Pangilinan sees uphill climb for opposition Senate slate in 2019 polls

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For the opposition, the race to get a Senate seat would prove to be a duel against many Goliaths.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — For "Otso Diretso" — the opposition's Senate ticket — the race to get a seat will be an uphill climb, Liberal Party president Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said on Wednesday.

"Definitely, we are the underdogs here. But it's a battle worth fighting. We need to have a strong Senate, an independent Senate," he told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Of the Otso Diretso bets, only former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV usually end up in the so-called Magic 12 in pre-election surveys.

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and De La Salle University College of Law founding dean Chel Diokno have been lagging in the surveys, which are dominated by bets aligned with the administration.

Pangilinan, who serves as Otso Diretso's campaign manager, said they have to face this reality, hoping the tide will change during the campaign period which begins on February 12 for senatorial candidates.

He is also hopeful their Senate bets would be able to pull off a so-called Cinderella finish, with more members of the opposition ticket taking over opinion polls as election day draws near.

"Ang kalaban namin, maraming pera, maraming billboard… the whole backing of the machinery of the government, of the executive department. Kami, walo, parang kaming David, in that sense. Pero hinahapan namin maliit na bato na kapag sapul, eh talagang sapul na sapul," Pangilinan said.

[Translation: Our opponent has so much money and lots of billboards … They have the whole backing of the machinery of the government, of the executive department. Us, we're eight, we're like David in that sense. But we're trying to find the small rock which, if it hits, it would hit hard.]

Otso Diretso would challenge the Senate ticket endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who enjoys high approval ratings nearly three years into his term.

The opposition would also have to deal with those aligning themselves with the administration, which include the ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, the lineup to be endorsed by the Nationalist People's Coalition, and the ticket endorsed by Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the regional party of the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.