Franklin Drilon

From Erap’s Playbook

Jinggoy

Jinggoy is no stranger to controversy. More than a decade ago, he and his father were jailed for participating in the Jueteng scandal exposed by whistleblower Chavit Singson. He was later released on bail by the Sandiganbayan and acquitted. His father Joseph Erap Estrada however was not so lucky. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, although later pardoned by the woman who deposed and prosecuted him, Mrs Arroyo.

The fact that Mr Estrada today enjoys his freedom and greater popularity than Mrs Arroyo is nothing short of a stunning turn of events. It should be recalled that in the lead up to his impeachment, Erap’s popularity was plummeting. He had always denied any involvement in the Jueteng scandal, maintained his innocence throughout the judicial proceedings, refused to recognise the legitimacy of the trial and its verdict, and likened his predicament to that of many famous dissidents like Ninoy Aquino and Nelson Mandela.

In 2010, the rehabilitation of the Estradas was complete as Erap overtook Manny Villar to claim second spot after Noynoy Aquino in the presidential derby. His ability to knock off Alfredo Lim in 2013 to become Manila mayor is testament to the success of his strategy to regain the people’s trust despite having been convicted of a high crime by claiming himself a victim of political persecution by someone he presented as a usurper of his office. The fact that Mrs Arroyo damaged her own credibility by subsequent events fed into this narrative.

But now his son, who has been tagged by whistleblowers to be a principal in the Janet Napoles P10 billion pork barrel scam, is seeking to lift a page from the father’s playbook. In a privilege speech before the Senate, the younger Estrada claimed he was a victim of trial by publicity, of political persecution and of demonisation by his colleagues. He decried the fact that despite the COA’s identification of anomalous transactions by his colleagues, he and two other opposition bloc senators have been singled out by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigations.

In an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of proceedings at the senate, he accused its president Sen Franklin Drilon of offering a gratuitous amount of P50 million to reward him and his colleagues for voting to convict Chief Justice Corona with the imprimatur of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. After accusing his fellow senators of dragging his name through the mud, he then proceeded to name a number of them as well and question why the spotlight hasn’t been focused on them.

There are several reason why this ploy by Jinggoy may not work effectively against the current administration as it did against its predecessor. One is the fact that President Aquino enjoys the public’s trust and confidence, maintaining his net satisfaction rating at high levels three years into his presidency, something unheard of since data has been collected on this. Two is the fact that Jinggoy has not denied receiving and using his PDAF allotments. Third is the unpopularity of pork barrel, in the light of the ostentatious display of wealth by one of its fixers Ms Janet Napoles.

Pork to the parties, not the polies!

Why giving money to political parties not politicians is a better idea than scrapping their pork.

It’s been in the headlines for over a week, after the Inquirer broke the story of a scam allegedly involving 23 congressmen and 5 senators and Php10 billion of Philippine Development Assistance funds (aka pork barrel) being siphoned off over more than ten years by a syndicate known as JLN which stands for the initials of the lady accused of heading it.

A member of the syndicate, a close relative, blew the whistle on the boss after a row between them turned ugly. It blew the lid off the issue whether we as a nation still want to maintain the practice of pork barrelling in Congress. If these allegations are proven, it would simply confirm what a lot of Filipinos intuitively know, and that is that these funds or a significant proportion of them, which are meant to benefit local constituents of politicians simply go into their re-election kitty.

Some efforts through the years have been made to make it harder for or limit the amount of corruption or kickbacks from contractors to solons in exchange for awarding projects to them from taking place. The alleged conspirators have been able to defraud Filipino taxpayers by setting up ghost projects involving dummy recipient NGOs issuing fake receipts to help fulfil audit requirements and make everything seem above board with the imprimatur of the legislator who endorses the so-called “development” project.

The Palace, which understandably is concerned, given its reputation for clean and honest government has ordered a full and exhaustive probe through the Department of Justice spearheaded by the National Bureau of Investigation. This would inform and provide evidence to the Ombudsman which has started looking into it. The person accused by the whistle blower appears ready to front the enquiry.

As this developed, public support for abolishing PDAF has mounted. Senator Franklin Drilon, the man expected to assume leadership of the upper house has appeared to welcome the idea. The question will be whether the budget to be approved by Congress will still contain these allotments to its members or not, and whether Malacañang would be able to control the legislative agenda without them.

