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Campaign Day 44: Bus siege props up politicians

Many people thought they would be spared from the political noise of the campaign circus Wednesday, Campaign Day 44, when two gunmen seized a busload of children in Manila early morning and triggered a day-long crisis and put the Philippines in the international limelight. But as the crisis climaxed, the hostage incident proved nothing but a political stunt when the alleged mastermind, Armando Ducat Jr, aired long, rambling political statements and asked for Team Unity senatorial candidate Luis “Chavit" Singson and incumbent Sen. Ramon “Bong" Revilla to be at his side. Using a live interview with radio stations, Ducat--who in 2001 ran as an independent candidate in the congressional race for the 3rd district of Manila but lost to Harry Angping--slammed corruption, which is now rattling the administration after the release of a report that the Philippines ranked first among the most corrupt economies in Asia. Ducat had asked that he be allowed to talk to Revilla, who earlier told radio station DZBB that he knows Ducat as a "good man." The senator said he had known of Ducat since he was a governor of Cavite province. The hostage-taker, in his tirade on air, said he had learned that politicians spend P300 million for their campaign and once elected they would be tempted to recover their expenses through graft. He added that he believes some P500 billion of the P1.126-trillion 2007 national budget would be stolen by politicians, who surround President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He said the President by herself cannot curb corruption, hinting she needs the cooperation of the people. Ducat also assailed the city government of Manila government for funding the beautification of tourist areas such as Baywalk, Rizal Avenue and the Cultural Center but failing to build more school buildings and hospitals. He railed against the failure of politicians in the Philippines to make good on promises to provide free education and housing for the poor. "While generations of politicians change, we continue to suffer in poverty," Ducat said. "These politicians promise education, health and housing, but unless we stop corruption ... they will just feast on the budget." Ducat Jr surrendered at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday and released as promised his captives composed mostly of young children, ending nearly a 10-hour hostage crisis that was aired live by most TV stations. GMA's 24 Oras broadcast live the bus siege and one of its footage showed a service bus from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority being moved near the door of a rented tourist bus boarded by the captives to fetch the children and teachers shortly before 7 p.m. When the bus' door swung opened, TV cameramen zoomed in and the image of administration senatorial candidate Luis "Chavit" Singson and Ducat loomed larger on TV screens. The two, who were at the driver's seat, appeared to be talking. Singson earlier entered the bus that was parked at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila to negotiate for the release of the children, who all looked oblivious about the situation. Then the footage showed Singson taking one of the grenades Ducat brought into the bus aside from high-powered firearms to signal that the crisis is all over. Clutching dolls and backpacks, the children began filing off the bus past 7 p.m., as Ducat promised when officials allowed him to air a long, rambling message on a loudspeaker hours earlier. Ducat, a 56-year-old engineer, kissed the children good-bye as they got off the bus. MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando clarified that 26 children were seized and not 31 as earlier reported. GMA's 24 Oras footage later showed Ducat leaving the bus along with Singson and Revilla, who led him to a waiting police car. That was the time when all the hostages left the vehicle. White candles had been lit, in accordance with Ducat's request, and placed in yellow cups lined up under the yellow police tape used to cordon off the area. Police and other officials also held candles outside the bus, as did people in the crowd that went to watch the incident unfold. Garci to use ‘Hello, Garci’ tune in campaign The “Hello, Garci" tune is making a comeback, this time not to destabilize Mrs Arroyo but to prop up the congressional campaign of the man believed to be behind the infamous poll scandal—Virgilio Garcillano. QTV-11’s News on Q reported Wednesday night that Garcillano, who filed his candidacy for congressman of Bukidnon, will use the “Hello, Garci" tune that circulated as ringtones at the height of protests against Mrs Arroyo in 2005 as campaign jingle. The ring tone starts and ends with the ring of an analog phone. The music of rap group In Da Club "50 Cent" playing is used as background. It plays for 17 seconds and has the President saying, "Hello! Hello! Hello! Garci" three times and asking, "So, will I still lead by more than one million?" Garcillano is running as an independent. He is expected to run against Malou Acosta, the sibling of