Aquino to Roxas, Escudero: Don’t focus on battle next time
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
GAPAN CITY, NUEVA ECIJA—Survey front-runner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Thursday called on his bickering allies to sacrifice personal ambition in order to realize their common goal of bringing about change through the May elections.
The Liberal Party standard-bearer appeared unruffled by reports that the LP was in turmoil as a result of a power play between his running mate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and his kumpare Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero for control of his campaign strategy and logistics.
“There might be a battle between Mar and Chiz down the line. But [even if] there is [such] a battle, will you sacrifice the mission we all have at this point in time?” Aquino said at a press conference.
Roxas and Escudero are seen as potential rivals for the presidency in 2016.
“I think I can attest to the fact that everybody is responsible enough to ensure we are clear as to who the real opponent is, and the real problems besetting us. It does us no good to fight future battles within. The battle that is important is the one that leads to a transition to a new form of government,” he said.
Aquino also said that “the forces against the change we want to happen are showing their very blatant side and their fangs.”
He said party members “have reached a level of maturity that we can afford to subsume personal interests because the overriding personal ambition is to ensure the transition to change.”
Escudero, through his Team Chiz led by LP senatorial candidate Sergio Osmeña III and columnist Lito Banayo, has been in full support of Aquino’s candidacy since the start of the campaign period two months ago.
But Escudero is backing Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay for vice president, riling the Roxas camp in the LP.
Team Chiz had claimed it was being eased out of the campaign team; Team Mar had countered that Team Chiz was “toxic” to the LP.
But in a text message, LP campaign manager Sen. Francis Pangilinan said reports that Team Chiz was being booted out by Team Mar merely indicated “minor organizational gaps that needed addressing as we prepare for the endgame.”
“The matter has been swiftly resolved and the needed adjustments have been put in place,” Pangilinan said.
At the press conference, Aquino and Roxas took turns assuring the public that all was well between them.
“Mar and I have always been transparent with each other on everything,” Aquino said.
Roxas said he had “no problem” with Escudero’s support of Aquino but not himself.
“What is most important is to encourage everyone to support him even though they are supporting other candidates in other posts. This is no secret; I think this is just an ant that was turned into a monster,” Roxas said, adding:
“[Escudero’s] support is welcome especially in his home province in Bicolandia, where the surveys show that the race is tight.”
When asked if he was on good terms with Escudero, Roxas said: “I would assume [so] because when we parted before the adjournment of the Senate session, we were friends. And there is no reason why we cannot be friends.”
Escudero himself has refused to comment on the conflict in the party.
More people added
Roxas said the LP needed to fill the space left by Osmeña, who quit as campaign manager to focus on his senatorial candidacy.
He said more people had been added to the campaign team to make it stronger in the run-up to the May elections.
Aquino confirmed that Osmena’s old post as campaign manager and media coordinator had been taken over by Roxas’ publicist Danny Gozo.
But he said this would not affect the role of Team Chiz and his own staff led by TV director Maria Montelibano, which would continue to focus on his presidential campaign.
Aquino said he had insisted on keeping his own team in the campaign outside of the party’s main campaign unit led by Roxas’ men.
“I’m comfortable with all these people for my media needs. I can’t work with only Zaldy de Layola (his chief media handler in the Senate),” he said, adding that his campaign was “media-centric rather sortie-centric.”
Despite the purported cracks in the LP campaign, Aquino described his hastily created team as better than the opposition.
He cited the results of the major surveys conducted in the last seven months, with the Aquino-Roxas duo in the top spot.
Reacting to reports that Team Chiz had been booted out of the LP campaign, Mayor Binay said this would hurt the party’s goal of taking Malacañang.
“It’s sad [for the LP]. They are crumbling while our forces are being consolidated because of our improving ratings in the surveys. So they have a problem there,” the running mate of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer Joseph “Erap” Estrada said in Zamboanga City.
Binay defended Escudero’s reported decision to back him, and not Roxas, in the vice presidential race.
He said he and Escudero had been through a lot together since they worked for the presidential candidacy of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004.
Like a son
“Senator Chiz is not just like a son to me,” Binay said. “He’s also my godson because I stood as one of the principal sponsors at his wedding.”
Binay said that when Poe suffered a fatal heart attack during a gathering of friends and political supporters in December 2004, “I was at his right and Chiz was at his left.”
“So that’s the thing that binds us together,” he said.
Binay also said Escudero was not obligated to support all of the LP candidates, including Roxas, because he was not a party member.
He said he was “confident” of victory “because the people support the group of Erap and the group of Binay.”
‘That’s how it is’
Estrada was unfazed that certain people were for Binay but not necessarily for him. He said he had gotten used to such peculiarities during his 35 years in politics.
“You can’t prevent that from happening. There are also those who support Erap-Loren (Sen. Loren Legarda, the running mate of Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar),” Estrada said.
“That’s how it is. It is just minimal, though. Of course, there are those who can’t say no to Binay,” he said. With a report from Norman Bordadora