Defections, fund lack peril Lakas
By TJ Burgonio, Edralyn Benedicto
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TO AVERT A “HEMORRHAGE” IN THE RULING LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD, President Macapagal-Arroyo has swiftly replaced administration standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. and two other resigned officials. But other officials say this may not stem the exodus of members desperate for funds.
Mayor Ramon Guico of Binalonan, Pangasinan, who is running for senator, Saturday said that with less than 40 days before the May 10 elections, other local officials had not received support from the party.
“That’s the danger. If the party fails to give support, it’s finished,” Guico, president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines and member of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD executive committee, said by phone. “That’s the reason for the exodus of governors. That’s the danger there.”
Guico said he was puzzled why party funds had not trickled down to the local officials.
“They’re claiming we’re the strongest party. But why is this happening? I don’t understand,” he said.
Teodoro quit as party chair on March 30, purportedly to focus on his presidential campaign and, with the local campaign now in full swing, allow a full-time chair to deal with the needs of local officials.
The next day, Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez and Francis Manglapus resigned as party president and secretary general, respectively, to give the new executive committee a free hand in choosing the next chair.
At an emergency meeting of the executive committee called by Ms Arroyo on Wednesday night at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa was elected chair, and Manglapus and Raymundo Roquero, president and secretary general, respectively.
“We did not want to create a hemorrhage,” Roquero said.
But Guico said that if there was no forthcoming support from the party, it would be “only natural” for officials running for local positions to look for support in other parties,
“Why would they stick it out if they’re not getting anything from the party?” he said.
Guico, who admitted not getting anything from Lakas-Kampi-CMD apart from minimal support at the Feb. 9 kick-off of the national campaign, said he had tried to stop officials from leaving the party, to no avail.
“I’ve managed to talk to some [mayors] to stay, but I can only do so much. If there’s no support, they will look for it elsewhere. I can’t stop them. They have their own battles to fight,” he said.
Another senatorial candidate, Silvestre Bello III, agreed that some local officials had yet to receive support from the party. But he said this should not be “a reason to leave the party.”
Roquero said he believed that local officials were getting sufficient support from gubernatorial and congressional candidates.
Just the same, the party is convening the national directorate on Tuesday to gather the gubernatorial and congressional candidates to address the requirements of local officials, Roquero said.
“Since the campaign started, there wasn’t much coordination with candidates. Perhaps now this can be intensified,” he said by phone.
Roquero said more than 12,800 local candidates—including 63 candidates for governor out of 80 available positions—were running under Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri of Bukidnon, together with local officials, recently endorsed Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar. Even Deputy National Security Adviser Luis “Chavit” Singson, a staunch Arroyo ally, has cast his lot with Villar.
According to reports, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, the President’s husband, is backing Villar.
But Bello said the reports that Mike Arroyo was backing another presidential candidate might just work to benefit Teodoro, a consistent fourth-placer in poll surveys.
Without confirming the reports, Bello said these portrayed the 45-year-old Teodoro as an “underdog” endearing to the electorate.
“He’s become the underdog. Such reports make him a victim of political maneuvering. It will pump-prime his chances,” Bello told the Inquirer by phone.
He added: “While we don’t give [the reports] credence, the public may believe it, and consider Gibo a victim of treachery. You know how Filipinos are. They always go for the oppressed.”
Bello, a former Cabinet secretary, said he had no way of verifying whether Mike Arroyo was backing Villar.
“I’m busy campaigning. I have no time for loose talk. But if it were true, we can’t do anything about that,” he said.
In Cauayan City, Bello said he and his fellow Lakas-Kampi-CMD officials were confident that Mike Arroyo’s support remained with the ruling party.
There is no valid reason and no evidence to show that the First Gentleman has dropped his support for Lakas. It is purely speculative, as of the moment,” Bello, the party’s newly elected senior deputy secretary general for Luzon, said on Thursday.
Mike Arroyo’s support for Villar and the defection of Lakas-Kampi-CMD officials to the latter’s camp forced Teodoro to quit, according to an administration senatorial candidate who asked not to be named.
Another party-mate disclosed that Mike Arroyo himself had called the One Cebu party led by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to back Villar.
Yesterday, Roquero maintained that the President’s husband was “unequivocally” behind Teodoro’s candidacy.
Even Teodoro belied the reports that Mike Arroyo had pressured the Garcia clan to switch support to Villar.
“Governor Garcia never talked to me about the First Gentleman calling up members of her family to withdraw their support,” he said in a statement. “I have been going to Cebu to attend One Cebu rallies to show our unflinching support for each other.”
“Whether true or not,” the reports will not distract Teodoro from his campaign for the presidency, his spokesperson Mike Toledo said by phone.
“Any kind of intrigue will not deter him from his quest. He did say once, ‘Only God can stop him from running,’” Toledo said.
And there is no reason for Teodoro to abandon his candidacy, according to Toledo:
“He has the support of the party. He’s still running under the party machinery, and he’s still Lakas-Kampi standard-bearer.”
Committed to Gibo
In Cebu City, the Garcias said they were not abandoning Teodoro.
Neither have they been told by Mike Arroyo to shift their support to Villar, Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s third district said yesterday.
One Cebu has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to Teodoro not only in answer to reporters’ questions but at least three times in recent public gatherings of party members, according to Pablo John Garcia, secretary general of One Cebu and younger brother and confidant of Governor Garcia.
“As far as I am concerned, the First Gentleman never called me, much less asked me to support Villar,” he told the Inquirer in a text message. With a report from Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon