Tañada to Hugpong bets: Quit hiding under Sara Duterte's skirt

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Erin Tañada dared Hugpong ng Pagbabago's (HNP) Senate bets to speak up for themselves, now that their party chair, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has vowed to end her "bullying" of the opposition.

"Tignan natin kung matapang 'yung mga senador na lumalaban sa ilalim ng HNP," Tañada told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday. "Dapat sila na 'yung magsalita. Hindi na dapat sila magtago sa saya ni Sara."

[Translation: Let's see if the senators running under HNP are brave … They should now be the ones speaking. They should no longer hide under Sara's skirt.]

Tañada, a former House Deputy Speaker, suspects that HNP bets are afraid of speaking on their own because they are having difficulty in defending the Duterte administration's stance on issues.

It has been reported that Duterte-Carpio said during a campaign rally over the weekend that the "Inday Sara Show" against the opposition has packed up, upon the request of her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman.

She said Zimmerman called her to end her "bullying" against opposition candidates.

However, Tañada said they never felt like they were bullied by the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"We just felt that their leader, their campaign manager was speaking out, but you don't hear anything from the soldiers, tahimik. Dahil, 'Pabayaan na lang natin nagsasalita naman 'yung bosing' [silent. Because, 'Let's just let the boss speak,']" Tañada said.

Sought for comment on Zimmerman's reported advice to Duterte-Carpio, Vice President Leni Robredo said, "Mothers know best."

"Ngayon ay campaign season. Napakahalaga para sa amin ng senatorial elections, kaya nga pinagpapaguran. Ayaw sana natin na malihis sa tamang mga issues na dapat pagdebatehan, kasi aagawin pa namin iyong atensyon galing sa mga kandidato. Hindi naman kami kandidato," Robredo said.

[Translation: It's now the campaign season. Senatorial elections are very important for us, that's why we're exerting a lot of effort into it. We do not want it to be diverted from the right issues to debate about, because we'll be hogging attention from the candidates. We are not candidates.]

Prior to her wrapping up her attacks on the opposition, Duterte-Carpio unleashed a string of tirades against Otso Diteso, poking at their supposed dishonesty following allegations from Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano that former Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go used government funds for his campaign shirts.

The Davao City mayor also brought up claims that Robredo is a "fake" vice president, echoing the electoral protest filed by 2016 vice presidential race loser and former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. against the Vice President.

Comelec 'copped out' on debate

Meanwhile, Otso Diretso bets are still bent on having a debate against HNP senatorial candidates, even if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has thumbed down their request out of concerns that they would be accused of preferential treatment.

Tañada echoed other Otso Diretso candidates, saying that the poll body copped out from its duty to help voters choose candidates.

He said that if the Comelec found that the number of senatorial bets to be too many to hold a debate, then it should just split the candidates in different debates hosted by media networks.

"All we're asking them is to set the guidelines and then pass it onto the networks," Tañada said.

He previously figured in an online spat with Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, a former colleague in the House of Representatives, over the holding of debates between Otso Diretso and HNP bets. Angara is among the HNP candidates who have not yet appeared in any debate hosted by major media entities.

After being challenged by Tañada to a debate at Plaza Miranda on the anniversary of the People Power uprising, Angara said he would rather debate with him in the Senate.

"Wala bang karapatan ang Deputy Speaker na magtanong sa isang senador kung bakit siya naging tahimik sa iba't-ibang issue?" Tañada said.

[Translation: Does a Deputy Speaker have no right to ask a senator why he has been silent on several issues?]

Tañada said Angara is having a hard time, having shepherded the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, which has been blamed for rapid inflation last year.

He added that he would still like to debate Angara on women's rights, extrajudicial killings and the new law lifting restrictions on the importation of rice.