Danding, son remain neutral, won’t support any presidential bet
By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) founder and billionaire businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. and his son, Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, reiterated they would remain neutral and not support a presidential candidate in the May 10 elections.
The Cojuangcos said they support only the NPC vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Loren Legarda.
“My father and I stand behind NPC’s neutral stance,” he said in a text message sent to The STAR.
Earlier, Rep. Cojuangco denied that NPC has entered into an alliance with Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar and his party.
He said their party was sticking to its neutral stance when it comes to the position of president that is at stake in the coming elections.
Cojuangco Jr. is the NPC’s chief financier, whom party members still regard as their principal leader.
In a statement, Valenzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian, NPC spokesman, said their party has fielded and is supporting only Senator Legarda, the running mate of Senator Villar.
Gatchalian made the clarification in the wake of reports of the supposed coalition of NP and NPC, and that the latter is now supporting Villar.
He quoted Rep. Cojuangco, who heads the NPC bloc in the House of Representatives, as saying their party’s support is limited to Legarda.
“We may not have a presidential aspirant in these elections, but the NPC has not wavered in its commitment to support Sen. Legarda,” Gatchalian further quoted Cojuangco as declaring.
Gatchalian denied reports that some NPC leaders have dropped Legarda in favor of Sen. Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party.
Rep. Cojuangco earlier said his party chairman, former Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy Jr., had “acted unilaterally” in 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.
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 Liberal Party team of Aquino and Roxas.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said he and several other NPC members are committed to Gilbert Teodoro of the administration Lakas-Kampi.
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 “Ompong” 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 Estrada), whose presidential candidacy I am supporting. They cannot force me to abandon Erap,” Plaza 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.