Arroyo’s economic guru leaving her for Aquino
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Philip Tubeza, Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—One of the men President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo heavily relies on, her top economic adviser Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, is leaving Lakas-Kampi-CMD to join the campaign of front-running Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
A source in Salceda’s camp said the former student at the Ateneo de Manila University of Ms Arroyo would make a formal announcement as soon as he had personally taken leave of the President.
The same source, who sought anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Salceda had already invited Aquino’s sister, television host Kris Aquino, to be his special guest at the Miss Magayon rites, one of the highlights of the Albay festival this month.
Salceda’s departure is seen as a big blow to the bid of Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro who had taken the financial guru as one of his campaign strategists.
Salceda, who was the highest paid stock market analyst in Asia before entering politics in 1998, helped Ms Arroyo craft the fiscal reform program anchored on a value-added tax increase that boosted the government’s finances and propelled the country to an unprecedented 32 straight quarters of economic growth.
Despite having once referred to President Arroyo as a “lucky bitch” and admitting that the number of poor Filipinos had increased despite the glowing economic data, Salceda remained an irreplaceable fixture in the President’s inner circle.
In Cebu Tuesday, Aquino said the LP was expecting an “avalanche” of politicians to join the party.
He hinted that another prominent administration official—believed to be Salceda—was joining the LP after Deputy House Speaker Neptali Gonzales II who bolted the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD which has been rocked by defections.
“I cannot preempt them but I can guarantee that their numbers will increase … Next week you will be surprised because one of the stalwarts of the present administration will join our campaign,” said Aquino in a press conference.
“We are also wrapping up some negotiations with other parties.
“As Election Day nears, I think those who will join us will become an avalanche,” he added.
‘Arroyo et al. to blame’
Aquino made the announcement as he prepared to hold a motorcade through Cebu cities considered to be the bailiwick of Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, who is backing the Nacionalista Party’s presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar.
Former President Fidel Ramos has blamed President Arroyo and other top party leaders for the defections and other problems confronting Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
At a media briefing Monday night at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after his arrival from the annual Boao Forum for Asia in China, Ramos said he was not surprised by the defections.
He reiterated that the mechanics of the coalition between Lakas-CMD, of which he is a cofounder, and Kampi had not been thoroughly threshed out.
Asked who was to blame for the defections, Ramos turned his head, looked behind him where a picture of Ms Arroyo was hanging, and said: “It’s probably because of a few persons led by …”
He said certain people in the party, and not its standard-bearer Teodoro, continued to call the shots.
“It seems they are being dictated upon. This doesn’t come from Teodoro, but from above him,” Ramos said.
Ramos declined to comment on what was happening in the party. But he said that “something new and dramatic will come up soon.”