The opposition for its part considers the investigation a political ploy designed to bash it in the lead up to the 2016 elections.  Three of the five senators linked to the scam, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Bong Marcos and Bong Revilla seem set to run for higher office. Prior to the 2013 midterm elections, a number of senators from the opposition bloc were engulfed in a similar scandal. The results of the elections seem to indicate that the issue swayed voters not to vote for their kin who were running to join them.

To be fair, the issue is not just about Congress and pork. It involves funds from the Malampaya project which along with the proceeds of the PCSO and PAGCOR Prof Benjamin Diokno describes as “shadowy funds” that are not subject to the usual process of budget scrutiny and deliberations by Congress. For as long as they are hidden, Diokno believes they will always be prone to corruption and a source of patronage and rent-seeking.

Here is how Prof Winnie Monsod weighs the pros and the cons behind the issue of pork:

In sum, what are the benefits of the pork barrel system in the Philippines? One, it gives the executive branch tremendous leverage over the legislature, which is supposed to provide checks and balances (the executive branch can withhold the pork). Two, it gives incumbent legislators an unfair advantage over their electoral opponents, because of the projects (if successfully implemented) they bring, or the money (if pocketed) they can use to buy votes. And what are the costs? At least P21 billion a year of taxpayers’ money that arguably could have been more efficiently and equitably used for the welfare of the Filipino people.

The problem with the abolishing pork is that you need the endorsement of the very people who benefit from it to succeed. This is exactly the same impediment to getting Congress to abolish political dynasties. Pork may be seen as the vehicle for the network of patronage emanating from the Palace to Congress to the people. In the past it has been indispensable in getting significant bills involving painful economic reform to pass. Some say even the impeachment of the Chief Justice would not have taken place without it.

Pork is then used to help solons get re-elected either through the projects they fund or through amassing some form of rents that then get used for their campaign. What’s more, this tacit arrangement seems to exist with the grudging consent of the public who don’t believe that public servants can afford to live on their salaries and run for office based on them alone. There is therefore a trade-off or deal with the devil being made here. Economic reforms are not costless to produce–they require some form of corruption in a developing economy.

The problem with that is it perpetuates a system of patrimonialism which many say lies at the heart of our problem of underdevelopment, i.e. we would not have to resort to this form of “transactions costs” if we had a strong party system in which policies mattered, where elected members toed the line or faced the consequences from their own caucus.

The problem with our system is that political dynasties control the parties, or stated in another way, parties are merely a front for the family franchise, and they are financed largely through a system of patronage that emanates from the presidency, who requires their support to push his agenda through. It is a co-dependent arrangement of patronage and rent-seeking that perpetuates itself.

How then do we untangle this web? Do we simply abolish pork? That presents a number of challenges as well. How will Malacañang push its legislative agenda? What forms of illegal activities would congressmen resort to to raise campaign funds?  But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. How would we get congressmen and senators to act against their own self-interest in the first place?

The answer lies in campaign finance reform: by using the PDAF to finance political parties. The amount involved, Php21 billion a year or Php63 billion per term, is a lot of money. With that kind of money parties could become professionally run organisations that would endorse candidates and provide seed money for their campaign. This system would still favour incumbents who presumably would still be high ranking members of their parties. It would still be subject to the audit and accountability rules of the Comelec and the Commission on Audit, since they are public funds.

The good thing about giving money to the political parties not the elected politician to disburse is that it gives their executive committees greater power to influence and discipline their members who will be relying on their endorsement to seek re-election. It will still be rife with influence peddling, factionalism and perhaps patronage, but that is the nature of politics. Some parties will do a better job of managing their affairs and that will be their selling point to the electorate.

The downside of this proposal is that rather than the money or at least a good proportion of it going to fund development projects that benefit constituents, all of it would now go to the political parties. Of course the way in which parties use these funds would be up to them. They could presumably still engage in development projects, but that would be a matter for them to decide. They may decide to keep all of it to manage their affairs and fund election campaigns of their members.

My answer to that objection would be to say that although shifting pork to parties does come with a cost to the constituent community, it does bring some benefits as well in the form of better policies and programs, with less padding for corruption, as parties are strengthened and get weaned off the system of patronage and rent-seeking. This would not happen if we simply abolished pork. These benefits would accrue to society and presumably outweigh the costs.

Some might say this is too risky. Even if we give money to parties, they will still be run by politicians, and every time you hand money to a politician you are courting disaster. Well, perhaps it does involve some risk, but it is a risk we should be prepared to take if we are to develop a different set of political institutions in our country, one that provides incentives to stronger parties, rather than the current arrangement which degrades them.

The next step after that would be to allow equal access to non-dynastic members of the party through legislation that would allow campaign funds to be disbursed by the state to political parties subject to their meeting certain requirements that allow greater access and participation to party members that do not belong to any established political family. That will be the subject of a subsequent post.

A Dual Track

Two very disappointing sets of figures were released last week.

One: the anemic 3.4% GDP growth experienced by the Philippines in the second quarter of the year. That places growth in the first half at 4%. Economic managers have had to revise downwards their full-year projection to 4% from the targeted 7-8% (it would require growth of 10% in the second half of the year for the target to be reached, and not even the budget department’s assumption of 5% seems likely at this point).

Two: the abysmal jobs market in the US which saw no new net jobs created in August as many private firms became spooked by events in Europe and the US credit downgrade. The fact that high unemployment is expected to persist until 2015-16, perhaps even to 2016-17 (with many states coping with the end of stimulus by laying-off workers) has led many to conclude that the US is teetering on the brink of a double dip recession.

Bracing for the harsh winds from a US downturn, Sen Frank Drilon has called on the government to step up its infrastructure spending. Amando Doronila uses the findings of Credit Suisse which downgraded its growth prospects in the region which is expected to suffer “more than most” and cast doubts on the Philippines because it doubted whether

(T)he planned PPP (public-private partnership) infrastructure projects that many were bullish about were likely to get off the ground in a hurry.

In fact, the first couple of projects are scheduled to be bidded out at the end of the year, 18 months after the SONA in which it was announced. That means actual investments will not flow until well into the next year.

Economist Solita Monsod in her weekend column chastised our economic managers for not heeding the official early warning signs by accelerating public construction expenditure. She likened it to economic sabotage when she concluded

Public construction contracted by 23 percent in the third quarter of 2010 and 14 percent in the fourth quarter. Okay, that’s the price for trying to tighten procedures. But decreasing by 38 percent in the first quarter of 2011? And 51 percent in the second quarter?
Prevent plunder? Maybe. But there is economic sabotage in the process. What a choice Filipinos are faced with: between ill-intentioned plunderers and well-intentioned saboteurs.

Amando Doronila had more harsh words in today’s op-ed piece

The straight path to governance sainthood under the Aquino administration’s mantra, “without corruption there’s no poor,” is littered with the derelicts of pious slogans as well as the detritus of incompetent economic management. These derelicts cannot make up for the big deficit in economic performance.

Much like his American counterpart whose followers have become disenchanted with the meager results of his lofty campaign rhetoric, PNoy could soon find the public’s receptiveness to his slogans waning with each passing day.

After experimenting for a year with his idealistic Daang Matuwid will hard-nosed pragmatism be resurrected? A dual track is needed in which the administration pursues its good governance agenda in a way that does not hamper economic growth and development.

This is perhaps what the purists in his camp failed to consider, that the path to development is not a single lane, and that the two agendas can run side-by-side.

Enrile is Senate President again

Enrile is Senate President again
By Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — A survivor of many political wars is keeping his grip on the Senate presidency, after all.

Earlier thought to be on his way out, reelected Senator Juan Ponce Enrile clinched the Senate leadership Sunday night by obtaining the support of 21 senators — a powerful majority in the 23-member upper chamber of Congress.

Senators said the 86-year-old lawmaker from Cagayan was assured of his continued hold on his position following a series of meetings and sudden developments during the weekend.

The most dramatic was Sunday’s last-minute announcement by Senator Francis Pangilinan, the erstwhile candidate of Malacañang, that he was withdrawing from the Senate presidential race in order to unify the chamber.

“It’s a truly united Senate,” Senator Edgardo Angara told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, saying that all blocs in the chamber have come together to support Enrile as their chief.

It was the second time in the Senate’s recent history that all parties and blocs have backed a common leader, Angara said.

Curiously, both cases involved Enrile and both happened while an Aquino was at the country’s helm — the first during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino and now, during the rule of her son, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

“In the first Aquino administration, it was Senator Enrile who was the lone minority member in the Senate. Now under the second Aquino administration, he is the head of the unity Senate,” Angara said.

“He [Enrile] has come full circle,” he added.

In a phone interview, Angara credited the sudden turn of events to efforts of the Liberal Party (LP), Nacionalista Party (NP) of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., and other blocs — including Angara’s — to come together and agree on a Senate President by the time the 15th Congress opens this Monday.

Since late last week, Pangilinan had been the frontrunner in the fight for the Senate leadership.

