Thirty-three senatorial candidates, 123 party-list groups and thousands of local candidates are off and running for the May 2013 elections in what is labeled as a preview of the presidential contest in 2016.
At stake are 12 Senate seats but a dozen of other senatorial candidates are hell-bent on putting up a good fight against their rivals in the two dominant parties.
The Liberal Party and United Nationalist Alliance, each with nine senatorial candidates and three common bets, reeled off their election campaign with separate proclamation rallies in Cebu and Manila on Tuesday, drawing crowds with marching bands, motorcades, high-impact entertainment numbers, and movie stars waving at screaming fans.
Attaching historical significance to their opening political salvos, UNA chose Cebu “where Philippine history began in 1521 when Spanish colonizers arrived in the country,” while the LP opted for Plaza Miranda in Manila, an “LP bastion,” where the party fought the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship for two decades up to the 1980s.
“We are very surprised with the reception given by Cebuanos to UNA,” said spokesman Toby Tiangco, referring to the huge crowd that attended the rally held at the Cebu’s Plaza Independencia.
Tiangco shot down LP claims of a 12-0 result in the mid-term senatorial elections in May and said former president Gloria Arroyo faced charges of electoral sabotage as a result of similar assertion in 2010: “I would like to remind them that the last person who said that is now confined
(hospital arrest) at the Veterans Memorial Hospital.”
At Plaza Miranda, photographers scrambled to take shots of the rally’s “fall guy,” Occidental Mindoro Vice Governor Gener Mendiola, who fell off the stage and suffered head concussions.
Team Pnoy spokesman Miro Quimbo said Mendiola, who fell off during the intermission number of Dingdong Avanzado, was rushed to the hospital with bleeding head “half conscious and in a state of shock.”
Police estimate of the crowd in Cebu was 35,000, and a smaller number of 8,000 at Plaza Miranda, which located near the historical Quiapo Church and was crammed by commercial buildings.
A total of 33 candidates are fighting for slots in the 12 senatorial seats. The LP and UNA have nine official candidates each with three common candidates, but they face 12 independent candidates dubbed as “alternative senatorial bets.”
The LP candidates are Edgardo Angara, Paulo Benigno Aquino, Aquilino Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes, Alan Peter Cayetano, Jamby Madrigal, Ramon Magsaysay, Risa Hontiveros and Cynthia Villar.
The UNA candidates are: Gregorio Honasa, Milagros Magsaysay, Juan Ponce Enrile Jr, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Ernesto Maceda, Richard Gordon, Miguel Zubiri, Maargarita Cojuangco and Nancy Binay,
The common candidates carried by both LP and UNA are: Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, and Grace Poe. They chose to attend the Plaza Miranda rally but the UNA spokesman said they promised to attend UNA’s next rally.
“UNA does not want to pressure its candidates,” Tiangco said.
The 12 “alternative senatorial candidates” are: Edward Hagedorn, Ramon Montano, Ricardo Penson, Bal Falcone, Greco Belgica, and Christian Seneres under the Democratic Party of the Philippines; Rizalito David, JC De los Reyes and Marwil Llason of the Kapatiran Party; Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas; Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna; and Samson Alcantara of Social Justice Society.
The Commision on Elections (COMELEC) has also accredited 123 party-list groups that need to garner 20 percent of the voters to win seats in the House of Representatives.
As the candidates began to court voters with firy speeches and promises of better life to come, the COMELEC warned candidates against posting banners and streamers outside of authorized areas.
Authorized common poster areas designated by the COMELEC are located in public places such as plazas, markets and barangay centers.
COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez said party-list groups and senatorial candidates will be disqualified for posting campaign materials on posts, trees, buses, jeepneys, trains, taxicabs, ferries, pedicabs, tricycles, bus terminals, airports, seaports, docks, piers, and train stations.
“Party-list groups should be careful. Violation of campaign rules is not only an election offense, it is also a ground for cancellation,” Jimenez said.
He slammed several senatorial candiates with oversized banners and posters on electric posts in major Manila streets, which he said “was contrary to election rules.”
Jimenez said the COMELEC will be liberal with LP and UNA during their proclamation rallies but stressed that their campaign materials should be removed within 24 hours after the rally, or they will be slapped with an election offense.
“Because we know there will be an event tonight, we will give them leeway. We will give them liberality. Kasama sa atmosphere ng event so pabayaan natin,” he said. “Just to be clear, patas tayo dito. Wala tayong pinupuntariya.”
The COMELEC also imposed limits on political advertisments of 120 minutes on TV and 180 minutes on radio for senatorial candidates and 60 minutes in TV and 90 minutes in radio for local candiates.
The Supreme Court struck down a petition by radio and TV networks to stop implementation of the COMELEC order for airtime limits and to give COMELEC “prior notice” for newscasts, interviews, and guestings of candidates.
The networks objected to the COMELEC impositions, which they described as “unconstitutional because it constitutes prior restraint on the freedom of speech, expression and the press.”