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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”