Enrile of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino only loomed as an alternative candidate after the NP and LP candidates failed to get the 13 votes needed to win the Senate presidency.

“Since neither side [Villar and Pangilinan] were able to make it, we agreed with Villar and the others that we need to elect one because it would be embarrassing for the Senate if we can’t rule even ourselves,” Angara said.

All different blocs “contributed” to the unity of the Senate, according to Angara.

He said Enrile was “the best option” because neither Pangilinan nor Villar was able to secure the 13 votes.

Angara said Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada would remain as Senate President pro tempore, while Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto would be the majority leader.

But with a unified Senate behind Enrile, Angara conceded that the question of who would be the minority leader was up in the air.

“We don’t know yet who would want to stand on the opposite aisle,” he said.

The Senate has 23 members with Aquino’s rise to the presidency. Only 21 of them can vote in Monday’s Senate presidency election.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV remains detained while Senator Panfilo Lacson has yet to surface after he left the country six months ago while facing charges for the double murder of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and Dacer’s driver.

Estrada, like Enrile, committed to support Pangilinan but Estrada made it clear to the LP senator that he would only support him if Enrile did not make a bid for the Senate leadership.

Pangilinan lost support for his bid after party and administration allies late last week confronted him on whether he could secure the necessary numbers and later pushed Enrile to go for the presidency himself.

Enrile had said he would do so if the senators would be able to get him the numbers.

In a statement on Sunday, Pangilinan said he gave up his bid for the top Senate post because he “realized there are political realities and developments that prevent us from securing the needed 13 votes resulting in a deadlock or stalemate.”

“Much as I would like to go down fighting, I realize that to continue with my bid would keep the Senate fragmented and disunited. The disunity must now end. I believe I can help make it happen by voluntarily stepping aside,” he said.

“It has been a very difficult experience for me and my family, but if I had to do this all over again for the cause of genuine change and reforms for our nation, I would. I would like to thank our people for their prayers and support. We fought a good fight,” Pangilinan said.

Senators were meeting on Sunday to deal with the committee chairmanships. There are 27 chairmanships up for grabs.

Drilon and Estrada said they did not think Enrile’s leadership in the Senate would be a problem for President Aquino.

Drilon said that Enrile from the very start had supported Pangilinan’s bid until the latter was unable to get the needed votes.

Likewise, he said Enrile would support the administration’s legislative agenda because not only was the Senate “an institution which will respond to the needs of the country” but one was inclined to support a “popular” President such as Mr. Aquino.

Estrada agreed that Enrile would not be a problem for Mr. Aquino since the two men were very much in good terms in the Senate before.

Malacañang said on Sunday it still expected to deal with a Senate “friendly” to President Aquino despite the withdrawal of Pangilinan from the Senate presidential fight.

“We look forward to working and cooperating with a friendly Senate,” the President’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said. “It’s important that we have a friendly Senate [for] our legislative agenda.”

Lacierda said that in hoping for a friendly Senate, Malacañang was not fearing that the senators might scrutinize the Aquino administration for possible corruption.

“The Aquino administration has promised not to engage in any corrupt practices that’s why we are not afraid of that,” he said. “What we are more concerned of really is the legislative agenda the President has in mind, which will require cooperation from the Senate.”

PMA board goes for Noynoy, Mar

PMA board goes for Noynoy, Mar
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) board is backing Liberal Party (LP) bets Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for president and Sen. Mar Roxas for vice president.

The PMA board chose to endorse the 2 candidates to ensure the successful implementation of PMA’s various health programs, according to Dr. Mike Aragon, PMA chairman for media affairs.

The 2 candidates deserve the PMA’s endorsement because they have a legislative program that “protects the medical profession” and health of the country, the PMA secretary general said.

Aside from Aquino and Roxas, the PMA board has also decided to support several candidates for senator from different political parties.

They are:

former Senator Franklin Drilon (LP);
Sen. Pilar “Pia” Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP);
Dr. Martin Bautista (LP);
Binalonan Mayor Ramon Guico of Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Lakas);

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party (PRP);
lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel (NP);
Adel Tamano (NP);
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP);

Sergio Osmeña III (LP);
Ralph Recto (LP);
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (Lakas);
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada (PMP).

Comelec junks disqualification case vs Drilon

Comelec junks disqualification case vs Drilon
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) junked a disqualification case filed against former Senate president Franklin Drilon, allowing him to pursue his senatorial bid in the May 10 elections.

In a nine-page decision released yesterday, the Comelec’s First Division dismissed for “utter lack of merit” the petition filed by a certain Vladimir Alarique Cabigao seeking Drilon’s disqualification.

