Tomorrow is the start of the official campaign period for all senatorial and party-list representative candidates who were earlier qualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to run in the coming May 13 mid-term elections. Like the senatorial aspirants, candidates from party-list groups are nationally elected also and will have a 90-day campaign period.
At least 62 candidates are vying to get into the “magic 12” winning circle in the Senate race. And one of these candidates is re-electionist Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. He prefers to be called by his pet name “Bam,” for short. Sen. Bam was the only Liberal Party (LP) candidate who survived the rout of the 12-man senatorial ticket backed by former president Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Aquino III during the May 2013 mid-term elections.
This, despite the fact that the LP-led senatorial ticket was personally endorsed and campaigned by the then LP chieftain. The other survivor of the PNoy-backed Senate ticket is Sen. Bam’s fellow re-electionist Senators, Grace Poe (independent) and Sonny Angara of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP).
Then 35 years old, Sen. Bam was the youngest candidate. He placed 7th in the Senate race that included much older and veteran politicians. He belongs to a political family who included his namesake slain uncle Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late president Corazon Aquino.
Sen. Bam believes the accomplishments of the PNoy administration boosted his Senate bid. Sen. Bam has his own millions of supporters though from his age group voters. After all, he once headed the National Youth Commission from 2003 to 2006 during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Thus, Sen. Bam is not a political neophyte when he made his first successful run in the 2013 Senate race.
In fact, I distinctly recall when he first visited The Star editorial office in Port Area six years ago wearing the yellow-colored LP t-shirt and his name emblazoned in black letters.
Six years later, he came back to our office last Thursday night, this time, as a re-electionist Senator. He came for a roundtable interview with The Star editors and reporters to become the third Otso Diretso candidate to do so. Previously, we had lawyer Chel Diokno and ex-Solicitor General Pilo Hilbay.
Called as Otso Diretso – obviously because they are composed of eight candidates only – the senatorial ticket is again a mix of LP and other political parties like Aksyon Demokratiko (Hilbay). The other Otso Diretso candidates include erstwhile LP president and former senator Mar Roxas II; Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano; former Quezon Congressman (LP) Erin Tañada; election lawyer Romulo Macalintal; and ex-Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao assemblywoman Samira Gutoc.
Wearing a white polo shirt and black pants, this was only the second time I met Sen. Bam from his last visit. I told him I was looking at a much leaner Sen. Bam in his 5’10” tall frame. It is not only weight loss, he hastened to add, but also his nearsighted vision that has turned for the worse. From a grade of 100, he now wears 300-400 grade pair of eyeglasses.
Turning 42 years old one week before election day this year, he told us he was newly married when he first run at the Senate. He now has two daughters, both named after the couple’s respective grandmothers. He speaks fondly about his two daughters who he says celebrate birth dates that no one could forget. Four-year-old Aurora is born on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14 like her Tita Kris Aquino). One-year-old Consuelo celebrates her birthday on Christmas Day itself (Dec. 25).
During our roundtable interview, Sen. Bam candidly noted he and his team have difficulties breaking into the “winning circle” in the senatorial mock polls based from the surveys of both the Social Weather Station and the Pulse Asia. “I must admit there is a struggle,” he quipped. Largely, he believes, the viciousness of recent attacks on him by “trolls” in the social media affected his standing.
When they traced the social media attacks against him, they discovered its origin from the ISP (internet service provider) of known pro-Marcos groups, he disclosed. It’s a continuing Aquino-Marcos feud.
But such were no distractions to do what he needs to do as a lawmaker, he says. The Free College Education law, he cited, made sure to establish a hotline and a Facebook page where students can give feedback mechanism where they can report if any provision of the law is not implemented to the fullest.
Another landmark law tucked under his name was Republic Act 10644, or the Go Negosyo Act, to promote job generation and inclusive growth through development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). As of latest report he got, over 1,000 Go Negosyo centers all over the Philippines have been facilitating assistance to MSMEs.
He looks forward to two enrolled bills approved by both chambers of the 17th Congress – the Innovative Startup Act, or tax breaks for small business entrepreneurs, and the Magna Carta for Scientists – that are now waiting for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
He still counts upon PNoy’s endorsement power for the LP-backed Otso Diretso senatorial ticket. According to Sen. Bam, the Otso Diretso campaign salvo will kick off in Caloocan City this Wednesday (Feb. 13). But the grand proclamation campaign rally will take place in Naga City, Camarines Sur, bailiwick of Vice President Leni Robredo as the sitting LP chairperson.
While he has already established his own track record as a Senator during his first term, Sen. Bam is even stepping up his vision for more structural improvements in education and in other areas of governance that must be legislated. Sen. Bam counted as many as 35 laws he either authored or co-authored and sponsored as chairman of the Senate committees that shepherded the passage into law of these bills. Half of these laws, he said, were in fact signed by President Duterte.
And being identified as “yellow” is no issue at all for Sen. Bam who vows to do better laws if re-elected.
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