By Christian V. Esguerra - Is the senatorial race turning into a young man’s game?

Seasoned politicians appear to be lagging behind much younger and arguably more popular candidates in recent surveys, with two senior former senators working double time to get voter recognition.

At least seven of those in the Magic 12 are only in their 40s, like Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. Nancy Binay is only 39 and she was tied at 4th to 9th places with the 42-year-old Rep. Jose Victor Ejercito in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

In contrast, former Senators Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr. photo at left and Ernesto Maceda photo below, who are trying to stage a comeback, have some serious catching up to do. The 74-year-old Magsaysay placed 16th to 17th, while the 77-year-old Maceda settled at 18th to 19th places in the same survey.

Voter “awareness” that Magsaysay is running for senator was only 79 percent, while Maceda’s rating was only slightly higher at 82 percent.

Magsaysay, who last served as senator in 2007, on Friday acknowledged what he called the “built-in” advantage of younger candidates, especially with about a third of the voting population only in their 30s or even younger.

Youth advantage

“It looks that way,” he told the Inquirer when asked if voters were going for younger senatorial candidates this time, as indicated in surveys. “The young ones have an advantage, I admit. But while personality counts, what’s important is our track record, what we have done before as legislators.”

Both Magsaysay and Maceda maintained they have an advantage in terms of experience and track record and it’s just a matter of connecting with a generation of Twitter and Facebook users.

Maceda, for example, is going through a makeover. His moniker as “Mr. Expose” was so ’90s that he agreed to drop it in favor of the slogan, “Sa akin, una ka sa eksena (For me, you take center stage).” He also dances to the lively K-Pop phenomenon “Gangnam Style,” although he was occasionally seen dozing off on stage and had to be assisted going down the platform.

“I’m trying to attract the young voters by saying we will push for student discounts, scholarships and help graduates get jobs,” said Maceda, who is running under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada.

“I need to get the young voters [to crack the Magic 12]. They are not really aware of our track record so it’s up to us to inform them,” he added.

Magsaysay said part of his campaign with the administration’s Team PNoy would focus on communicating his platform and track record, especially to voters who are probably too young to remember.

In 2005 and 2006, Magsaysay headed the Senate committee of agriculture investigation into the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. The committee said then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be “held accountable” and recommended the filing of charges against key agriculture officials.

“I’ve been out for a while so I have to work overtime,” he said. “We urge voters to do some research on the candidates’ track record so they would be enlightened on who really deserves to win.”

Keeping pace

Physically, Maceda sees no problem keeping pace with much younger candidates.

“We’ve been going around for six months and I’ve been able to survive,” said the former senator, who also went around the country as the campaign manager of the Joseph Estrada-Jejomar Binay ticket in the 2010 presidential election. “I have no lingering illness whatsoever. I had a full checkup before I decided to run.”

Magsaysay sounded more realistic even if he considers himself fit given his regular visit to the gym. Younger candidates, he said, “will keep running around but I’ll be there. It’s just a matter of pacing.”

He carries a similar attitude about surveys, the results of which, he said, was no indication that his time as an elected official has passed.

“The campaign has not officially started,” he said. “I believe that if your message resonates, you will remain relevant.”

Revilla calls Aquino potshots ‘all politics’’ By Cathy Yamsuan Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:18 pm | Thursday, February

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. shrugged off, on Thursday, potshots taken by President Benigno Aquino III against him in a speech endorsing the Liberal Party’s local candidates for Cavite province, call them “all politics.”

“Happy Birthday Mr. President. Thank you for taking time to visit our province,” the senator said in an e-mailed statement.

President Aquino celebrates his 53rd birthday on Friday.

“I salute you in your efforts to promote understanding, peace and unity in the country. “Mabuhay ka, Mr. President! May God bless you,” Revilla added.

Just a day earlier, Revilla described Mr. Aquino as “my friend (kaibigan ko)” during an informal discussion with Senate in his office in the Senate about his plans as newly elected chair of Lakas-CMD, which may tap him as standard bearer in the 2016 presidential elections.

“We don’t have a problem. This is all politics,” Revilla said.

Revilla also said then that Lakas would choose five senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party and endorse them, along with five others from the United Nationalist Alliance, during the local rallies of Lakas throughout the country.

Aquino: Beware of pretenders in yellow Aquino takes potshots at Revilla By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:13 am | Friday, February 8th, 2013

[BIRTHDAY BOY President Aquino, who celebrates his 53rd birthday Friday, walks past Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (right) during the “Alay sa Mamamayan” event in Imus City on Thursday. Also on the stage are (from left) Team PNoy senatorial candidate Bam Aquino and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.]

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Thursday warned against “riders” and “pretenders” who turn up in yellow shirts but don’t share the administration’s drive for good governance, at a gathering of Liberal Party candidates in Imus, Cavite.

On the stage with the President were Cavite Representatives Erineo Maliksi and Elpidio Barzaga Jr., Team PNoy senatorial candidates Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, among others.

The President said the gains made by his administration in the last two and a half years should not go to waste by electing the wrong leaders.

Those gains, he said, would further bloom “if we side with what is right and walk shoulder to shoulder on the path toward truth and good governance.”

‘Uncertain what color’

He then issued this caveat to his party mates: “Expect that there are those pretending and those that are riding on our crusade. There are those putting on yellow, but it’s uncertain what color they are inside.”

“Let’s not rely on chances or amulets (anting-anting),” he added, drawing laughter. The reference was apparently to Lakas party chairman Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. who plays amulet-wielding heroes in the movies.” Revilla’s son is running for vice governor of Cavite against the administration coalition Team PNoy’s candidate.

“Let’s make it a point to vet the next leaders of the country so that we’ll have momentum toward achieving our dreams,” Aquino said.

Maliksi, the Liberal Party’s gubernatorial candidate in the province, lauded President Aquino, who is celebrating his 53rd birthday Friday, for his “exemplary leadership marked by quality and true service to the people.”

Poverty alleviation drive

He thanked the President for spearheading Friday’s launch of the program “Alay sa Mamamayan” in Imus, Cavite, a project that focuses on rural poverty alleviation and addresses the welfare and basic needs of Caviteños.

“Indeed, President Aquino has shown to all of us what an excellent, quality leadership is—one that brings real development and aims to improve the lives of the people,” Maliksi said.

Aquino launched the multipronged project for Caviteños to kick off programs seeking to address pressing issues such as poverty, food security, education, health, livelihood and other basic concerns of the people in the province.

Harping on the administration’s good governance policy, the President said he had three more years to steer the country, and no one should be elected who is critical yet doesn’t offer solutions.

“Cavite and the whole country could only move forward if we march together on the path of good governance… true allies of the people and truthful public servants, they are what we need,” he said.

The President spelled out two choices for the electorate.

Truthful leaders

“On the one hand, there’s the path where the personal interests of officials prevail, while Cavite is mired in poverty and hopelessness. And then there’s the path of good governance, where leaders willingly serve to ensure that the lives of the people of Imus, Dasmariñas, Bacoor, Carmona, Alfonso, Silang and Ternate are peaceful, prosperous and fruitful,” he said.

“The future of Cavite hinges on how well you vet the truthful leaders,” he added.

The President also hinted that he would be tapping Lacson, who is on his last term in the Senate, for a government post, telling the audience he would be borrowing him from Cavite, as he had done with Abaya.

Aquino will preside over a Cabinet meeting on Friday, his birthday, in Malacañang.

“It’s a working day. We have a Cabinet meeting. As far as the President is concerned it is just an ordinary working day,” said Strategic Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang.

On Feb. 12, Team PNoy will launch its campaign for its senatorial candidates at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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