[LOVE IS IN THE AIR President Aquino answers questions from the media who asked him how he would spend Valentine’s Day during a briefing in San Pablo City, Laguna, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. LYN RILLON]

MANILA, FEBRUARY 18, 2013 (INQUIRER) By TJ Burgonio and Cathy C. Yamsuan - —“We’re married to our countrymen until June 30, 2016, 12 noon,” President Aquino said Thursday when asked if he had a Valentine’s date?

“After that, maybe we can prioritize that if there is still a chance.” He’ll be 56 by then.

Before giving that answer, the President said, “Maybe, we’ll try to find someone in the Internet,” drawing chuckles.

He shared the campaign stage with some Team PNoy candidates here on the day of hearts.

Mr. Aquino turned up at a massive rally for the senatorial candidates in an elementary school gym, rallying the people to campaign for Team PNoy senatorial candidates after visiting the International Rice Research Institute in Los Bańos, Laguna.

It was a regular working day for the 53-year-old bachelor, whose love life has been a running topic in the media since he assumed office in June 2010.

In an otherwise serious speech that harped on his good governance policy and dredged up the anomalies of the Arroyo administration, Mr. Aquino made amusing references about Valentine’s Day–like being greeted only by his male friends–but indicated his love life could wait after June 2016.

Asked later by reporters if he has a date later in the evening, he said: “I’ll try to find someone to talk to so that Joshua won’t tire if we’re the only ones talking.” Joshua is his nephew by celebrity sister Kris Aquino.

Ahead of the Valentine’s Day, Team PNoy senatorial candidates wished that he could find not only a date but true love for the rest of his life.

Grace Poe, one of Team PNoy’s senatorial candidates, greeted the President “Happy Valentine’s Day” and thanked him for choosing to spend the day with them.

The President had come straight from the IRRI headquarters, where he was briefed by IRRI and agriculture officials on the IRRI Research Agenda and IRRI-Philippines Partnership.

Mr. Aquino, wearing his trademark yellow T-shirt, coughed midway through his speech, and jested that “there is hope somebody might remember [me] tonight.”

He recounted receiving Valentine greetings from his male friends, except for Poe.

Otherwise, to highlight Team PNoy’s good governance platform, the President skewered the Arroyo administration over a highly overpriced P18.5-billion dredging of Laguna de Bay, an incomplete rural electrification program and a costly “Tulay ng Pangulo” infrastructure program.

Without naming him, the President said he called a meeting of local officials in provinces around the lake to discuss the dredging project, and recalled that a high official in Laguna arrived two-and-a-half hours late. He was apparently referring to Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito.

“Since this official is hard-working, he asked what has been tackled so far [in the meeting],” he said, drawing chuckles from the large crowd. “When he gave interviews later, he said the government would push for the project [contrary to the agreement].”

In contrast, he said the government built the Quezon Avenue-Araneta Avenue underpass for only P430 million 100 days ahead of schedule last year, was now completing the electrification of 36,000 more sitios and was on track of delivering conditional cash transfer to its targeted of 3.8 million poor households this year.

This, he said, was proof of the administration’s good governance.

“In the tuwid na daan (good governance), we rectified that kind of system. And because of your involvement in our agenda, we succeeded. Indeed, the mind-set of our bosses has changed,” Mr. Aquino said.

Speaking of his candidates, the President said they represented good governance.

Apart from Poe, Risa Hontiveros, former Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV turned up at the rally.

Bing Pimentel represented her son, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, while Tony Legarda pitched in for his daughter, Sen. Loren Legarda.

The President concluded his speech by rallying the people of San Pablo City not only to vote for the Team PNoy candidates, but campaign for them.

“We’re about to begin the second half of our term. Our dream is that the reforms we’re experiencing are not only temporary. We want the reforms toward the right path of good governance to become permanent. It’s hard to do things by yourself. But with you joining us, there’s no challenge that we can’t overcome,” he said.

“It’s our hope that your support will be complete. I’ll risk being called thick-faced, and if possible, let’s not just vote for them; let’s campaign for them so we can be certain we will not only continue the reforms but fast-track them,” the President added.

On the third day of the campaign, half of the Team PNoy slate was missing in action at the rally here.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of the Liberal Party, immediately doused speculations, saying reelectionist Senators Legarda, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV and Pimentel, along with Las Pińas Rep. Cynthia Villar, had “previous engagements” they could no longer reschedule.

Legarda personally told the Philippine Daily Inquirer at dinner on Tuesday night she would be in Legazpi City, Albay, to grace a tree-planting event at the invitation of the mayor.

Cayetano stood as wedding sponsor at the Kasalang Bayan of 154 couples in Taguig City, where his wife Lani is the mayor.

Trillanes and Pimentel said they had “prior commitments” made before Drilon finalized the Team PNoy sorties this week.

Escudero was busy with meetings in his campaign headquarters although speculation was rife he would also celebrate Valentine’s Day with girlfriend Heart Evangelista, whose birthday was on Thursday.

In a phone interview, Drilon chuckled and said he “could understand” Escudero’s predicament.

Turning serious, he added that no deeper indications should be inferred from the absence of six of the 12 senatorial candidates from the Laguna sortie.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved