Eduardo Gullas

Solon turns Teodoro green to Villar orange in a snap

Solon turns Teodoro green to Villar orange in a snap
By TJ Burgonio, Jhunnex Napallacan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Visayas

MANILA, Philippines—He made it as easy as changing campaign baller IDs.

Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona took his oath before Sen. Manuel Villar on Monday afternoon only hours after he attended a meeting of Lakas-Kampi-CMD lawmakers presenting a show of force for Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.

“He was there with us to pledge support for Teodoro,” the ruling party’s secretary general Raymundo Roquero said over the phone, expressing disbelief at Madrona’s turnaround. “It’s his problem to explain himself to his constituents.”

Party officials were pleasantly surprised by the turnout of 130 lawmakers at the meeting despite short notice. But Madrona’s defection to Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP) spoiled the mood.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stopped by the hastily called meeting at Dusit Thani Manila hotel at around 2 p.m., and exhorted party mates and allies to “stick together” for the administration standard-bearer.

Teodoro himself showed up at the meeting. But he left before Ms Arroyo arrived, saying he had to travel to Antipolo City for an earlier scheduled lunch with local officials.

Later, Madrona, along with Romblon Gov. Natalio Beltran, the vice gubernatorial candidate, and 16 mayoral candidates took their oath before Villar at the NP headquarters in StarMall in Mandaluyong City.

Madrona, who chaired the House committee on accounts during Villar’s term as Speaker, did not return calls from the Inquirer.

No funds

Villar’s camp issued a press statement confirming Madrona’s presence at the oath-taking, as did reelectionist Mayor Nanette Tansingco of San Fernando town.

Beltran is the Lakas-Kampi-CMD provincial chair, and Madrona, the district chair.

But Tansingco said Madrona, Beltran and the rest of the administration’s local candidates filed letters of resignation from the party as early as April 3.

“The funds aren’t trickling down to our level; we’re not being given agriculture projects. And we are the administration candidates,” Tansingco rued on the phone.

House Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, party chair, confirmed seeing Madrona at the Dusit Thani meeting.

“But I didn’t see him sign the manifesto,” she said by phone, referring to the lawmakers’ manifesto declaring loyalty to the party and “all-out” support for Teodoro.

The meeting was called in the wake of the recent defections of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II to the Liberal Party (LP), and the threat by Speaker Prospero Nograles to defect to Villar’s camp.

Madrona’s beef

Roquero said Madrona had complained that acting Agriculture Secretary Bernie Fondevilla was “campaigning” for his rival, incumbent Vice Gov. Alice Fetalvero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), who is seeking a House seat.

But Villarosa said Madrona was concerned about “agriculture projects.”

She declined to go into specifics beyond saying: “He has valid concerns. But I told him this isn’t something that can be resolved by his transfer. That’s his personal choice. But whether he comes back or not, we will fix his problem.”

She did not discount the possibility that the issue would eventually reach Ms Arroyo.

According to Roquero, party mates were “inspired” by the turnout of 130 congressmen at the meeting, even though only 80 had confirmed attendance.

“We talked about strategies. Everyone was very enthusiastic,” he said, pointing out that the campaign was “catching fire” as more groups of youth, workers, farmers and drivers were volunteering to campaign for Teodoro.

Roquero dismissed as black propaganda a reported move to dump Edu Manzano as Teodoro’s running mate in favor of Bagumbayan vice presidential candidate Bayani Fernando.

“This is just an attempt to drive a wedge between Edu and Gibo and the senatorial candidates, but this won’t prosper,” he said.

Human chain

There was another show of force Tuesday for Teodoro, this time at Cebu Marco Polo Hotel.

At one point, 31 incumbent governors and 12 candidates for governor who called themselves “Team Palabra de Honor” formed a human chain around Teodoro to reaffirm their support.

They also signed a manifesto expressing their commitment to him.

Villarosa announced that Lakas-Kampi-CMD had a new member in the person of Negros Oriental Gov. George Arnaiz, formerly of the NPC.

She said Teodoro now had the support of 56 governors and candidates for governors, though some were not present at Tuesday’s gathering.

Teodoro’s visit to Cebu came at a time when Villar was himself in the city for an earlier scheduled rally at the Cebu Coliseum.

Villar declined to comment on the governors’ show of support for Teodoro, and only said he was grateful that a number of Cebu leaders, notably Representatives Eduardo Gullas (first district) and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz (6th district), had bolted the ruling party and endorsed his candidacy.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who organized the meeting of governors to reaffirm support for Teodoro, had herself been kept busy by the defection of a number of her local allies to Villar’s camp.

She called for a series of meetings last week to keep her One Cebu party members in line—mayors, mayoral candidates and even congressmen who were earlier reported to have defected, or were about to shift their support, to Villar.

Disinformation etc.

Speaking with reporters after meeting the governors, Teodoro said the past weeks had been filled with “disinformation, misinformation, mal-information and all other information.”

But he said that with the governors’ strong support, the public would see the truth.

“Today, once again … our people will know something, the simple truth—who supports whom, who has defected, who has not. But besides that and more importantly, this is a reaffirmation of a covenant … for genuine local autonomy, community-based development, sustainable development and strong partnership between the national and local governments,” Teodoro said.

“Undeniably, this has national political impact because this will clear the air [of] those who want to destroy good intentions. We have never engaged in mudslinging or bad politics, so we appeal to the public that this is the truth of who supports whom, the bond that we have together—One Visayas, One Cebu and One Philippines,” he said.

He added that the governors’ support was a humbling experience, expressed his and his family’s profound gratitude to all of them.

After Teodoro’s speech, Governor Garcia read aloud the manifesto in which the governors pledged to work for Teodoro’s election.

Salimbangon

Teodoro visited Cebu amid speculation that another One Cebu member, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (4th district), would defect to Villar’s camp.

On Tuesday, Cebu Daily News ran a photo showing Salimbangon’s hand being raised by Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, together with Gullas, Soon-Ruiz (who is running for mayor of Mandaue City) and her husband Lito Ruiz, who is running for the post that she would vacate.

The photo was taken at the house of Soon-Ruiz during a meeting last week, according to one of her allies who provided the photo to CDN.

Another photo showed Salimbangon and other officials in the 4th district posing with Cynthia Villar and showing the Villar hand sign.

But Salimbangon Tuesday insisted that he was not bolting Lakas-Kampi-CMD and would continue to back Teodoro.

In turn, Teodoro said he trusted Salimbangon, whom he described as a “friend and kumpare.”

Arroyo’s economic guru leaving her for Aquino

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.

Irreplaceable fixture

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 …”

Dictated upon

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.”

Cebu’s Gov. Garcia still all-out for Teodoro

Cebu’s Gov. Garcia still all-out for Teodoro
By Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

CEBU CITY—Not so fast, Manny Villar; Cebu is still for Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro.

Speaking at a meeting of the One Cebu party on Wednesday night, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said that nothing had changed since her party late last year endorsed the former defense secretary and administration standard-bearer in the May 10 elections.

“In this season of shifting political alliances, they say there is no such thing as word of honor, but I beg to disagree,” she said, stressing repeatedly that she was keeping her “palabra de honor” in her 20-minute speech in Cebu City.

“I hope that you are with me here. I hope that you will join me in this firm commitment. Because if you do not then perhaps it is best I risk losing all of your support; but I would rather lose that than lose my self-respect,” she said.

Earlier, One Cebu congressmen reportedly met with Villar, the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, on Wednesday and vowed to support him.

The governor’s father, Rep. Pablo Garcia of the second district confirmed in an interview on Wednesday afternoon that he and his son, Rep. Pablo John Garcia, had met with Villar, who said he was just exchanging pleasantries with the congressmen.

Official stand

But the 84-year-old family patriarch Thursday declared in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the family remained solid behind Teodoro.

“The party has an official stand and the party is supporting Gibo Teodoro,” the elder Garcia said. He said Teodoro would attend a planned mammoth rally of the party in Cebu Friday to officially launch the campaign for local candidates.

“The governor is my daughter and I am with the governor (on this issue),” he said. “The governor has the support of 90 to 95 percent of all the mayors and is supported by all the congressmen.”

Francis Manglapus, Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general, said by phone that Teodoro was attending the One Cebu rally.

“We’re flying there. That’s where you’re going to see Gwen is solidly behind Gilbert. Her father and brother will be there,” he said.

“This is the big event. This is where you will see the sentiments of the Cebuanos. Actions speak louder than words,” he added.

‘She’s sticking it out’

Teodoro told Radio Mindanao Network that he had spoken with the Cebu governor and had gotten assurance of her continuing support.

“She’s sticking it out with us,” Teodoro said.

Aside from the Garcias, Villar reportedly met with Representatives Eduardo Gullas of the first district, Benhur Salimbangon of the fourth district and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz of the sixth district.

