Philippine Presidential Hopefuls Walk for Clean Polls
Thirteen of the likely presidential and vice presidential candidates in next year’s Philippine elections link arms in a “walk for a cause” and pledge to do their part to ensure an honest and clean vote.
Thirteen likely candidates in next year’s presidential and vice presidential elections in the Philippines pledged on Sunday to help ensure clean and honest polls and never to use public funds for personal gains if they win the election.
They joined some 5,000 participants in a 100-meter “Unity Walk’’ in Taguig City before signing an unprecedented election covenant.
Former president Joseph Estrada (second from left) joins (from left) Senator Francis Escudero, Secretary Bayani Fernando, Senator Dick Gordon and Senator Loren Legarda in the ‘clean and honest election marathon’ in Taguig City in August 30, 2009.
Those who took the oath before Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo were former President Joseph Estrada, Senators Manuel Roxas II, Manuel Villar Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Richard Gordon, and Jamby Madrigal. They were joined by Brother Eddie Villanueva, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and two other likely presidential bets, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, and JC delos Reyes.
The presidential and vice-presidential contenders were made to affix their signatures to a covenant for a peaceful and honest election in May 2010.
Seven other possible candidates failed to attend the occasion organized by the Comelec and the GMA television network. Absent were Vice President Noli de Castro, Senator Noynoy Aquino, Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, and El Shaddai spiritual leader Mike Velarde.
Aquino told the organizers that he is “still undecided” on whether to run in next year’s elections. De Castro was on an official trip to China. Puno and Teodoro Jr. begged off saying they were both ill. Panlilio said he was preoccupied with the vote recount in his Pampanga province, while Padaca was in Belgium.
The political aspirants were joined by movie stars and other celebrities including boxing champion Nonito Donaire.
The walk-for-a cause event turned into a festive affair as fans swarmed movie stars including Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Marvin Agustin, Regine Velasquez, Richard Gutierrez, Maxene Magalona and Ricky Davao.
During a press conference following the signing of the covenant, Villanueva welcomed the emergence of more candidates like Aquino, saying this shows the people’s hunger for change.
“Whoever should be president is ultimately a decision that the Filipino people alone should make. The more options there are for the people to choose from the better,’’ Villanueva said.
Roxas, whose presidential candidacy is threatened by the emergence of Aquino as the potential standard bearer of the Liberal Party, said he wants to change the manner of governance in the country wherein words would always have to be backed up by deeds, saying people have grown tired of traditional politicians making empty promises.
Fernando – who is seeking to become the Arroyo administration’s presidential candidate — said no one can force him to back out of the race, saying he is dead serious in serving 90 million Filipinos.
Estrada and Villar did not attend the press conference as they had to leave due to other pressing matters.
“I will not use funds in the wrong way nor use firearms or any other form of violence to ensure victory in the elections,” read part of the covenant. “I will not use public funds or any other property of the Philippines for my personal interest,” it added.
The event was organized amid persistent fears that the use of an untested automated system for the first time would lead to widespread cheating in next year’s elections.