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MANILA, Philippines - They were invited and so they came to help but not campaign.
Politicians who were earlier included in the administration's senatorial line-up for 2013 on Friday defended their presence in President Benigno Aquino III's relief drive for flood victims in Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon.
Aurora Rep. Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Rozzano Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon, forrmer Akbayan partylist Rep. Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva, said they had joined Aquino because they wanted to help people who were displaced by torrential monsoon rains that submerged most parts of the metropolis and several provinces in Luzon. [SEE RELATED STORY]
The four said that campaigning wasn't part of their agenda when Aquino invited them to join him in his visits to flooded areas.
“We didn't think of that as early campaigning. We were asked to help and we didn't think twice,” said Angara.
“Between helping and staying at home, I chose to help. I think most people would have done the same,” the lawmaker added.
Also, Hontiveros defended her presence in Aquino's activities, saying that relief operations were part of Akbayan's services for the people.
“When the President invited me to join his relief operations, wanting to ask our kababayan if they were getting their urgent needs and telling them about the government’s strategic flood control plans, I felt it was consistent, not contradictory to what we were doing,” she said.
Asked if she was planning to run for the Senate next year, Hontiveros, who lost in the 2010 mid-term polls, said that Akbayan, during its recent national congress, had accepted the President’s invitation for her to join the administration slate.
For his part, Villanueva said he felt that it was his duty to comply with the President’s invitation for him to join in the relief efforts.
“I am a Cabinet official and serve at the pleasure of the commander-in-chief,” he said.
He added that TESDA had conducted livelihood and community-based trainings in the past for the flood victims of Bagong Silangan in Quezon City, one of the areas badly hit by floodwaters during typhoon Ondoy in 2009.
Meanwhile, Biazon defended his presence during Aquino's visit to Muntinlupa City last August 8. He said he had joined the President because "my constituents are there."
Biazon ran for senator in 2010 under the Liberal Party, but failed to make it to the top 12. He was later on appointed to the BOC. Before his attempt for a Senate seat in 2010, he was congressman of Muntinlupa, a post now being held by his father.
Asked about his plans for 2013, Biazon said that he had not yet firmed up his decision, but added that he “is happier as a legislator.”