Gullas, whose Alayon Party has an alliance with One Cebu, earlier declared his support for Villar. Ruiz and Salimbangon were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Rep. Ramon Red Durano of the fifth district did not attend the meeting.

Former Mandaue City Mayor Alfredo Ouano, whose son Thadeo was privy to the discussion between Villar and the congressmen on Wednesday, said he got the impression that Winston Garcia, the governor’s brother, wanted One Cebu to support Villar.

Ouano said he had learned that Winston was concerned that he would lose his job as president of the Government Service Insurance System if Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III won the presidency.

The Inquirer tried to get Winston’s reaction, but he could not be reached by press time.

Mayor’s denial

Former Mayor Alvin Garcia of Cebu City, founder of Kugi Uswag Sugbo (Progress for Cebu), or Kusug, also denied having said that his cousin Winston arranged an alliance between Kusug and the NP so that the Garcias would support Villar.

“Definitely it’s not true,” he said.

Vice Mayor Maria Luisa Loot of Daanbantayan said she would abide by what the governor had announced. “We will still support Gibo,” Loot said.

The elder Garcia said it did not matter if Teodoro remained at the bottom of surveys of presidential candidates, whose two front-runners are Villar and Aquino.

“If we will go by the surveys then there is no more need for a campaign,” he said.

Drive to lift Gibo rating

Gwendolyn Garcia founded One Cebu. In the 2004 election, the party gave President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a 1-million-vote margin over her nearest rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr., in Cebu.

The administration party this week launched a major offensive to lift Teodoro’s poll rating, putting out new ads in prime time network shows to coincide with the start of the campaign for local positions.

The ruling coalition, which enjoys a headlock on 70 percent of local government positions, is pinning its hopes on superior resources and widespread party machinery to swing the tide in favor of Teodoro, according to political analysts.

Teodoro’s spokesperson, Mike Toledo, has said the commercials will be aired with frequencies rivaling those of Villar and Aquino.

Also Thursday, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno shrugged off reports that the Garcias had abandoned Teodoro.

“As far as I know, the family, the organization of the Garcias is still working with Gibo. No one among them has left,” said Puno, Teodoro’s chief political strategist. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, TJ Burgonio, Michael Lim Ubac and Miko Morelos

Serge says Cebu going for Noynoy

Serge says Cebu going for Noynoy
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Cebu remains “Cory country” and her son, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, leads the presidential derby in the province by a mile, according to a stalwart of the Aquino camp.

Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III said in a text message that the reported defection of congressmen belonging to the Garcia family to Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party did not matter much in the province.

“Noynoy leads by a mile. That’s Cory country. Watch the next surveys,” said Osmeña, whose family supported the late President Corazon Aquino. The family remains a dominant force in Cebu and is considered archnemesis of the Garcia clan.

In Imus, Cavite, Aquino shrugged off the reported alliance between the Nacionalista Party and several Lakas-Kampi-CMD representatives as “not surprising.”

“We are with the Osmeñas, the Garcias are our enemies. We don’t think this will have an impact because we have long expected it. Serge is one of our candidates, his relatives joined with us and therefore their opponents are in the other camp. That is to be expected,” Aquino said.

For example, Aquino said Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (first district) had confided to him when they were both in the lower House that he was with Team Villar because he got to know him earlier.

“Nothing new, no surprises,” Aquino said.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who said he had secured Gwen Garcia’s support in his reelection bid, expressed hopes Thursday that the Cebu governor would endorse the candidacy of his father, former President Joseph Estrada.

“This is the last chapter of his life. I think he will do good,” said the senator.

Not quitting LP

Aquino said that Osmeña was staying with the LP and that he was just taking a two-week leave as the party’s campaign coordinator to focus on his senatorial bid.

He said he expected Osmeña to join his provincial sorties next month.

Osmeña issued a statement on Wednesday night to clarify rumors on the Internet that he was quitting Aquino’s team for its alleged misuse of campaign funds.

He said this was nothing but “a malicious figment in the imagination of those who wish that it were so.”

Osmeña earlier quit the LP’s senatorial slate because he did not want to be associated with former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, who is also an LP candidate seeking reelection as senator.

“As the campaign draws to a close and an Aquino victory becomes apparent, more of these rumors will be fed in cyberspace to undermine our campaign. I have faith that our people will see through these dirty tricks, just as they have seen through the fakery being peddled in multimedia,” he said.