Arroyo party breaking up; First Gentleman blamed

Arroyo party breaking up; First Gentleman blamed
Mike A ‘called up’ Garcias to back Villar
By TJ Burgonio, Aquiles Zonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Reports that First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo is backing another presidential candidate forced Gilbert Teodoro Jr. to quit as chair of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, party mates said Wednesday.

The administration party teetered on disintegration after Lakas president Sarangani Gov. Miguel “Migz” Dominguez and party secretary general Francis Manglapus followed Teodoro’s lead and quit their posts Wednesday.

“It’s true. The First Gentleman and his allies are supporting Manny Villar. That may have triggered Teodoro’s resignation,” said a Lakas senatorial candidate, who asked not to be named.

Even before the start of the national campaign on Feb. 9, it was an “open secret” among his party mates that Mike Arroyo was bankrolling the campaign of the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, the administration senatorial candidate said.

“And he (Teodoro) doesn’t believe that GMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) doesn’t know about this,” he added.

Teodoro quit as party chair Tuesday purportedly to focus on his campaign, and to allow the party to tap a full-time chair who could respond to the needs of local officials.

Because of reports that Mike Arroyo is backing Villar, the NP standard-bearer’s allies in Lakas-Kampi-CMD, especially the original members of Kampi, have started to defect to Villar’s camp. The most recent among them was Cebu Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, according to the Lakas senatorial candidate.

A number of Lakas stalwarts in Mindanao have also declared their support for Villar—among them Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas, who also defected to the NP; Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy, the Lakas chair in the province; and Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri.

Luis “Chavit” Singson, presidential assistant on national security, also recently announced his resignation as Lakas coordinator in Ilocos and declared himself an independent candidate for governor of Ilocos Sur. Later he said he was backing Villar.

He said he had to address his differences with the Lakas standard-bearer. “When Gibo was secretary of defense, he did not give me an appointment. Despite my many attempts for us to meet, he did not give me time,” Singson said.

More than halfway through the campaign, the former defense secretary trails Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Villar and deposed President Joseph Estrada in surveys, stuck at 6 percent.

Gossip

The opposition has claimed that Villar who is battling Aquino for No. 1 in the polls was Ms Arroyo’s “secret candidate,” an allegation dismissed by presidential spokespersons as “black propaganda.”

“That’s absolutely, completely false. That’s gossip. As far as I know, they’re supporting Gibo,” Mike Arroyo’s lawyer Ruy Rondain said.

But a second source confirmed that Teodoro’s resignation was prompted by the Arroyos’ support for Villar.

Mike’s call to Garcias

A party official, who requested anonymity, said Teodoro uncovered the shift of support when members of the Garcia family of Cebu decided to jump ship and support Villar.

When the support of the Garcias for Villar became public, Teodoro went to Cebu and confronted Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, the source said.

Only the governor has remained in the Teodoro camp among the Garcias.

“Gibo was so furious when he learned of the Garcias’ support of Villar. So he went to Cebu to talk with Gwen. There, he was informed about what really took place,” the source said.

He said “Gwen told Gibo during their one-on-one talk that the First Gentleman had called them up, the reason why other members of the Garcia clan switched support to Villar.”

Villar’s denial

As expected, Villar denied that he was the “secret” candidate of Malacañang and that he was enjoying financial support from the Arroyos.

“I did not ask [for money] from Malacañang and I don’t wish to receive any,” Villar said in a statement quoting what he said in a press conference.

He maintained that he was not an administration accomplice, noting that as then chair of the Senate committee on public order, he headed the probe of “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game, that allegedly involved Ms Arroyo and some members of her family.

He also pointed out that NP stalwarts Gilbert Remulla and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano led the congressional inquiries into the “Hello Garci” and ZTE-NBN scandals.

Since his ouster from the Senate presidency, Villar said he had not talked to either Ms Arroyo or her husband.

Lack of funds

Teodoro’s decision to quit and run his own campaign was proof of the party’s lack of funds, according to Mayor Ramon Guico of Binalonan, Pangasinan.

“That shows that the party has no money,” said Guico, also a Lakas senatorial candidate.

“We’re aware that local candidates are badgering him (Teodoro) for funds. But what if the party doesn’t give him any funds? What can he do? How can the machinery campaign for him if there are no funds?” said Guico.

Guico, president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, said he received a barrage of text messages from mayors Wednesday, asking whether the party had funds.

Two weeks ago, Teodoro said he had received funds from the party, but was unaware if the senatorial candidates had received any.

Need for full-time chair

Reggie Velasco, deputy secretary general, maintained that there was nothing more to Teodoro’s resignation than the need for a full-time chair to attend to the needs of local officials.

“We have funds. But with so many candidates running, there has to be someone who is agreeable to make optimal use of these funds,” he said by phone.

Even before party members could come to grips with Teodoro’s resignation, Dominguez and Manglapus quit Wednesday as president and secretary general, respectively.

Courtesy to the Excom

After talking on the phone Wednesday morning, Manglapus said he and Dominguez offered their resignations to the executive committee to give it a free hand in choosing the next chair.

But like Teodoro, both are staying on as party members.

“After Gilbert decided to relinquish his post, it’s just natural [for us to resign] as a courtesy to the executive committee so they will have the flexibility to decide who will be the next chair,” Manglapus said at the party headquarters on EDSA.

Besides, he added: “We came in as a package.” He, however, said he might reconsider his resignation should the party decide to retain him as secretary general.

In the party’s Nov. 19, 2009, convention, party members approved resolutions nominating Teodoro as chair, Edu Manzano as vice chair, Dominguez as president and Manglapus as secretary general.

If the principle of automatic succession were followed, either Manzano or his fellow vice chair Oscar Moreno would replace Teodoro, officials said.

Manglapus, son of the late Sen. Raul Manglapus, said he would now focus solely on Teodoro’s campaign, while Dominguez would focus on his reelection as governor.

Manglapus squelched speculations that Teodoro had in effect abandoned the party, and even his candidacy.

“We’re going full blast with the campaign,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s still the official candidate of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.”

Demoralized

Teodoro’s announcement, however, has shocked many of his party mates, leaving some of them demoralized.

Guico said he was “hurt” and “demoralized” by the resignation because Teodoro did not consult him and the other senatorial candidates.

“We’re like children abandoned by their father. He should have consulted us,” he said.

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay demanded that party leaders call a meeting. “They should explain to us what really happened. We have a right to know.”

Nograles confused

Speaker Prospero Nograles was among those taken aback by the spate of resignations from Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

“The resignation is a shock to me and (was made) without any consultation from us, the previous leaders of the party. I am now confused and seem to be out of the loop,” Nograles said in a text message to reporters.

Nograles said the local troops were also confused. “What has happened to our party? To each his own?” he asked.

What would happen now to the campaigns of Manzano and the six Lakas senatorial candidates?

“Everything is status quo. It’s best for the party. They can take care of the needs of the local candidates,” Manglapus said.

Dominguez said majority of the members of the League of the Provincial Governors of the Philippines were still behind Teodoro.

Asked why he resigned as Lakas president, Dominguez said he was only following Teodoro. “I go where my party chair goes,” he said. With a report from Gil Cabacungan

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.