A BRAINCHILD of Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) was born in early 2012 to serve as vehicle for individuals seeking to retain or claim Senate seats in the 2013 midterm elections. Like the Liberal Party coalition, UNA’s 12-man slate is dominated by old hands in politics.
UNA has vowed to support the Aquino administration’s reform agenda while keeping a critical eye on the implementation of its programs. Its candidates for senator are the following:
Senator Gregorio Honasan II
A veteran of bloody coup attempts against then President Corazon Aquino, Honasan availed the amnesty program of President Fidel Ramos and made a successful run for the Senate in 1995. Despite siding with former President Joseph Estrada in his aborted impeachment trial, he was named the 13th winning senator in 2001 following the ascension of Senator Teofisto Guingona Jr. to the vice presidency.
He ran again in 2007 and won as he is now seeking his third and last term.
Honasan, a bemedalled soldier, is currently the chairperson of the Senate committees on agrarian reform, public order and dangerous drugs, and public information and mass media.
The 64-year-old lawmaker likewise chairs three oversight committees, specifically the congressional oversight committees on agrarian reform and dangerous drugs, as well as the joint oversight committee on the Human Security Act.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero
Seen as a potential vice presidential bet in 2016, Escudero’s strong national recall make him a shoo-in for another six years in the Senate.
Chiz, son of the late congressman Sonny Escudero, has never lost any election since joining politics in 1998.
He won three consecutive terms as representative of Sorsogon’s first district from 1998 to 2007. He became one of the faces of opposition during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now detained for plunder charges.
Escudero once campaigned for her impeachment but the Arroyo-dominated House of Representatives scuttled his bid.
With the public growing weary and discontented with Arroyo’s scandal plagued rule, Chiz was rewarded a Senate seat in 2007, finishing second to Senator Loren Legarda. He heads the Senate committees on justice and human Rights, and environment and natural resources.
He joined 19 other senators in kicking Chief Justice Renato Corona out of the Supreme Court for misdeclared cash assets in May 2012 in a trial vigorously supported by his friend, President Benigno Aquino III.
Chiz is a common candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) and UNA, along with Legarda and ex-censors board chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares.
Senator Loren Legarda
The only woman to top the senatorial elections twice (1998 and 2007), Legarda is expected to do the feat for the third time as indicated in poll results.
Legarda was a top broadcast journalist before jumping to politics in 1998. She went on to become the Senate’s first majority leader and was credited for the following laws, which she authored: the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (Republic Act 9994); the Barangay Kabuhayan Act (RA 9509); the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (RA 9501); the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act (RA 10000); the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262); the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710); the Anti-Child Labor Law (RA 9231); the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208) and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (RA 10121).
Like Escudero, Legarda is a common bet of UNA and LP. She admitted of being comfortable with UNA officials, whom she had worked with for almost a decade. But she didn’t close her doors to the LP after her party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), entered an alliance with the administration for next year’s polls.
The 52-year-old Legarda also sought the vice presidency twice (2004 and 2010) but lost.
San Juan City Representative Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito
Following the footsteps of his father, former President Joseph Estrada, JV started his political career in his hometown of San Juan as mayor for three consecutive terms (2001 to 2010).
He handily won as the lone district representative of San Juan in 2010 and is now planning to join his half-brother Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada in the upper chamber.
He finished his political science degree at the De La Salle University.
Cagayan Representative Juan “Jackie” Ponce Enrile Jr.
The only son and namesake of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Jackie will anchor his campaign on food security. He said Filipinos shouldn’t be deprived of feeding themselves in their own country since it is a basic right to have access to affordable food products.
Jackie is on his fourth term as congressman of Cagayan’s first district. He is one of the main sponsors of the Kasambahay Bill, Food for Filipinos First, Credit Access and Protection Reform and the Anti-Monopoly Bill.
A father of four, Jackie also has a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
Zambales Representative Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay
Magsaysay’s entry into UNA never went unnoticed by President Benigno Aquino III, who criticized the coalition for adopting someone who is identified with the unpopular Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Vice President Binay came into Magsaysay’s defense, saying no party can claim monopoly of good intentions and good people willing to serve.
Magsaysay, now on her third and last term as Zambales lawmaker, has been critical of Aquino’s policies especially with the latter’s supposed protection of friends involved in some controversies.
If elected, Magsaysay said she will push for the review of Oil Deregulation Law, which has been blamed by militant groups for high petroleum prices in the past 14 years. She also listed education and health as her advocacies.
She graduated with a business administration degree from the University of the Philippines. Her husband is a relative of former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., who is also running for the same position under the LP banner.
Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda
Armed with decades of political experience, Maceda is running again for senator after failed attempts in 2004 and 2007. He was Senate President from 1996 to 1998 and he exposed scams in government under then President Ramos.
Aside from serving as the country’s ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2001, Maceda also worked for the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos as executive secretary in 1969, secretary of Community Development, and secretary of Commerce and Industry.
After disagreement with Marcos over the Martial Law imposition, Maceda went on exile in the US where he became the aide and adviser of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. He joined the opposition, which successfully toppled Marcos via People Power in February 1986. He was also a senator from 1971 to 1972 and from 1987 to 1998.
Former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri
Known for his good looks and prolific career as lawmaker, Zubiri served as senator from 2007 until his untimely resignation in August 2011.
Zubiri won the 12th and last seat in 2007 by just over 20,000 votes against Pimentel, who then took his case to the Senate Electoral Tribunal where he proved that he was cheated of victory especially in vote-rich areas in Mindanao.
This paved the way for Zubiri’s resignation when the poll tribunal’s recount had Pimentel winning.
Despite the development, Zubiri worked for the passage of several laws including Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 Rent Control Act of 2009, Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and the Socialized and Low-Cost Housing Loan Condonation Program.
Zubiri, who joined Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino in May, is the youngest Senate majority leader at 39 years old in 2007.
Former senator Richard Gordon
After losing the battle for Malacañang in 2010, Gordon returns to the national political scene in 2013 as senatorial candidate. Gordon, who was hailed for launching a successful tourism program dubbed “Wow Philippines” in the past administration, served as senator from 2004 to 2010.
He is the main author and advocate of an Automated Election System law, the Tourism Development Act and the Veterans Equity Law. Outside politics, Gordon keeps himself busy as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, which effectively responded to calamities especially during the onslaught of storms Ondoy and Sendong in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco
Tingting once eyed the vice gubernatorial post of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) but President Aquino signed a law last year that synchronized the elections there to May 2013.
She is the wife of former Tarlac congressman Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, uncle of President Aquino.
Former MTRCB chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares
Llamanzares is the daughter of entertainment industry pillars Susan Roces and the late Fernando Poe Jr. President Aquino appointed her as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), which she relinquished in late September to give way for her senatorial bid.
Llamanzares took up political science in 1991 at Boston College in Massachusetts with concentration on government and political theory. She is also the vice president and treasurer of the FPJ Productions and Film Archive Inc.
She is a common candidate of Aquino’s LP and Binay’s UNA.
Binay, 39, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She served as personal assistant to her father during his term as Makati City mayor and for housing concerns after his election as Vice President in 2010.
If elected in May 2013, Nancy said she will focus on housing reform agenda and pass laws that would protect the rights and welfare of children. She replaced Joey de Venecia in the line-up, who backed out of the race to focus on luring investments in the business process outsourcing industry. (Virgil Lopez)