Aquino bans Chiz, Loren, Grace Poe from climbing UNA stage

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has banned "common candidates" from sharing the stage when campaigning with opposing slate United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Liberal Party (LP) secretary-general Joseph Emilio-Abaya disclosed the president personally asked Senators Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Loren Legarda as well as Movie and Television Classification and Review Board (MTRCB) chair Grace Poe-Llamanzares not to join UNA senatorial bets on stage during campaign season.

"The president clarified that in a meeting with them last week. They agreed on it so it's clear that no arms were twisted. Loren and Chiz will not climb the stage with UNA. That's also applicable to Grace Poe," Abaya revealed.

Abaya, who will act as LP president following Interior secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas' leave of absence from the party, explained the aim of the request is to distinguish president's allies who are in direct coalition with him from his allies that are also part from other coalitions.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, LP's campaign manager, clarified the need to ask Escudero, Legarda, and Poe-Llamanzares - who were also adopted as UNA's guest candidates - not to climb up UNA stage to avoid serious "conflict of interest."

"They are in administration ticket. If UNA will adopt them, we cannot prevent UNA. But it will be difficult if they go up the stage of UNA because they will be endorsing the candidates of UNA," Drilon explained.

"It will be very difficult if they will be endorsing the candidates of the administration. That will be a difficult conflict of interest. If they mount their stage, how can you campaign for 18 candidates when there are only 12 slots?" he reiterated.

Llamanzares, daughter of the late action icon Fernando Poe Jr, confirmed she committed to campaign exclusively with the candidates that President Aquino endorsed.

"You will not see me campaigning with UNA. There has been an agreement and I thank (former president Joseph "Erap") Estrada and Vice President (Jejomar) Binay because they understand my situation," Llamanzares told reporters.

"I talked to them and they understand that it is important for me to follow the president's policy in the coalition," she added.

Llamanzares, an independent candidate, clarified she will not join LP but explained she coalesced with Aquino's party in expression of her confidence to his administration.

"It's better this way. Because I believe in the leadership of the president. I'm here because of him. But I maintain independence in deference to UNA. That's a factor as well," Llamanzares said.

For her part, Legarda expressed reservation about the president's request, refusing to reveal the final arrangement between administration slate and UNA's line-up concerning campaign strategies for common candidates.

"Those are the logistical things that can be worked out on the ground," Legarda told reporters.

Legarda noted she wants her last national campaign to be the "least cost of dirt."

She said she wants to spread her environmental advocacy and "not just political noise."

Symbolic of that, Legarda gave out banaba seedlings for the plant boxes in Intramuros, where the Commission on Elections holds office.

"I had to ask what kind of plants would grow here," she said.

She added she will limit the use of tarpaulins, and use the campaign to hold seminars on disaster risk reduction and climate-change adaptation.

Meanwhile, Escudero denied President Aquino asked him personally about the arrangement, expressing his intention to conduct his campaign sorties on his own.

Admitting some gray areas in the policy, Abaya and Drilon noted they do not plan to impose sanctions on common candidates who might climb up to endorse other bets on UNA stage.

(With reports from Jonathan de Santos)

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