The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) on Thursday announced it was taking in as guest candidates Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Rep. Cynthia Villar and censors board chair Grace Poe Llamanzares.
With Makabayan's own candidate, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiņo, the guest candidates have been dubbed the "6 Senate champions" and the "Super 6," in an alliance forged on "historical relationships" and "unity on issues."
"This manifests our confidence in the leadership qualities of the six, their personal integrity and their propeople stand on significant public issues," said Makabayan president Satur Ocampo in a press conference announcing the alliance.
Common candidates Escudero, Legarda and Llamanzares are also "common" candidates of President Aquino's coalition ticket and the rival United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Pimentel used to be with UNA but moved over to the administration side that includes Villar. Villar's husband, outgoing Sen. Manuel Villar, had waged a bitter presidential campaign against Mr. Aquino in 2010. Legarda was Senator Villar's running mate then.
Still, Makabayan said it saw nothing "strange" about the Super 6 alliance, given its traditional opposition to the administration and personalities identified with UNA.
"It will not be awkward. We are not strange bedfellows," said Casiņo, rejecting the idea the alliance was "unholy."
"It's an honor to be part of this dream team of politicians," he added.
All the candidates but Pimentel showed up to formally accept Makabayan's endorsement. Gwen Pimentel represented her younger brother, who was presiding over a
Senate committee hearing on political dynasties, an issue that has been raised against a member of Makabayan's Super 6.
Representative Villar seeks to move to the Senate where her husband is at the end of his second six-year term. Their son Mark is also in politics as Las Piņas representative.
Casiņo, whose party-list group has been quite vocal against political dynasties, admitted the Super 6 had yet to come to an agreement on the issue.
"That is not part of the unities that we have made, but we are continuing to work on it. What we did was not let this become a hindrance to cooperation on other equally important issues," he said in Filipino.
Villar noted the lack of a law that specifically prohibits relatives from running for public
office, other than the provision on term limits. But she said she would willingly leave politics if such a law were enacted.
"We just want to serve. If the law would later say that this is not allowed, we will not run for, after all, we can do other things (other) than running for (a) position," she said.
Villar and Legarda called for a campaign focused on the issues rather than on "personalities." Ocampo said the five guest candidates received his group's endorsement because they "shared or agreed to support in varying degrees certain Makabayan advocacies."
These include: Lowering the prices of oil products, water, power and other basic commodities; pushing for genuine agrarian reform, propeople mining policies and environmental protection; and increasing budgetary allocations for essential social services.
They also agreed to work for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act and Whistle-blowers Act and oppose any "special treatment in handling criminal cases against (former President) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other former officials."
"We will take these issues to the people during the campaign and, after victory, into
the Senate, where the 6 champions will endeavor to translate most of them into legislation," Ocampo said.
Ocampo said Makabayan had sounded off other senatorial candidates, but many of them were "not as enthusiastic" about being in the coalition. But he said that at least two others may also be taken in as guest candidates.
Citing the principle of "politics is addition," Casiņo said he and the guest candidates would "mutually" benefit from the alliance.
"It's a very established relationship. We have been through a lot of twists and turns in the past. This relationship is already strong," he said.