By Catherine S Valente & Glee Jalea/Manila Times
The coalition of senatorial bets under Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party kicked off its 90-day election campaign in vote-rich Pampanga on Tuesday morning.
Hosted by Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda, HNP staged its initial campaign sortie in the city of San Fernando. This was followed by a separate campaign rally in Angeles City in the afternoon.
Pampanga is the known bailiwick of former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The regional party endorsed 13 names for the senatorial race though only 12 spots are at stake in the Senate.
HNP-endorsed candidates include re-electionist senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Cynthia Villar and Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, as well as Pilar Juliana “Pia” Cayetano, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, who are hoping to make a comeback in the upper chamber.
Completing the HNP slate are President Rodrigo Duterte’s former political adviser Francis Tolentino, Senate race newcomers former special assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, former police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, former journalist Jiggy Manicad and Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos.
The HNP slate is separate from the ticket of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP Laban, which is fielding dela Rosa, Go, Mangudadatu, Pimentel and Tolentino.
The younger Duterte formed the political party in 2018 in support of her father, President Duterte.
Speaking to reporters after the event, the Davao City mayor said she was “overwhelmed” by the support given by Pampanguenos to her regional party, which replicated the province’s support for her father when he ran for the presidency in 2016.
“I was overwhelmed earlier. We have many friends here in Pampanga, and many love President Duterte,” she said.
After the Pampanga events, the HNP will mount campaign sorties in Central and Northern Luzon before going to Metro Manila.
Earlier, Duterte-Carpio said HNP was eyeing to stage at least 110 campaign sorties ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
Senatorial candidates under the opposition “Otso Diretso” (“Straight Eight”) slate shrugged off the absence of former Interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd during their kickoff campaign in Caloocan City.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said it has been Roxas’ tradition to campaign first in Capiz.
“We come from different backgrounds. When it comes to putting forward the needs of the masses, we all unite despite the absence of one or the other,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano told reporters in a news briefing.
The Otso Diretso candidates are Alejano, Roxas, Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, former De La Salle University law dean Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc, former House deputy speaker Erin Ta?ada, and veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
Roxas attended a send-off activity in Capiz on Tuesday, his home province and bailiwick. His camp said he would join a kickoff rally together with the seven other candidates and Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo in Naga, Camarines Sur.
Earlier in the morning, Gutoc started her campaign in front of San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan by convening some 50 Muslims in the area.
“It’s symbolic that we started with a prayer here during the first day of the campaign,” said Gutoc, a Moro leader.
In the afternoon, the rest of the candidates held a door-to-door campaign with over 200 volunteers in the vicinity of San Roque Cathedral.
Campaign manager Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan described the activity as an “out-of-the box” strategy to address the needs of the masses and the Filipino family.
“The narrative has already shifted. The family’s needs are very immediate. We really want to focus on their needs,” Aquino said.
Robredo earlier expressed her optimism that people would soon know about the Otso Diretso candidates in the campaign trail. She noted that she had a mere 1% voter awareness in 2016, yet won the vice-presidential race.
In the January Pulse Asia survey, only Roxas (ranked 8th to 15th) and Aquino (ranked 10th to 16th) secured top positions in the list showing candidates with greater statistical chances of getting a slot in the “Magic 12.”
Malacanang called on bets to follow election laws.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo also said Duterte would not be soliciting the support of religious groups for his senatorial bets. “No, it’s not his style,” he
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