“In the instant case, it has been shown that Drilon had a hiatus of three years since his second consecutive term as senator. Consequently, there can be no doubt as to his eligibility to run for a Senate seat in the 2010 national elections,” the resolution, signed by Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Armando Velasco and Gregorio Larrazabal, stated.

Cabigao alleged that Drilon’s filing of his certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections is prohibited by the Constitution because he would be eligible to run for the Senate only in the 2013 elections.

Drilon won as senator under the Lakas-Laban coalition in the 1995 election.

In 2001, Drilon ran again for the Senate and won under the People Power Coalition senatorial lineup.

Bong, Jinggoy statistically tied

Bong, Jinggoy statistically tied
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that two actors who are also re-electionist senators are again leading the senatorial aspirants in the May 10 elections.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. of the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) were “statistically tied” at first place, receiving 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively, according to results of the SWS survey published by the BusinessWorld newspaper yesterday.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party is still third with 43 percent, down from 44 percent last month.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of PMP and Sen. Pia Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP) both got 36 percent and are now in fourth and fifth slots, respectively.

Former senator Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) was in sixth place with 35 percent.

Former senator Vicente Sotto III of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (33 percent) and former head of the National Economic and Development Authority Ralph Recto (30 percent) maintained their seventh and eighth places, respectively.

Independent bet former senator Sergio Osmeña III improved to ninth spot from the previous 11th place after receiving 29 percent. Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan garnered 28 percent and is now in 10th place, while Sen. Manuel Lapid of the administration party is in 11th place with 27 percent.

The SWS said these candidates have consistently been in the list of 12 possible winners since the firm’s Dec. 5-10 survey.

Former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla of the NP got 21 percent to land in the 12th and last spot, followed by Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III of LP and businessman Jose de Venecia III of PMP, who both got 20 percent.

BusinessWorld reported that the SWS described as “not far behind” the PDP-Laban senatorial candidate Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, daughter of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr.; who got 18 percent.

LP bet Sonia Roco, widow of senator Raul Roco, Akbayan party-list Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel also of LP and detained Col. Ariel Querubin (NP) all got 16 percent while another LP bet, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, got 15 percent.

Emilio Mario Osmeña of Promdi and detained Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim (LP) both got 13 percent.

Drilon questions 78% hike in Maguindanao voters

Drilon questions 78% hike in Maguindanao voters
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Former Senate President Franklin Drilon Tuesday questioned the “improbably high voting population” in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), particularly the province of Maguindanao, and urged the Commission on Elections to purge the voters’ list in the region.

Drilon, a Liberal Party senatorial bet, noted that while other provinces in Mindanao registered voter population increases between eight and 16 percent from 2007 to 2009, the province of Maguindanao registered an unbelievable 78 percent.

Citing figures from the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Drilon said Lanao del Sur’s voting population grew by 16 percent (from 396,722 in 2007 to 459,012 in 2009); Sulu by 12 percent (from 250,571 to 280,257); Tawi-Tawi by 11 percent (from 140,232 to 156,027); and Basilan by eight percent (from 181,445 to 195,845).

Maguindanao recorded the biggest increase from 336,774 to 601,057, he added.

Drilon noted that the ARMM had gained notoriety in the 2004 presidential election as the alleged site of massive fraud that favored President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The ARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Sulu. It had a registered voting population of 1.6 million as of early 2009, Drilon added.

He said a National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) official, whom he did not name, also felt that the region’s listed overall population growth rate of 5.4 percent—more than double the national average—was “patently unrealistic.”

Drilon said the LP was worried that local ARMM officials were padding the region’s population figures so they could carve out new districts to get higher local budget allocations.

“Already, we are getting persistent reports that the unrealistic population growth rate in the ARMM is causing so much confusion among government data gatherers that a technical committee in the census department is studying whether to accept the numbers as valid or not,” Drilon said.

The Ampatuan connection

Drilon then linked the ARMM voting figures to the Department of Justice’s recent decision to release two members of the prominent Ampatuan clan accused in the Maguindanao massacre.

“It might be a prelude to massive administration cheating in the region during the elections,” he said.

“To make the elections credible to the Filipino people and the international community, I am urging Comelec Chairman Jose Melo to seriously review the existing voters’ list in ARMM and have it immediately purged,” he added.

Earlier, LP campaign manager Florencio Abad said the DoJ’s decision to clear Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan from involvement in the Maguindanao massacre could mean the “Ampatuan cheating machine” in the ARMM would be put to work again during the May 10 elections.

