MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition coalition Tindig Pilipinas on Friday, October 12, endorsed 5 senatorial bets for the 2019 elections who it believed would "fight" for Filipinos.
Tindig Pilipinas, a coalition of various cause-oriented groups and opposition politicians, held a press conference in Quezon City on Friday, October 12, to formally endorse its senatorial bets, 3 of whom were at the event – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc Tomawis.
The other two are reelectionist Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, and former Quezon lawmaker Erin Tañada.
Tindig Pilipinas convenor Edwin Lacierda said the group is hoping to support former interior secretary Mar Roxas too, should he decide to join the Senate race.
In explaining its choices, Tindig Pilipinas said in a statement: "We are sick of patronage in politics. We have full faith in our people that they will vote for worthy candidates. We have faith that a person can be elected based on their worth rather than on their wealth and connections."
The group said it decided to support the Senate bets after a "long process of assessment and discernment."
"They will fight for all of us. They will be our fighters against poverty, for social inclusion, and for the nation’s sovereignty,” Tindig Pilipinas added.
Asked about Roxas, who has been rumored to run in May 2019, Lacierda told Rappler: "Everybody hopes that he will run but we respect the process right now. If he runs, we will be very, very happy And certainly, we will campaign for him."
Out of all the opposition bets so far, only Roxas had made it into the so-called winners' circle in the latest senatorial surveys.
Roxas had so far remained silent on a possible return to politics.
Diokno, Aquino, and Tañada are part of the Liberal Party's first 3 senatorial bets for the 2019 polls.
A former mutineer, Alejano filed the first impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte. The impeachment bid, however, did not fly at the Duterte-controlled House of Representatives.
Alejano is a staunch critic of Duterte's policy not to bring up with China the Philippines' victory in The Hague tribunal on the West Philippine Sea dispute. Duterte has pursued this foreign policy in a bid to strengthen ties with China.
"Alam 'nyo ho, napakahirap tanggapin na parang ang ating gobyerno na hinayaan lamang na ang panghihimasok, pang-aagaw ng ating teritoryo, at pang-aabuso ng ating mamamayan. Ang West Philippine Sea ay atin. Dapat nating protektahan at depensahan ‘yan," said Alejano.
(You know, it’s so hard to accept that our government is allowing another country to come in and grab our territory and abuse our countrymen. The West Philippine Sea is ours. We have to protect and defend it.)
Human rights advocate
Diokno is the son of former senator Jose "Pepe" Diokno, who is regarded as the father of human rights advocacy in the Philippines. He is the chairperson of the Free Legal Assistance Group, the first and largest group of human rights lawyers in the Philippines that works for protection against abuses of human rights and civil liberties.
Diokno, the founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, said he was prodded to run for office because of the Duterte administration's "war against democracy."
"I cannot sit still, I cannot remain silent while this government is mounting a total war against humanity. I cannot be quiet and sit just idly by while this government continues to kill thousands of people in what they mistakenly call a war on drugs," said Diokno.
“The truth is, the war on drugs is not really true to its name.That war is a war against our legal system. That war is against the society we know. That is a war against democracy,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
No to another Marawi
Tomawis, who had filed her certificate of candidacy under the Liberal Party, resigned as a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in 2017 after delivering an emotional account of alleged military abuses in Marawi City during a speech in Congress.
She resigned as BTC member out of her opposition to Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao. The civic leader had also protested the President’s lighthearted remark about soldiers raping women in Mindanao.
Tomawis said she would not want the same "calamity" that befell Marawi following the siege last year to happen in other parts of the country.
"So I come here because people are not buried with honor. There are Christians who have to be removed out of that Muslim cemetery. I am here because may mga taong walang closure. A calamity that is not worth repeating – hindi po puwedeng may Marawi sa ibang bayan ng Pilipinas (there shouldn't be another Marawi in other cities in the Philippines),” she said.
“Desisyon natin ‘yon bilang Pilipino. Ang kuwento ng Marawi ay kuwento ng Pilipino. ‘Wag puwersa po ang idaan. Hindi puwede eh. Ang daming puwedeng tumulong, sana makatulong,” she added.
(That will be our decision as Filipinos. The story of Marawi is the story of the Filpino. Do not pursue violence. You cannot resort to that. There were so many people who want to help, hopefully they can help.) – Rappler.com