Alejano: Otso Diretso remains united, even if they are rarely seen together

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28) — Even if they have been rarely seen campaigning as a complete slate, the opposition Otso Diretso Senate lineup remains united, one of its senatorial candidates assured.

"Nagiging isang pamilya na kami sa Otso Diretso. Aminado kami na kasi 'yung schedule may kanya-kanyang priority na area so hindi talaga nagkakasama," Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

[Translation: We're now becoming a family in Otso Diretso. We realize that everyone's scehdules have different priority areas, so we really can't be together.]

Alejano explained that Otso Diretso bets can choose what campaign sorties to attend and are not required to come to every event. He said they are only required to attend larger sorties, like the one they held in Vice President Leni Robredo's bailiwick of Naga City.

"'Yung iba, may marami na ring contacts, mayroon na rin silang na-set na mga schedules. So mas maganda ito (sorties) sa mga wala masiyadong contacts, like 'yung mga first time na tatakbo," Alejano said. "Sina Senator Bam [Aquino,] Senator Mar Roxas, may mga sariling schedules sila. So we understand that. Kahit sa akin, hindi rin ako uma-attend all the time."

[Translation: Other candidates have many contacts, they also have set schedules. So sorties are better for those who have not that much contacts, like those who are running for the first time … Senator Bam Aquino, Senator Mar Roxas, they have their own schedules. So we understand that. I, myself, don't attend all the time.]

The opposition slate has been chided by some for hardly ever appearing together in public.

"Bago mag-hamon ng kung ano-ano, pag-isipan muna ang pangalan ng tiket nila na 'Otso Diretso' dahil kadalasan lima na lang kayo nagkakasama," administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) campaign spokesperson Ron Munsayac said in a tweet.

[Translation: Before you make any challenge, think of your ticket's name "Otso Diretso" because usually, only five of you come together.]

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Otso Diretso's campaign manager, said this is a "non-issue," adding that this is not the first senatorial elections wherein a slate's candidates do not get to campaign together.

"We allow our individual candidates the leeway to plan their separate campaign sorties and that has always been the case since I first ran for the Senate nearly 20 years ago. It isn't new," Pangilinan told CNN Philippines in a text message.

Those who are usually seen at Otso Diretso's events are Alejano, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, De La Salle University founding dean Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc and election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.

Former Interior Secretary Roxas, who is the opposition's leading candidate, has been largely absent in Otso Diretso's events, including its kickoff in Caloocan City, its challenge for a debate against Hugpong ng Pagbabago bets at Plaza Miranda in Manila and its recent sortie which his former running mate, former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, graced.

In contrast, Senate bets of the administration party and Hugpong ng Pagbabago usually campaign together in large sorties attended by hundreds.

But Alejano said their advantage over Hugpong and PDP-Laban is that they get to talk directly with people and listen to their concerns.

Funding problem

Alejano also admitted that the opposition is having a hard time in terms of funding, especially since big businessmen are shying away from them.

In his case, big businessmen do not donate at all. "Masiyado akong identified as the opposition, a critic to the President. Pangalawa, 'Malayo naman sa survey 'yan, baka hindi manalo 'yan. Sayang 'yung suporta natin diyan,'" Alejano said.

[Translation: I am too identified as the opposition, a critic to the President. Secondly, they might be thinking, "He's lagging behind in the surveys, he might not win. Our support for him would be all for nothing."]

However, Alejano said they receive small donations from overseas Filipino workers for their campaign.

For his part, he said he would only be spending ₱2 to ₱3 million from his pocket to fund his campaign.

"I can only spend so much because I cannot sacrifice the future of our children," Alejano said.

Despite lagging in the surveys, Alejano is confident that opposition bets can eventually pull through.

"Mahaba pa. Mayo pa ang eleksyon, ano. Wala tayong resources na one time, big time magbuhos tayo. Wala tayong billboards before the campaign. So okay lang 'yan. Hayaan mo silang mag-todo na. Tayo, we have nothing to lose but to gain," he said.

[Translation: It's still a long way to go. The elections are still in May. We do not have resources for a one time, big time campaign. We do not have billboards before the campaign. So that's okay. Let them use up all their resources. Us, we have nothing to lose but to gain.]