Edgardo Pamintuan

Salceda told: Wait till your mother gets home

Salceda told: Wait till your mother gets home
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Albay Gov. Joey Salceda must explain to a disappointed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo his decision to defect to the camp of Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, according to Malacañang.

“I would imagine she would be disappointed by the decision of the governor. Of course she’d prefer to have him with her chosen successor and not against,” Gary Olivar, the President’s deputy spokesperson, said at a briefing Thursday.

Salceda, an economic adviser to Ms Arroyo, surprised the ruling party when he jumped ship and accepted Aquino’s offer to serve as Liberal Party chair in the Bicol region.

Salceda and Aquino were classmates at Ateneo de Manila University. The formal announcement of his defection is set for April 20, on his return from a medical checkup abroad.

“It’s not my place to evaluate the degree of betrayal. He has to talk to the President and explain himself. I’m sure they have a lot to talk about,” Olivar later said.

Ms Arroyo was in Madrid Thursday on the last leg of her two-nation foreign trip.

40 govs feel betrayed

Upon her return, the President will convene the national executive committee of Lakas-Kampi-CMD to rally party-mates anew behind administration presidential candidate Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr., according to Olivar.

“She’s expected to attend the executive committee meeting. Perhaps on that occasion, she will take the opportunity, as you put it, to crack the whip and take a firmer hand,” he said.

Aquino could also be betrayed by his newest ally, Salceda, said Antique Gov. Salvacion Zaldivar Perez.

Caucus of governors

Salceda’s erstwhile allies in the newly formed National Caucus of Governors (NCG) have come out lambasting him for junking Teodoro.

“Noynoy, be careful of Governor Salceda. If he can do it to Gibo, he can do it to you,” Perez said by phone, addressing Aquino.

Perez said she and more than 40 of Salceda’s former colleagues in the NCG felt “betrayed” by the Albay governor’s turnaround.

“He did not only betray Gibo, he betrayed us. He was our leader in the meeting,” she said. “Why his erratic, unreasonable, irrational behavior is beyond me. He praised Gibo to high heavens.”

It was Salceda who initiated a caucus of governors on Tuesday last week to conduct a loyalty check after the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) lost its chair, Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos, to the LP and its president, Camarines Sur Gov. El Rey Villafuerte, to the Nacionalista Party.

He and more than 30 governors formed the NCG and signed a manifesto to “work hard for overwhelming electoral majorities” for Teodoro. He was elected the group’s secretary general.

Fresh loyalty check

Perez said the caucus of governors would “regroup” on the initiative of its head, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, to conduct a fresh loyalty check.

“We will maintain the Team Palabra de Honor (the group’s battle cry) without the dishonored Salceda,” she said on the phone. “There are still about 40 plus of us. We will ask them, ‘Are you staying or not?’”

Salceda’s fellow governors vowed to stick it out with Teodoro.

Gibo all the way

In their joint statement released by Teodoro’s camp, Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco said: “Nothing has changed. We will support Gibo Teodoro for President all the way.”

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, secretary general of the LPP, said the defections had “reinvigorated” the ruling coalition.

“Those leaving the party have their reasons. Maybe, they don’t want change. To each his own reason… I, personally, am for Gibo all the way,” he said.

Lack of principle

In the Cordillera, a ruling party official said the decision of Salceda to leave the party smacked of lack of principle.

“It’s a case of believing in the party. We should always toe the party line. Gibo [Teodoro] is our standard-bearer. Why should we change our horses in the middle of the battle?” said Baguio Rep. Mauricio Domogan.

Surprised by Salceda’s decision, Cordillera officials belonging to the ruling party said they would not follow the Albay governor’s example.

The officials said they would stick it out with Lakas-Kampi-CMD and Teodoro since they had a covenant with the party.

Domogan, a member of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD national directorate and party coordinator in the Cordillera, said the support for Teodoro and the party was embodied in a pact that should be followed.

Reached by the Inquirer, Cordillera governors running under Lakas-Kampi-CMD echoed Domogan’s sentiments.

Reelectionist Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin said he found no valid reason he and the other officials should abandon Teodoro and the party.

“Gibo is our standard-bearer. I believe in one mind and in unity,” he said.

Bersamin said he believed in Teodoro’s programs of government because these were important to the country’s leap to development after Ms Arroyo ends her term.

Dedicated, sincere

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said he would remain with the administration party as a matter of principle. “I will also continue to support Gibo because I saw how dedicated and how sincere he was.”

He personally came to visit us after the aftermath of Typhoon “Pepeng.” He gave us rice, food and financial assistance and he saw to it that the province could recover from the disaster.

Mt. Province Gov. Maximo Dalog, now seeking the province’s lone congressional seat, said his support for Teodoro would not waver.

Kalinga Gov. Floydelia Diasen, who is also seeking reelection, said she would continue campaigning for Teodoro.

Prop up sagging image

“It’s because he is our standard-bearer. It would not be nice to vow support for one and then leave him later,” she said.

In Pampanga, Edgardo Pamintuan, former Subic-Clark Alliance Development Council chair, said many party allies among governors, representatives and other local officials remained loyal to Teodoro.

“Lakas in the grassroots is a strong political party and grassroots candidates will win hands down,” said Pamintuan, who is running for mayor of Angeles City.

He said Salceda’s move might create “a ripple effect but it would not create a wave [that will rock the administration’s] boat.”

Pamintuan said Lakas-Kampi-CMD was trying to “prop up its sagging image” amid the defection of its key members to either the Nacionalista Party or Liberal Party.

He said 19 of 21 mayors and three of four representatives in Pampanga, the home province of Ms Arroyo, remained loyal to the administration party. With reports from Delmar Cariño, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Charlene Cayabyab, Inquirer Central Luzon