On the day Manny Pacquiao filed his candidacy for president, security guard Phil delos Reyes made sure to make the most of the few minutes he got in front of a socially-distanced scrum of journalists to outline his 18-point plan to lift the Philippines from the pandemic.
Delos Reyes is among obscure aspirants for national posts who some would easily dismiss as nuisance bets. Working from paycheck-to-paycheck like millions other voters, he filed his candidacy for senator on his rest day, garbed in his work uniform to drive home the point that he is part of the working class.
Delos Reyes told his fellow security guards in a Facebook Live on Monday that he wanted to represent them in the Senate because no one else would.
"Bakit tayo hinayaan, bakit tayo isinantabi lang, bakit tayo'y parang 'di napapansin? So time na para magpapansin tayo, time na para gagawin natin ang para sa atin at ipapa-implement natin ang karapat-dapat para sa mamamayang Pilipino."
If elected, Delos Reyes said he would craft a law placing satellite offices of government agencies like PhilHealth, SSS, Pag-IBIG in all local government units to make it easier to get permits and other documents.
"Sinasamantala ang mga security ngayon tulad ko, talagang 'di na maganda. Kung kailangan local government ang magma-manage o mamamahala, bakit hindi?" he said. With measly take-home pay, security guards like him go through a lot to land their job, he said.
Netizens were impressed, with some trying to find ways to help fund De los Reyes' campaign, with an appeal to the Comelec not to declare him a nuisance.
Why are they running against big names?
Labor leader Leody de Guzman, who wants to run for president, said he understood Delos Reyes' point of view, that of an ordinary worker. He said the qualifications to be senator are more stringent than that of a security guard.
According to the Constitution, a senator should be at least 35 years old, able to read and write, is a registered voter and is a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years before election day.
"Mababa ang ligal na rekisito subalit bakit hindi tumatakbo ang mga kinatawan ng ordinaryong manggagawa't mamamayan sa mga pambansang posisyon? Dahil wala tayong panggastos," De Guzman said in a Facebook post.
"Nakasanayan natin na ang ordinaryong mga sibilyan ay 'tagaboto' lamang tuwing halalan. Dahil nakagisnan nating tayo ay walang kapangyarihan (hindi man lang nga kinokonsulta) at tagasunod lamang sa mga batas at patakaran ng pamahalaan."
Near tears, senatorial aspirant and street food seller Nelson Ancajas said he was running to make sure that the people benefit from state coffers.
"Aanhin n'yo pa ang tulong na binigay ng gobyerno sa mamamayang Pilipino kung binigay na ang tulong ay patay na ang isang Pilipino? Bakit n'yo ipagdadamot ang pera sa mga Pilipino na dapat ay sa kanila samantalang kayong mga pulitiko hindi naman sa inyo ang pera, kaya dapat ibigay ang nararapat sa kanila," he said, while holding a tarpaulin showing his sick baby.
Ponciano Leyte Jr, who also filed his candidacy for senator, said he was tired of listening to senators bickering during hearings.
"Ako'y nabibingi na rin sa mga ginagawa d'yan sa Senado na puro batikos, puro komento samantalang kami dito sa baba para na lang nanonood sa teleserye sa TV na nag-aantay kung ano ang mangyayari," he said.
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Can they win?
Elections in the Philippines are largely a popularity contest where the rich and famous get instant advantage. That's especially true in the Senate, where relative unknowns have yet to be elected.
Can Delos Santos the security guard become senator? It happened in the U.S., where former bartender-waitress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected representative of New York and is one of the fastest-rising young stars of the Democratic Party.
Labor leader De Guzman said the time has come for workers to assert themselves in politics.
"Hindi natin makakalimutan 'yang sistema ngayon, na may nadedehado, ayoko ng ganun. Gusto ko pantay-pantay tayo, walang maiiwanan, lahat tayo magkakaroon ng magandang benefits, magandang sahod, para happy tayong lahat pati pamilya natin," Delos Reyes said.