CAVITE, Philippines – The fight is not over for the survey laggard Otso Diretso candidates, who said their last official provincial sortie in Kawit, Cavite is symbolic of their battle for Senate seats.
Otso Diretso bets Gary Alejano, Samira Gutoc, Romy Macalintal, and Erin Tañada were warmly welcomed by a huge crowd in front of the historic Aguinaldo Shrine on Monday, May 6, when their ally and reelectionist Cavite 1st District Representative Boy Blue Abaya invited them to his miting de avance.
“Cavite, very historic, where the heroes, our former president is, where our founding revolutionaries are. At baka gumagawa rin nga tayo ng rebolusyon, rebolusyon sa mga natutulog na kababayan, sa mga undecided,” Gutoc told reporters on the sidelines of their campaign sortie. (READ: Gutoc throws shade at pork-tainted Bong Revilla in his bailiwick Cavite)
(Cavite, very historic, where the heroes, our former president is, where our founding revolutionaries are. And maybe we will have our own revolution here, a revolution among our sleeping countrymen, the undecided.)
“It’s now a time for the Filipino to think seriously about what is heroic in themselves, to make a decision sa lahat ng mga namatayan (for all those whose relatives died),” added Gutoc, alluding to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war which she opposes.
Behind her rose the Aguinaldo Shrine, the memorial honoring the day the country’s first president Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898
On Monday, the opposition senatorial bets’ speeches were peppered with references to freedom.
Alejano, a former mutineer soldier turned Magdalo representative, compared Filipino revolutionaries’ battle for independence from Spain with push for the Philippines to assert its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea against China.
“Sinabi namin na tatayo tayo sa mga mang-aapi, abusado, korap sa gobyerno, dahil ang ating mga ninuno noon, tumayo laban sa dayuhan. Ngayon, tatayo tayo sa kapwa Pilipino pero nag-aaktong dayuhan at nang-aapi sa kapwa Pilipino,” said Alejano.
(I said that we would stand against oppressors, abusers, corrupt in government, because our forefathers stood up against invaders. Now, we will stand up against those who are Filipinos like us but who act as if they are foreigners and who abuse other Filipinos.)
Tañada was optimistic that Caviteños, who comprise more than 2.1 million registered voters for the May 13 polls, would choose Otso Diretso on election day.
“Tayo po ay nasa may kasaysayang lugar ng Kawit, Cavite. Maliwanag po na dito po dineklara ang unang kalayaan ng ating bansa. At dito rin po, idedeklara po natin ang panalo ng Otso Diretso! Tama po ba?” said the former Quezon congressman, who was loudly cheered by the crowd.
(We are here in the historic Kawit, Cavite. It is clear that the country’s first independence was declared here. And in here, we would be declaring Otso Diretso’s victory! Isn’t that right?)
The rest of Otso Diretso sent representatives to Kawit: Simon Aquino for his uncle reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, director Pepe Diokno for his father and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Alex Hilbay for his brother and ex-solicitor general Florin Hilbay, and Pancho Joaquin for his cousin and ex-interior chief Mar Roxas.
No photo op with Abaya
Courting voters in Cavite, however, is easier said than done, as there are only a few politicians willing to publicly endorse Otso Diretso out of fear of retaliation from Malacañang.
Even Otso Diretso’s host Abaya did not share the stage with them in Kawit. Instead, the provincial chairman of the once-ruling Liberal Party delivered his speech endorsing the opposition ticket without the candidates behind him.
“Maikuwento ko lang po sa inyo, itong ating mga kandidato po ng Otso Diretso na pinili po ni Vice President Leni Robredo, ‘yan po ay pinagpilian po talaga. Walo lamang sila, pero titignan po, sila ang magaling, sila po ang matapat, sila po ang subok na, sila po ang nakapagsilbi na po sa ating bayan,” said Abaya.
(Let me tell you, our candidates of Otso Direts chosen by Vice President Leni Robredo were chosen well. There might just be 8 of them, but if you look at them, they are the ones who are excellent, honest, tried and tested, and who can serve our country.)
Still, Otso Diretso remains hopeful they would be able to woo the Caviteño vote. Macalintal, a veteran election lawyer, is banking on his former politician-clients in the province to deliver votes for him, even if they would do this in secret.
“Naging abugado ako ng mga mayor ng Ternate, ng Mendez, naging abogado ako ng mga Remulla, naging abogado ako ng mga Maliksi. Kaya’t sana naman itong mga tao na ‘to ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon na ako ay suportahan,” said Macalintal.
(I became the lawyer of the mayor of Ternate, Mendez, I lawyered for the Remullas, and I lawyered for the Maliksi family. So I’m hoping these people would get the chance to support me.)
Low campaign funds and the lack of politicians willing to endorse them has forced Otso Diretso to turn to a volunteer-driven campaign.