Archbishop Antonio Ledesma (second from left) receives opposition senatorial candidates who paid him a courtesy visit during his 76th birthday celebration at his residence on Thursday evening. Visiting Ledesma are Samira Gutoc (second from right) and Erin Tañada (left), and Simon Aquino (right), who represented Sen. Bam Aquino. (Jigger J. Jerusalem/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Some members of the opposition team “Otso Diretso” took the time out to attend the 76th birthday celebration of Archbishop Antonio Ledesma at his residence on Thursday night, March 28.

In attendance were senatorial candidates Samira Gutoc and Erin Tañada and representatives of Sen. Bam Aquino and Chel Diokno.

The team came from visiting Marawi City and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte for a town hall meeting there.

During an interview on the sidelines of the archbishop’s birthday party, Tañada said he was thankful that a group of Roman Catholic laypersons and evangelical and protestant church leaders, who organized themselves as the People’s Choice Movement (PCM), have endorsed the Otso Diretso candidates on Wednesday.

Also on the PCM list are Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Aquino, Diokno, Makabayan senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, incumbent Sen. Grace Poe, and former senator Mar Roxas.

“I’d like to thank the PCM because we all know that Christian faiths when they come together, they comprise a big number of votes,” Tañada said.

He added, “if they (PCM) fulfill what they promised they would do to campaign, it will be a big help for Otso Diretso.”

For her part, Gutoc said she was “very humbled” by the endorsement.

“It (PCM endorsement) just validates Otso Diretso and what we stand for despite all odds. There are times that local government units don’t welcome us,” she said.

“Maybe we don’t need the ‘command vote.’ We just need the command of the people, the command of the Catholic church, the command of the faith communities. That’s what we need,” Gutoc added.

In a separate interview, Ledesma would personally endorse the candidates who are backed by the PCM.

“Personally, I would support the PCM list, but not as an institutional leader of the church but as a voter, a Filipino citizen. I agree that these are good choices,” he said. (

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