LP Senate sweep? ‘Unlikely,’ says campaign manager

ROXAS CITY, Philippines – In an election where presidential candidates jostle for the top spot in every survey, where vice presidential bets abound, and where senatorial hopefuls are shared among different slates, not even the campaign manager of the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s senate slate is confident of a “sweep” come May 2016. 

“I'd be the first one to say that the likelihood of the sweep is very, very unlikely. But what we plan to do is the manner by which we succeeded in 2013, which is to make it platform based. We have to elevate the debate based on performance, based on the track record of the President,” Marikina Reprensentative Romero Quimbo told Rappler on Monday, February 8, on the sidelines of the ruling party’s preparations for its kick-off on Tuesday, February 9. 

Aside from being a re-electionist congressman and one of the coalition’s spokespersons, Quimbo recently took on the role of managing the LP-led “Daang Matuwid” coalition Senate slate, a mix of Senate veterans, returnees, administration allies, and some former foes. (READ: The complete 12-person slate of the ruling coalition)

According to the latest Pulse Asia survey, only 7 out of the coalition’s 12 bets are in the “winning circle” for senate bets. Leading the pack from the LP slate are former senators Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto, and current Senate President Franklin Drilon. Recto also happens to be a “shared candidate” between the ruling coalition and that slate of independent presidential bet Senator Grace Poe. (READ: Recto joins Poe, Escudero in CDO rally)

Two of the ruling coalition’s senate bets – former livelihood and training agence chief Joel Villanueva and former Pampanga governor Mark Lapid – are inches away from the list of probable winners while 3 others are far from the “winning circle,” ranking 22nd or lower. 

It’s expected in a way, Quimbo said, since neither party chairman President Benigno Aquino III nor standard-bearer Manuel Roxas III chose their senatorial slate on the basis of their popularity. 

“You have to remember that each and every candidate that we have were handpicked by both Roxas and the President. The main ingredient really was if these individuals contributed to the last 5 and a half years in terms of pursuing Daang Matuwid,” explained Quimbo. 

Unopposed in Marikina

Quimbo has been campaign manager of the 12-person Senate slate for over a month. “I took on the job because [Roxas] asked me and because [Belmonte] is campaign manager so it’s also my contribution to his role as national campaign manager,” said Quimbo. 

The Marikina representative, who is gunning for re-election unopposed in the second district of Marikina, was in Roxas City a day ahead of the scheduled kick-off to attend last-minute meetings and to oversee the arrival of several Senate bets. 

“There are 12 people in your team who all essentially are following and espousing the principles of the administration but they are all essentially competing against each other. Although that's not theoretically true, minsan hindi mo rin maiwasan na nangyayari ang ganoong pagkakataon (it’s hard to avoid those situations). So you need to be able to manage and make sure that everyone is well taken care of and they don't feel any sense of unfairness,” he told reporters in a chance interview Monday evening. 

The job means all candidates – regardless of survey standing and popularity – get fair billing in the LP’s events, including the kick-off in Roxas City. It also means ensuring candidates with less resources get the support they need. 

The ruling coalition is set to travel to Iloilo City the same day, for another kick-off rally in the capital of the vote-rich province. Aquino will be attending both events. (READ: LP's kick-off rallies

Two of the LP’s senate bets – Recto and Lacson – are shared bets. When asked if the LP would insist that they appear only with the LP’s presidential and vice presidential bets, Quimbo said they expect Senate bets to be “mature enough to make the necessary actions.” 

All 12 candidates will be joining the Roxas City kick-off, save for Villanueva, who had long scheduled his own kick-off with supporters in Quezon City. He will, however, be part of the Iloilo leg of the LP’s day-long send-off for its 2016 candidates. – Rappler.com