By Ben Rosario
DAVAO CITY – The miting de avance of Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial candidates was staged tonight sans the much-awaited presence of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal –Arroyo showed up but no longer spoke in the event hosted by HNP chairperson and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The presidential daughter announced that her father was watching the live streaming of the event at his home but could no longer join the estimated 10,000 Davaoenos who witnessed the holding of the grand rally.
The president had accepted his daughter’s invitation to grace the last of 69 campaign sorties Mayor Duterte and HNP supporters staged all over the country since the campaign period started on February 12.
Duterte is backing a 12-man senatorial ticket composed of PDP-Laban and guest candidates from other allied political parties.
ON the other hand, the HNP is backing 13 senatorial candidates that included comebacking senatorial candidates Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla and broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad.
Taking their place in Duterte’s list are former Secretary Rafael Alunan and folk singer Freddie Aguilar.
“It’s a good thing PRRD chose to stay away from the HNP event. Many feared that he might spoil the event by being too candid about his true feelings towards Revilla and Estrada,” a source from the HNP camp said.
“Baka masabi ni presidente ang dahilan kung bakit ayaw niya kay Estrada at Revilla,” the source added.
The source noted that in campaign speeches during PDP-Laban rallies, Duterte usually airs his reasons in his choice of the senatorial lineup.
Last week, when Mayor Sara announced that her father was invited to the grand rally, she disclosed that she asked the president to “behave” when he delivers his speech.
Top honchos of HNP came in full force to demonstrate unity in supporting the 13 senatorial candidates endorsed by the regional party.
Among them were HNP founders Governors Claude Bautista of Davao Davao Occidental; Anthony del Rosario of Davao Occidental and Tyrone Uy of Compostela Valley.
Romblon Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who acted as the emcee, and incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez were also present.
The two sure winners of congressional races are expected to compete for the speakership of the 18th Congress.
Arroyo took a side trip to the HNP rally after attending the wake for late former Speaker Prospero Nograles and the late former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano.
In a rare demonstration of unity, all 13 senatorial candidates made it to the miting de avance.
They are re-electionist Senators Sonny Angara, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar, and Ejercito, former special assistant to the president Christopher “Bong” Go, former PNP chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, Reps. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu and Pia Cayetano, Revilla, Estrada, and Manicad.