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Ocampo, Maza eye Senate, presidential bet to support
In The Press Posted on November 12th, 2009.
MANILA, Philippines — After making their mark in the House of Representatives, militant groups are expanding their wings.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza Thursday announced they are running for the Senate.
The militant groups have formed a coalition called Makabayan, and will decide whom to support for president and whom to ally themselves with for the May general elections.
But they would definitely choose someone from the opposition. The group has been talking to the camps of Senators Manuel Villar, Benigno Aquino III and Francis Escudero, according to Ocampo.
Of the three, Villar has been the most open since he has said that he is willing to accommodate the coalition’s two senatorial aspirants. Makabayan’s talks with Villar also began much earlier than those with any other candidate.
In contrast, Aquino has been the most elusive. Ocampo said the group had made overtures to Aquino that it wanted to talk with him, but it received feedback that he was “not too warm” to the idea.
But a meeting between Aquino and the militant groups has been scheduled next week with the help of former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, former president of Aquino’s Liberal Party.
The issue of agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita, owned by Aquino’s family, remains a contentious point. But the group’s declaration is that it is not an enemy of Aquino because they have a common foe in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to Ocampo.
Farmers groups in the Tarlac hacienda have been calling for its parceling out after the agrarian reform department struck down the stock distribution option that the hacienda owners exercised, and which allowed the land to be exempted from land distribution.
As for Escudero, Makabayan’s talks with him began before he resigned from the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and are continuing even after he left the party. Escudero, however, has yet to announce whether he would still run for president.
Focus on Satur
Ocampo said the Makabayan coalition was also considering the candidate’s platform when it would choose whom to ally itself with.
Ocampo will have the full attention of Bayan Muna as the party’s senatorial candidate, after Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said he had abandoned plans to run for the Senate.
Instead, Casiño will seek a third term in the House as Bayan Muna’s No. 1 nominee for the 2010 elections and let the party focus on Ocampo, who he said was the best candidate for senator among all those who are running. Ocampo, a former journalist, is on his third and last term in the House.
The other two Bayan Muna nominees are lawyers Neri Colmenares and Joven Laura.
At the same time, an affiliated party-list group, Anakpawis, disclosed its list of nominees, which include peasant leader Randall Echanis. Echanis is out on bail for murder in connection with the communist purge in the 1980s, a charge he denies and claims as politically motivated.
Anakpawis’ other nominees are its incumbent representatives, Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod.
Three million votes
Casiño pointed out that the presidential candidate the coalition would choose would benefit from being associated with it since, he said, it has broadened its support base over the last decade while fielding party-list groups in the House.
“Despite all these attacks on our parties, we have expanded. We have a sure base of more or less three million votes,” he said.
The militant lawmakers have been a small but vocal group in the House, where they have consistently pushed the impeachment of the President and of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and have regularly challenged and criticized the decisions of the administration.