"There’s no denying the FPJ factor. It’s still a romantic relationship between the people and the memory of my Dad so that when they see me they see an image of him in the form of hope. Much is expected in terms of my demeanor, and what stands I have."
You’re running as an independent, yet you’ve been supporting bills put forward by the administration.
Sometimes people will ask how come the bills I’ve supported are the ones the administration pushed for. For me, it doesn’t matter whether a bill was filed by the administration or opposition. If I feel a particular bill will be good for the public, I will support it.
One controversial one is the one on the position of Martial Law in Mindanao, which I supported. But not until after I listened to the security briefings, after I consulted my supporters, the ones on the ground in Mindanao, the ones who are there. And I was told that we really need it. Because it gives a semblance of safety and peace, the perception is important to them.
It’s still not normal in many parts of the country. What’s important, of course, is that there are safeguards in place, like no illegal arrests. We also have to keep revisiting this every six months to see if we need to renew it.
How difficult was it to return to the Senate after your defeat in the 2016 presidential elections?
I must admit that yes, it was hard, especially that first month. It was like a walk of shame, walking back into the chambers after I had lost. Not that I had done anything morally wrong or had anything to be ashamed of, but it was a walk of shame because I had lost.
Still, I must say that even after I lost, I continued on. I didn’t miss work. I didn’t disappear. I was still there. I had to push myself to go on because it was also my way of showing the people who supported me that I still had the platform I wanted to push for the country. I wasn’t going to give up just because I didn’t make it to President.
I was still there, I was still one of 24 senators who could do something. I kept in touch with my supporters, I showed them the results. That’s why now, even if I’m running as an independent, there’s some goodwill planted all over the country. And because I’m independent, no matter what party they’re affiliated with, they can always put one more on their list of 12.
After the presidential elections, many had been hoping you would take on the role of leader of the opposition. Why didn’t you?
Because it’s not very clear what the opposition is now. Sometimes people perceive the opposition has to be against the administration, in particular, a personality in the administration.
I don’t want to be less productive because of politics. I felt I could have more impact if I joined the majority so a relevant committee could be assigned to me. I feel that the Senate is an independent institution. I believe you join the majority if you support the Senate President’s line of leadership. And for me, Senator Tito Sotto is the consensus Senate President. Yes, we belong to the majority. But did you see how Senator Sotto protected Senator Trillanes from illegal arrest during that time? Because it’s the institution Senator Sotto was protecting, and that’s how I see it.
This is also why my being independent is important. Because it symbolizes the independence of our particular legislative branch. Right now, with a very popular president, the perception is that the Supreme Court, there is talk, just talk though, that the majority will be appointed by the president. Traditionally, Congress will always go with the administration. The Senate is the arbiter in this. I hope people will realize that, and it is symbolic for me, an independent, to remain in the top spot.
I know I can’t be complacent about this because we are going into the final stretch, and I don’t have the political machinery for the last push. Every mayor, every official, will of course put the administration candidates first, so I’m relying on people’s sentiments, emotions, and hope that they will remember me on election day.