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Senate poll ‘underdogs’ appeal for support

SHOW OF UNITY Though they belong to different political parties, reelectionist Senators (from left) JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara, Mon Aquino Valencia, representing his uncle Sen. Bam Aquino, and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian campaign together on Wednesday in Tondo, Manila. —EDWIN BACASMAS

NAGA CITY — Calling themselves underdogs, opposition senatorial candidates on Wednesday said they would face voters directly rather than showing films about their lives and putting their faces on giant billboards.

“House-to-house campaign, meeting the people, not billboards,” Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc told reporters after arriving at Naga Airport to campaign with other aspirants for Senate seats on the opposition team.

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It was the second day of the senatorial campaign for the midterm elections in May and the opposition team chose the vote-rich Bicol region to mount their challenge to the Duterte administration, which is facing its first test at the ballot box.

Former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada cited the opposition candidates’ track record and intelligence as their advantage over their administration rivals.

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“We have no films but we are more intelligent than they,” Tañada in a speech at the Zeferino Arroyo High School covered court in Iriga City.

The opposition candidates were referring to the biopic released by the group of administration senatorial candidate Ronald dela Rosa days before the start of the campaign period.

Box-office flop

The film, starring actor Robin Padilla, reportedly bombed at the box office.

But President Rodrigo Duterte will start campaigning for Dela Rosa and his other senatorial candidates at a proclamation rally in the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan province, on Thursday.

Christopher Go told reporters in Laur, Nueva Ecija province, on Wednesday night that the President would endorse five PDP-Laban senatorial candidates — him, reelectionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, Dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino and Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu.

Go said the Preisdent also invited to the rally the guest candidates of PDP-Laban — reelectionist Sen. Cynthia Villar, former Sen. Pia Cayetano, singer Freddie Aguilar and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos — and other senatorial candidates whom the President had publicly endorsed: reelectionist Senators Sonny Angara and JV Ejercito and former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

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Opposition candidate Romulo Macalintal acknowledged that he and the other candidates on the Otso Diretso team were unknown but that was because “we are not thieves.”

No track records

Administration candidates Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile are accused of plunder in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam, while Marcos is the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who allegedly stashed up to billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth in foreign banks.

“We in Otso Diretso have track records. But those on the other side have a different kind of track record,” human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, also an opposition senatorial candidate, said at a school dialogue.

Other Otso Diretso candidates at the dialogue were reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino, former Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was a no-show.

From her detention cell in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Sen. Leila de Lima called on her fellow Bicolanos to support the eight opposition senatorial candidates, saying their campaign for the Senate was about the fight against poverty, injustice and attacks on democracy. —Reports from Pathricia Ann V. Roxas, Christine O. Avendaño, Marlon Ramos, Mar S. Arguelles and Stephanie Florida

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