spice up the event.
There was hardly any gimmickry from an “energized” NP. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel because it works. This is what the people want,” NP spokesperson and senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla said hours before the rally started.
Early in the day, the NP motorcade bearing Legarda and senatorial candidates Ocampo, Maza, Remulla, Ramon “Mon-Mon” Mitra, Gwendolyn Pimentel, Susan Ople, Adel Tamano and Sen. Pia Cayetano, stopped at the public markets in the towns of Biñan, Balibago, Sta. Rosa and Cabuyao.
Legarda and Maza have roots in the town of San Pablo.
Former Col. Ariel Querubin, detained on coup d’etat charges, sent his son Martin to campaign on his behalf.
Marcos and the NP guest candidates, Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., did not join the motorcade.
At noon, the party attended Mass at St. John the Baptist church in Calamba, where Marcos Jr. showed up.
A singer and a comedian hosting games as well as the repeated play of “Akala Mo” and “Naging Mahirap”—the latter, Villar’s popular campaign jingle that starts with the line “Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura” (Have you swam in a sea of garbage), which purportedly describes the candidate’s impoverished childhood—kept the crowd entertained for hours at the Banga plaza.
“We’re very much energized but we also have to work much harder,” Remulla said.
He said all the NP candidates were “finding strength” in the leap that Villar had made in the most recent Pulse Asia survey, which placed him neck and neck with his closest rival, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party.
Villar had apparently gained much from the barrage of political ads that were aired before the campaign period, which, according to Remulla, gave the NP “enough momentum.”
He said the now limited air time for political ads had produced a “level playing field.”
Remulla also said the NP was focusing on strengthening its political machinery made up of the support of local candidates and civil society.
“They are the ones that will ultimately deliver the votes,” he said.
In a statement, the NP said it chose to launch its “good fight” in Rizal’s birthplace “because the cradle of heroes is always the best springboard of change.”
“We would like to unveil our vision for the nation in the birthplace of the man who told us and showed us how to love it,” the NP said.
It also said Laguna was chosen “because we believe that our vow to serve the people will assume a sacred dimension if made in the place symbolized by our national hero.”
But Remulla talked in terms of votes.
He told reporters that while Laguna was not a known NP bailiwick, it was best to kick off the campaign in the province because it had about 1.3 million voters.
“We see it as a challenge area—Region 4-A. From the surveys that we’ve seen, we have been in second place almost always, so it’s a challenge for us to come here and try to [draw] as many votes as we can,” he said.
Remulla also said he saw the “outpouring of support” from the people during the motorcade: “People came out in droves; [we did not have] to bring them out.”
The party has lined up campaign sorties in the provinces of Cavite, Pampanga and Quezon for the rest of the week.
In a prepared speech, Legarda announced her seven-point platform—pro-people leadership premised on the principles of good governance; a more holistic national development strategy; stronger promotion of environmental protection; stronger efforts to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers; sustained, internationally assisted and sincere negotiations with communist and secessionist rebels to achieve just and lasting peace throughout the country; empowerment of women in all spheres of life and work; and creation of robust institutions and a supportive policy environment to enhance cultural identity and consciousness.
“These are what I stand for and will continue to champion as an elected national official,” she said.
Legarda emphasized the need for a holistic platform of governance. She called on the voting public to consider a candidate’s “concrete and tangible record of action” in their choice of leaders.
“Our biggest fight is not a fight among politicians. It is a fight against poverty and hopelessness. That is what my seven-point agenda directly addresses,” she said.