On the third day of the 90-day campaign period, the President and her running mate Sen. Noli de Castro motored through the towns and cities of Rizal province, transferring from their sports utility vehicles to open pick-up trucks so that they can wave at the crowd as they passed through.
Although known as a bailiwick of the opposition, Rizal townsfolk warmly received Mrs. Arroyo and De Castro at each stop led by former governor Casimiro Ynares, a close friend and political ally of deposed President Joseph Estrada.
The Ynares political clan came in full force, including Binangonan Mayor Cesar Ynares and newly installed Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) manager Casimiro Ynares III.
Ex-governor Ynares is seeking a return to the gubernatorial seat in the province under Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) while his wife, incumbent Gov. Rebecca Ynares, will go back to being a full-time housewife.
"Mahal na pangulo, kami pong mga taga-Rizal ay marunong tumanaw ng utang na loob (Our beloved President, we in Rizal know how to pay our debts of gratitude)," Mayor Ynares said.
Campaign spokesman Michael Defensor told The STAR yesterday that Ynares expressed his support for Mrs. Arroyo and noted that he even raised the hand of the President and De Castro.
"He (ex-governor Ynares) loves Erap and remains loyal to former President Estrada but he is also okay with President Arroyo," Defensor said.
He said the former governor has agreed to back up Mrs. Arroyo apparently in retaliation for his being "left out in the cold" by Estrada’s bosom buddy, opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.
Mrs. Arroyo, assisted by De Castro, handed out checks totaling P7.6 million to barangays and municipalities in the coastal town of Laguna Lake representing their shares in fishpen fees.
With K-4’s 12-member senatorial ticket on their respective campaign trails elsewhere in Rizal, the President asked the Rizal folk to vote straight her administration ticket and promised they would live up to their expectations.
"Kami pong mga kandidato ng K-4, ang aming maiaalok sa inyo ay katapatan sa tungkulin at karanasan dahil gusto natin ng magandang kinabukasan. At walang substitute ang karanasan sa paglilingkod (What the K-4 can offer you is dedication to duty and experience in public service because we all want a better future. There is no substitute to experience in governance)," Mrs. Arroyo exhorted.
A suntanned Mrs. Arroyo appealed to teachers, students and community leaders at the Morong National High School’s covered basketball court to factor experience in their choice of candidates in the coming polls.
The President said she has four re-electionist senators on her team — Robert Barbers, Rodolfo Biazon, Robert Jaworski and John Osmeña — and two balik-Senado (returning senators), Orlando Mercado and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Two of her K-4 senatorial bets are also former Cabinet members — former tourism secretary Richard Gordon and former trade secretary Manuel Roxas II.
The President cited that she also has two former governors in the line-up — Lito Lapid of Pampanga and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. of Cavite, both former action stars. An incumbent governor, Parouk Hussin of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is also on the K-4 senatorial slate.
Meanwhile, she said that lawyer Pia Cayetano, daughter of late Lakas Sen. Rene Cayetano, is the representative of the youth, women and young professionals.
Mrs. Arroyo and De Castro answered the crowd’s questions eagerly.
"Kami lang po ang partido o tambalan na may ganitong format o ganitong pagtitipon na makakasagot ng direkta sa inyong mga tanong (We are the only party which has this kind of format and who can answer your questions directly)," De Castro told the audience.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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