Why Davao’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago has 2 Senate slates for 2019

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In a mid-September meeting, Davao’s governors and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio decided their regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) would endorse two Senate slates  for the 2019 elections.

One lineup has 8 names:

The second lineup contains these names as well but with the addition of:

(*NOTE: After the period of filing of candidacies for the Senate race, HNP announced it was adding ex-plunder defendant Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr to its longer slate, bringing the number of names included to 14. But on February 1, Roque withdrew his senatorial bid, bringing the slate down to 13 names.)

Duterte Carpio said the shorter list is its slate for its nationwide alliance with other political parties. The longer list is its slate for Davao region only – or the slate it will tell its constituents in the region to vote for.

What’s the logic behind having two lists? Why a list with 8 names and another with 13 names when voters will be asked to vote for 12 candidates? Why choose those personalities?

Rappler spoke with Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario, who is also HNP secretary-general, to find out.

Why two slates?

While HNP is registered as a regional political party, its officials say there was unexpected demand from national political parties, and even local parties outside Davao, to join forces with them in the run-up to the 2019 polls. This is not surprising given the growing national clout of HNP’s chairperson, Sara Duterte Carpio, said to be the favorite child of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The list of 8 is to cater to these alliances HNP has forged.

“The slate with 8 senators, that is for the purpose of our alliance partners througout the country,” said Del Rosario.

Why a list of 8 names?

The 8-name list allows the national political parties or local political parties HNP is allied with to add 4 more names of their choosing, to complete the total of 12 for a full Senate slate.

“If we have an alliance with a local party in another province one of our requirements in our alliance agreement is for the alliance partner to adopt our 8 senators and then of course the local party has 4 more slots for whoever else they want to endorse personally in their group,” Del Rosario explained.

Thus, parties like the Nacionalista Party would likely have the same 8 names in their list but with 4 more names they selected on their own, as a party. The same would happen with local parties like, say, Alyansa Bol-anon Alang sa Kausaban (ABAKA) of Bohol, which also has a partnership with HNP.

Thus it’s the list of 8 that will benefit the most from the HNP connection as it's this list that will be adopted nationwide on the strength of the regional party's ties with other political parties and prominent politicians.

This list notably excludes key allies of the President, such as his spokesman Roque, his political adviser Tolentino, and his Congress stalwart Pimentel, president of his national political party PDP-Laban.

Why exclude these personalities?

“That was the decision of the group. I cannot recall what was the specific reason, but that was what was decided by the group,” said Del Rosario.

Why does the HNP Davao region list have 13 names, not 12?

“When it comes to Davao region, since our party is in that region, then we as a group decided to adopt the 8 original list with the alliance partners plus our choices as a region so it reached 13,” said Del Rosario.

They could not bring themselves to take out one name in order to keep their slate to 12 due to personal bonds with the would-be candidates.

“We understand that you can only choose 12 senators in the upcoming elections, but given our, I guess, closeness to the 13 names mentioned, we had a difficult time removing one of them from the list because we knew them for a long time as friends and we’d like to support them,” said Del Rosario. 

HNP would leave Davao voters to choose among the 13.

How was the 8-name slate formed?

The critical list of 8 names was decided on by HNP officials only. Its ally parties like NP, NPC, and NUP were not involved in the selection, said Del Rosario.

“No [involvement]. Those 8 names came from the regional party, us governors and, of course, together with our chairperson, Mayor Sara,” he said. 

What was the criteria for choosing the names in the two lists? 

Two factors were considered by HNP leaders: the personality's support for the Duterte administration and winnability.

The first criterion is the “most important” for the party because, De Rosario explained, “we are 101% united for the President and we would like to endorse senators who are of the same belief as us.”

Membership to specific political parties “did not really matter” to HNP officials, he added.

But HNP acknowledged that support for Duterte is not enough.

“While we realize that many support the President, we would like to ensure that they will be winnable in the upcoming 2019 elections,” said Del Rosario.

Might this be why rabid Duterte supporter Mocha Uson is not in any of the two HNP slates even if Duterte Carpio endorsed her last February? Uson was far away from the so-called winners' circle in Pulse Asia's September survey on senatorial preferences, with a rank of 45 to 63. However, the same can be said of reporter Jiggy Manicad, though to lesser extent, with his rank of 33 to 43. Manicad, unlike Uson, is in one of HNP's Senate slates.

But Del Rosario said the only reason why Uson is not in their slates is because they are "not yet sure" if she has plans to run for senator. As for Manicad, his being a television reporter makes HNP confident that he would eventually rise in rankings.

What does HNP want from its senatorial candidates?

Observers wonder what a regional party like HNP is doing endorsing a slate for a national position like senator. But Del Rosario said the party is keen to influence national decisions that could impact Davao. 

Asked what specific policies and programs for Davao HNP wants it senatorial bets to support, Del Rosario said the party’s goal is to ensure a sufficient budget for Davao region. 

The Senate, as a chamber of the legislative branch, deliberates on the national budget.

“In the last two years we have seen an increase in the allocation of budget for the Davao region but we sill believe, number one, we have to increase it further and, number two, it has to be sustained,” said Del Rosario. 

Will the lists change?

Nothing is final until October 17, the last day for persons seeking to run in 2019 to file their certificates of candidacy. 

Until then, HNP itself is not certain if the persons in their two lists will actually run for senator, thus their two Senate slates could still change.

“It could be more, it could be less because it will depend on the filing period. After October 17 we will definitely know who is seriously running and who is not,” said Del Rosario.  Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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