LP: Remember dark 1978 elections, be brave in May 13 polls

MANILA, Philippines – Stalwarts of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) hope Filipino voters will show courage in the May elections, as they commemorate the anniversary of the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa polls on Sunday, April 7. 

Longtime LP member and Otso Diretso senatorial bet Erin Tañada said Filipinos must vote for honest candidates who will defend their rights in the Senate.  

"As my grandfather, inspite of his advanced age, fought fiercely to keep the flames of democracy burning in 1978, we freedom-loving Filipinos must show our courage," said Tañada.

"Not only must we go to the polls and vote for the right people, people who are honest, we must be willing to defend our hard-fought rights so that the country we pass on to our children and grandchildren shall be better than when it was passed on to us," he added.

Tañada's late grandfather, former senator Lorenzo Tañada Sr, was the campaign manager of the opposition coalition Lakas ng Bayan (Laban), which fielded 21 senatorial candidates in the 1978 elections, including the late Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

It was the first national elections held during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, whose allies ran under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history)

It was a tough campaign for the opposition bets at the time, with only a few people attending their rallies. But on the eve of the elections on April 6, 1978, Laban supporters staged a noise barrage, which Tañada said lasted the whole night. 

The effort wasn't enough to gather support for Laban, however, as all of its candidates lost in the 1978 polls. Marcos' KBL overwhelmingly won the elections. 

Laban like Otso Diretso 

Forty-one years later, Otso Diretso campaign manager and Senator Francis Pangilinan said this year's opposition slate is in a similar situation as the Laban candidates. 

Pangilinan said Otso Diretso does not have the vaunted money and machinery of the administration candidates. (READ: Otso Diretso plays catch-up on campaign trail

"Mas marami silang pera, nasa puwesto sila, kinakampanya sila ng buong burukrasya ng pamahalaan. Pero nasa atin ang tama, nasa atin ang matatapat, magagaling, at matatapang na kandidato pagkasenador," said Pangilinan.

(They have more money, they are incumbents, they are campaigning with the whole bureaucracy of government on their side. But on our side are the senatorial candidates who are on the right, who are honest, excellent, and brave.)

"Lahat sila – Gary Alejano, Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Romy Macalintal, Mar Roxas, at Erin Tañada – ay subok na sa tapat na paglilingkod sa bayan. Tapat, hindi sinungaling. Magaling, hindi nagmamagaling. Matapang, hindi duwag harapin ang mga tunay na problema ng mamamayang Pilipino: trabaho, katarungan, pagkain, kalayaan," he added.

(All of them – Gary Alejano, Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, Pilo Hilbay, Romy Macalintal, Mar Roxas, and Erin Tañada – have been tried and test to be honest in their service to the country. Honest, not liars. Excellent, not know-it-alls. Brave, not afraid to face the true problems of Filipinos: jobs, justice, food security, peace.) 

He then said Otso Diretso continues to be inspired by the more than 16,000 volunteers who help them on the campaign trail. (READ: Otso Diretso turns to volunteers to boost struggling campaign)

"Ito ang tunay na people power. Ang hitsura ng kampanya ang huhubog sa hitsura ng pamumuno: mula sa taumbayan, para sa taumbayan," said Pangilinan. (This is the real people power. How the campaign looks like will influence the leadership that would follow: from the people, for the people.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.