Star power in low-key UNA party launch on Wednesday

Star power in low-key UNA party launch on Wednesday

It's been billed as low-key but the launch of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will not lack star power, with boxing icon Manny Pacquiao expected to attend the event.

UNA will be officially launched Wednesday at Makati Coliseum as the "dominant opposition party in the country," party spokesman Mon Ilagan said on Tuesday.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was expected to deliver a speech at the launch where he will outline the party's mission and vision.

"The Vice President will outline the policy direction of the party and give his marching orders to the coordinators," said Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA interim president.

The Sarangani representative, who is reportedly eyeing a Senate seat in 2016, is one of the nine UNA representatives who will attend the political party's formal launch at the 3,000-seat coliseum.

"Was informed by his camp that MP (Manny Pacquiao) will attend the launch," said Yacap Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez, a close friend of Pacquiao who hails from General Santos City.

Wooing Pacquiao

Since last year, the Binay camp has been wooing Pacquiao to join its senatorial lineup. In March, Pacquiao's wife, Jinkee, told a TV news crew that her husband was considering a run for the Senate.

Tiangco said Wednesday's event was the "first meeting of UNA ever since it was accredited as a political party."

"It's the start of the process of organising the party and preparing for 2016," he added.

Binay was expected to be elected UNA chair. Tiangco said delegates would also hold the election of the party's president, vice president, secretary general and treasurer. On the party vision, Ilagan said UNA would push for governance, reduction of poverty and rule of law.

Launching in provinces

After Wednesday's launch, Ilagan said UNA would hold soft launches in Cebu and other provinces.

Invited to join Binay at the launch were former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, his son Sen. JV Ejercito and Sen. Vicente Sotto III.

Tiangco told the Inquirer that Estrada said he would have to check his schedule if he could make it at Wednesday's launch.

Estrada is reportedly supporting Sen. Grace Poe, the new front-runner in recent surveys, if she runs for President.

One of UNA's three pillars will be absent: Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is in detention over the pork barrel fund scam.

Ejercito earlier said he was supposed to go on a trip abroad but would attend the launch if he would be here by Wednesday.

Sotto, a senior member of the Nationalist People's Coalition, was in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, and said he could not make it Wednesoday.

Honasan, Teves

Expected to attend Wednesday's event were Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, UNA interim vice president, and former Finance Secretary Gary Teves, interim treasurer, according to Ilagan. Tiangco said all nine UNA representatives, led by Makati Rep. Abigail Binay, were expected at the event.

Besides Tiangco and Abigail Binay, the other UNA members at the House of Representatives are Makati Rep. Monique Lagdameo, Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, Iloilo Rep. Hernan Biron Jr., Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, Agri Rep. Delphine Lee and Pacquiao.

Tiangco earlier said Wednesday's event would not be a "show of force," as only the incumbent UNA representatives, governors and mayors would attend.

Tiangco said the UNA launch would involve "no announcement of candidates."

Wednesday's UNA launch comes at a time when Binay's son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, who is on the brink of being suspended from office, is facing a crisis.

But the ongoing standoff at Makati City Hall was not expected to spoil Wednesday's party, Tiangco said. "Those who believe in the party will be even more determined and passionate."

Chilling effect

Still, he acknowledged that the ongoing bid by the Aquino administration to suspend Mayor Binay would have a "chilling effect" on the party's incumbent officials and those who wish to join it.

Abigail Binay earlier expressed her intention to remain with the majority coalition in the House unless asked to leave by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. "Even if you are not allied with the administration, you can still be part of the majority" in the House, she said last week.

She cited the unique dynamics in the 289-strong chamber in which "it doesn't automatically mean you're pro-admin if you're in the majority." It will depend on the nature of legislation, she said.

But Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, a vocal Binay critic, said the House majority would be "demoralized" if UNA lawmakers, including the Vice President's daughter, Abigail, were to remain with the coalition.

He said UNA members should not be allowed to reap the advantages of being in the majority coalition while at the same time being critical of the Aquino administration. "That's just politics of convenience. We should change that," Erice told a press forum.

He said the majority coalition was formed precisely to support the policy of the Aquino administration.

"Will they support the bills being pushed by the administration?" he said.

Speaker Belmonte earlier said he would leave it to the judgment of UNA members whether to stay or to leave the coalition.

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