LP assails Gonzales’ endorsement of Villar
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The Liberal Party (LP) assailed yesterday Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales’ reported endorsement of Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar to Army battalion commanders.
“It is transactional politics at its worst,” Edwin Lacierda, spokesman of LP standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, said.
Lacierda said Gonzales reportedly told the military commanders that Villar was sure NP guest senatorial candidates party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza of the left-leaning Bayan Muna would not win Senate slots, and that the rightist military could thus support Villar without misgivings.
Lacierda described these developments as alarming because “Villar is exploiting both sides of the political spectrum.”
“On one side he is trying to get the support of the military even if the military is supposed to be neutral, and he does this by playing down the leftists in his slate. On the other side, he uses the leftists to attack Aquino –we should know, as we’ve been on the receiving end of their black propaganda for a long time,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said Gonzales’ endorsement of Villar also reaffirmed rumors of a secret alliance between Villar and the Arroyo government.
“Gonzales is a known close ally of Mrs. Arroyo, and yet he is urging the military to throw its support behind Villar, not Lakas-Kampi candidate (Gilberto) Gibo Teodoro (Jr.),” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said Gonzales’ call for the military to take sides in the coming election was dangerous, coming no less from the defense chief.
“It should be noted that the military will be stationed all over the country, particularly in critical areas where the military holds a strong influence,” he said.
Lacierda expressed belief that the military, like the Filipino people as a whole, “is tired of our culture of cheating and corruption (and) we are sure that come the elections, all sectors of society will work together to keep the elections honest and free of cheating and violence.”
‘Orange’ permits hit
LP senatorial bet and Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros said that the communist New People’s Army was imposing “orange” permits to campaign on candidates.
Both Ocampo and Maza had been linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) and the NPA.
“The color is the message, and the color is the endorsement,” said Hontiveros, who authored a bill criminalizing the imposition of the permit-to-campaign. “They don’t even have to put it in writing. The color of the armed left is orange.”
Hontiveros said that a local candidate in Bicol had shown a high-ranking official of Akbayan a copy of the permit to campaign (PTC) from the NPA.
“The local candidate can’t come out for security reasons. He was pressured to pay the PTC so that he could campaign in areas where the NPA claims to have presence,” Hontiveros said.
She dared Villar to condemn unequivocally the imposition of the orange PTC. “If this is not sanctioned by the NP, then this merits the strongest denunciation from no less than Sen. Manny Villar himself,” Hontiveros said.
“As standard-bearer, Villar must denounce this undemocratic practice of using arms to influence the will of the people. Subject to election laws, candidates must be allowed to campaign freely, without threats to their lives and without being forced to pay illegal fees,” Hontiveros said.
She also dared Villar to impose a united stand within NP on the imposition of the PTC.
“The PTC is a valid electoral issue that requires multi-partisan condemnation. If necessary, he should impose party discipline to make sure that no candidate from his slate benefits from this illegal act,” Hontiveros said.
She said the orange permit to campaign could be the result of the endorsement of Villar’s candidacy by CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison who is in self-exile in the Netherlands.
“This is not surprising, since Joma himself has already endorsed Sen. Villar,” Hontiveros said. “The only question now is if the use of arms to influence elections is an electoral strategy condoned by the NP.”