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MANILA, Philippines - Was the President in a relief operation or in an early poll campaign when he visited areas in Metro Manila devastated by floods?
During his visit to flood victims in the cities of Marikina, Quezon, Caloocan, Malabon, Muntinlupa, and Valenzuela, Aquino was joined by Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Rozzano Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon, Akbayan partylist spokesperson Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva.
Last June, Sen. Franklin Drilon, vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party, said that Angara, Biazon, Hontiveros, and Villanueva had been included on the LP senatorial lineup for the 2013 polls. But in July, Biazon was quoted by the media as saying that he was eager to continue his job at the BOC than run in 2013.
Photos from Malacanang show Aquino, on board an Army truck, greeting flood victims of Muntinlupa City on Wednesday with Hontiveros and Biazon to his left, and Villanueva to his right along with celebrity sister Kris Aquino and Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.
Other Palace photos show the chief executive giving goods to Muntinlupa folk with Villanueva and Biazon also on August 8.
More Palace photos show Aquino distributing relief goods in Marikina City on August 9 with Hontiveros, Villanueva, and Angara.
On August 3, Aquino was also seen with Hontiveros when he went to Happy Land in Tondo to check on the condition of families displaced by a water surge induced by Typhoon Gener.
But Aquino on Thursday defended the presence of the "senatoriables" in his relief drive.
Aquino said he had brought Villanueva with him because TESDA is in charge of providing education and livelihood training vouchers.
Also, Aquino said Angara was with him in order to ensure that the 2013 proposed General Appropriations Act is passed on time.
"Sisipsip ho tayo dito for our budget. (Angara) is a member of Congress, and they are now deliberating on our proposed budget," the President said.
"Sonny is here because it is budget time in Congress. If we suggest that we need certain projects to be authorized, I believe Sonny will take the lead in promoting everybody's interest so we do not have to content with this annual season of massive flooding," Aquino added.
Moreover, the President described Villanueva, Angara, and Hontiveros as "people who help us" during the Valenzuela leg of his visits. - with Chichi Conde