incumbent Rep. Nereus Acosta, in the first district of Bukidnon. Before filing his candidacy, the report said Garcillano went to several towns in a motorcade with his supporters. He wrote in his certificate of candidacy "Garci" and "Chill" as his nicknames. He said he was not afraid to use "Garci" in his electoral campaign even if the nickname reminded people of the scandal in the 2004 elections. Garcillano was allegedly involved in the electoral fraud or the so-called "Hello Graci scandal" that spelled presidential victory for Mrs Arroyo, three years ago. He allegedly delivered Mrs Arroyo's a one million vote margin in the May 2004 elections. The report about Garcillano's filing of candidacy immediately drew flak from the opposition. "It's the travesty of the electoral process when the principal character in the 'Hello Garci' scandal remains scot-free and is now running for public office," said Genuine Opposition Spokesman Adel Tamano in a press statement. "Garci is back and it's a very scary scenario. The 2004 presidential phonepal, a central figure in the alleged 2004 electoral fraud, is known in electoral circles as a 'technician'. His opponents should be very afraid. Moreover, given his history, his candidacy mocks the election process," he added. Tamano recalled how Senator Aquilino Pimentel has accused Garcillano not only of involvement in dagdag-bawas (vote padding/shaving) operations but also of distributing money in previous elections to Comelec officials from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The opposition also noted that at the height of the 'Hello Garci' controversy, wiretapped recording of alleged conversations between Garcillano and President Arroyo revealed the alleged complicity of Comelec, military and Malacaňang officials in the alleged operations to deliver one million votes to ensure the victory of the president over opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe, Jr. The scandal remains one of the biggest crises that befell the Arroyo administration in 2004 and President Arroyo has since publicly apologized while Garcillano went in hiding. The former Comelec official surfaced late last year and has never been charged. Stars glitter listings of local politicians Relatives and family members of politicians and government officials filed their candidacy before local Commission on Elections offices Wednesday, some of them accompanied by movie stars, GMA’s 24-Oras reported. With Albert "Bebong" Muñoz, who filed his certificate of candidacy for Caloocan 2nd district representative, was his girlfriend, actress Jolina Magdangal. "Ang maibibigay ko sa kanya ay yung moral support and lahat ng pwede kong magawa para sa kanya (The giving him moral support and other things I could)," Magdangal said. For his part, Muñoz promised to give the people a new way of campaigning. "Makabagong kampanya ang makikita nila. Hindi kami katrapo, katropa kami (You’ll see a brand new kind of campaign)." On the other hand, Anne Curtis was with her rumored boyfriend Erwin Genuino, son of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman Ephraim Genuino, who will run for representative of the 2nd district of Makati City. "I’m here to support him," Curtis said. Also with Genuino at the Comelec office were Sen. Lito Lapid and Nonoy Zuñiga, who are running for mayor and councilor, respectively. Genuino will be running against lawyer Abigail Binay, daughter of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, who is seeking reelection. "Maganda naman po yung chances namin even against Binay (We big chances of defeating Binay)," Genuino said. In Caloocan, City Mayor Enrico "Recom" Echiverri accompanied his son, Councilor Ricojudge Janvier "RJ" Echiverri in filing his candidacy for representative of the 1st district of the city. With them was actress Marjorie Baretto, who is running for councilor in the city’s 2nd district. Marjorie is the sister of Gretchen and Claudine Baretto and wife of actor and incumbent Caloocan councilor Dennis Padilla. Actress Isabel Granada accompanied her husband Geryk Genaskey, who filed his candidacy for vice mayor of Angeles, Pampanga. In Bacoor, Cavite, Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr acted as the campaign manager of his brother, Edwin "Strike" Revilla, who filed his candidacy for the mayoral post. Meanwhile, Dawn Zulueta was with her husband Anton Lagdameo when the latter submitted his COC for representative of Davao. The other members of the show business who filed their candidacy were Jestoni Alarcon, seeking a congressional post in Antipolo City; Teri Onor, running for vice mayor of Abucay, Bataan and Aiko Melendez, seeking re-election for councilor of Quezon City. Actress Ara Mina is also expected to run for councilor of Quezon City. And Melendez gave her this advice: ““If ever…gusto ko lang sabihin sa kanya ..kung merong isang percentage ng doubt sa puso niya sa pagtakbo niya wag niyang ituloy. Kasi ang pulitika is something that you have to be serious, you have to have 100 percent ng paninindigan mo (I want to advice candidates to drop their bid if they can’t be 100 percent of service to the people)." - GMANews.TV