Cojuangco: No alliance with Villar
By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The leader of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) bloc in the House of Representatives disowned yesterday his party’s supposed alliance with presidential aspirant Sen. Manuel Villar and his Nacionalista Party.
Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco said NPC is sticking to its “neutral stance” when it comes to the position of president that is at stake in the May 10 elections.
“My father and I stand behind NPC’s neutral stance,” he said in a text message sent to The STAR.
His father is billionaire businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., NPC’s founder and chief financier, whom party members still regard as their principal leader.
“The NPC has done its duty by fielding its own (vice) presidential bet. Our participation in the presidential contest is now over,” Rep. Cojuangco said.
Two presidential candidates are nephews of the elder Cojuangco: Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP) and Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Rep. Cojuangco said NPC is supporting only the vice presidential bid of its member, Sen. Loren Legarda, who is Villar’s running mate.
He said his party president, former Isabela congressman Faustino Dy Jr., has apparently “acted unilaterally” on coalescing with Villar “without consulting with the rest of the party.”
“Let me stress: I do not agree with what Jun Dy has done, if in fact he has done so. And my father and I object to such an arrangement as it now does no good to be partisan,” he said.
He stressed that a coalition with Villar “will not help our local candidates; in fact, it will be very disruptive to them.”
Other members of the Cojuangco party said they would support their respective presidential candidates despite Dy’s supposed coalition with Villar’s NP.
The group of former South Cotabato Rep. Lou Antonino, her daughter incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio and Gov. Daisy Fuentes said they would continue to support the LP team of Aquino and Sen. Mar Roxas.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said he and several other NPC members are committed to Teodoro.
“We have committed to support Gibo and that will not change, the coalition notwithstanding. Our support for Gibo has been cleared with the party,” Aggabao said.
Other NPC congressmen backing Teodoro’s presidential candidacy include Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan, Elias Bulut of Kalinga-Apayao, Antonio Cerilles of Zamboanga del Sur, and George Arnaiz of Negros Oriental.
Teodoro headed the NPC bloc in the House when he was a Tarlac congressman.
Another party member, Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, said NPC members still enjoy freedom of choice in supporting presidential and vice presidential candidates.
“Kanya-kanya pa rin (It’s still each to his own). In my case, I am a senatorial candidate of Erap (former President Joseph Estrada), whose presidential candidacy I am supporting. They cannot force me to abandon Erap,” he said.
He said the party would not sanction those who will not support Dy’s candidate for president.
He recalled that their party decided against fielding or supporting a presidential candidate when Sen. Francis Escudero, a party member, backed out of the race.
The supposed coalition between Dy and Villar has created problems for local NPC candidates, according to former Rep. Antonino.
“There are 239 NPC members at the congressional, provincial and local levels who are being opposed by NP candidates. What happens to them?” she asked. – With Jose Rodel Clapano