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At Large

Conspicuous absence

/ 05:04 AM February 27, 2019

Despite their many overwhelming advantages—ample campaign funds, the administration’s all-out support, a national network of local officials and ardent supporters on- and offline—why is it that the administration senatorial candidates seem awfully leery of engaging in debate with the opposition?

It’s puzzling, because many pro-Duterte candidates are reelectionists who have no reason to shun the public exposure provided by public affairs events such as debates.

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Despite a condescending acceptance of a challenge hurled by the opposition Otso Diretso team, Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates and their other political hangers-on were conspicuous in their absence at the debate scheduled to be held at the historic Plaza Miranda, the traditional center of political activity in the premartial law days.

It was also to take place on Feb. 25, which is observed in these islands as the anniversary of People Power, the revolt that overthrew the Marcos regime and sent the family packing to Hawaii.

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Was it this inauspicious occasion that prevented the Hugpong folk from taking the stage? It would have been awkward indeed, given that Imee Marcos is among the administration lineup. Although, officially, Hugpong said its candidates were busy with campaign sorties in Bulacan.

But it was Otso candidate Florin Hilbay who summed up the situation succinctly: “We’re not the ones (who were) shunned here. They shunned the nation.”

Or was it a case of knowing they were defending the indefensible?

The late National Artist Nick Joaquin had described Plaza Miranda as “the crossroads of the nation, the forum of the land.” Indeed, President Ramon Magsaysay immortalized the public square when he would ask advisers: “Can we defend this at Plaza Miranda?”

By their absence on Sunday, the administration’s candidates proved they just could not defend their performance, positions or support for the man in Malacañang.

* * *

Late for the dinner with media, J.G. Estela Ishihara bent from the waist, holding her head down and uttering some words in Japanese which we understood to be an abject apology for her tardiness.

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Then Estela began to speak, and we heard traces of a Filipino accent but with a curious lilt. It turns out that Ishihara is from Bacolod, though she has spent 13 years in Japan and is raising a preteen Filipino-Japanese son.

She is also marketing event coordinator of AA Japan/Philanka, based in Subic, which markets Japanese trucks to customers around the world. From 200 to 300 trucks are currently housed in the company’s compound and, so far, despite being a relative newcomer in the refurbished trucks scene in the country, AA Japan/Philanka is doing well, thank you.

“I love trucks!” exclaims Ishihara, obviously pleased with how the local market has responded. “We sold 14 on the first day,” she shares, and divulges that they aim to sell some 3,000 units for 2019. The brisk response she attributes to the many construction and infrastructure projects taking place around the country — a hopeful sign, it seems.

* * *

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TAGS: 2019 elections, 2019 senatorial candidates, At Large, EB-5 Investment Visa, HNP, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, J.G. Estela Ishihara, Otso Diretso, rina jimenez david, senatorial candidates' debate
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