“With 23 days left before the May presidential elections, the timing of the dismissal of the case and order of the release of the two…can only fuel further suspicion that the Arroyo regime will once again employ the dreaded but effective Ampatuan cheating machine in ARMM to manipulate the coming elections according to Arroyo’s whims,” Abad said in a statement on Sunday.

The Ampatuans were close allies of Ms Arroyo before they were implicated in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009.

Zaldy was suspended as governor of the ARMM while Akmad as vice governor of Maguindanao as a result of their alleged involvement in the massacre.

In the 2004 elections, President Arroyo enjoyed a comfortable lead over her opponents in the region allegedly due to the Ampatuans’ influence over the electorate, Drilon said.

He agreed that the DoJ ruling revived fears that the Arroyo administration “might again resort to massive fraud in the ARMM” to have its candidates win in the May elections.

Erap says he's for Gibo

Erap says he’s for Gibo
By Charlie Lagasca
The Philippine Star

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya , Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada disclosed here over the weekend that if he was not running for president he would vote for administration presidential candidate Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.

Estrada, presidential bet of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, cited Teodoro’s brilliance and ability to lead the nation.

“My only edge (over Teodoro) is my popularity and vast experience (in public service) while Gibo has the makings of a great leader,” he said.

He said that he is open to talk with Teodoro for a possible alliance of their camps.

“We are open to talks with Secretary Teodoro if he wants to. Our doors are open to whoever is willing to work with us,” he said.

Estrada, however, stressed that as of now there are no direct or indirect talks between his camp and Teodoro’s group.

Presidential surveys show Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Benigno Aquino III still in the lead, followed by Nacionalista Party (NP) bet Manuel Villar, Estrada in third place and Teodoro a distant fourth.

Estrada said that he would benefit from the ongoing word war and mudslinging between Aquino and Villar.

He said that for more than 40 years as a politician, he never engaged in below-the-belt statements against his opponents.

“I don’t have things like that. My campaign is high level. I don’t engage in personal attacks,” Estrada said.

Estrada, who turned 73 yesterday, said the mudslinging between Aquino and Villar would discourage people from voting for them.

As part of his annual birthday celebration, Estrada went to Payatas where he had lunch with poor residents.

“They are mudslinging. The people will be turned off. I will benefit from that one way or the other. The true issue here is that the true opposition is the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP),” Estrada said.

Estrada said the members of the NP and LP are among those who joined EDSA Dos that ousted him and installed President Arroyo as president in 2001.

“The NP and LP joined together in EDSA Dos. The standard-bearer of NP (Villar) was the one who banged the gavel in Congress for the transmission of the impeachment complaint against me although it had not passed through the House committee on justice yet. He railroaded the transmission of the impeachment case against me to the Senate,” Estrada said.

Estrada said former Senate president Franklin Drilon, then president of LP, was among those who raised the hand of Arroyo as the new president of the Philippines during EDSA Dos.

He said that big businessmen are no longer helping him in his campaign because they learned their lesson, that they cannot get any help from an Estrada administration specially if what’s at stake are the interests of the government and the majority of Filipinos. With Jose Rodel Clapano

Villar, NP court Muslim vote

Villar, NP court Muslim vote
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur , Philippines  – Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. and the party’s senatorial slate yesterday received a strong show of support from local leaders who gathered 20,000 supporters for their political rally in Barangay Banggolo.

The NP has allied with local party Ummah-Ompia led by re-electionist Gov. Omar Ali Solitario and sworn in local leaders from the province’s 38 municipalities.

In expressing his support for Villar, Marawi second district congressional candidate Jun Macarambon took potshots at other presidential candidates who he claims are “insensitive” to the Mindanao peace process.

Macarambon claimed that Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer former President Joseph Estrada practically declared an all-out war in Mindanao when he delivered a speech during his campaign sortie in Davao.

Macarambon also claimed that Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II and former senator Franklin Drilon, who is running again for the Senate, derailed the peace process when they opposed the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the separatist Moro Islamlic Liberation Front.

In his speech, Villar reiterated his platform of governance to eradicate poverty by making the Philippine economy at par with neighbor countries.

He also promised that Mindanao will not be left behind under his administration.

Villar also defended his spending for political advertisements, claiming he has not overspent.

“I keep a tab on my advertisement expenses. Most of the time the actual expenses are lower,” he said.

Villar’s new political advertisement is a 30-second spiel on the country’s pressing problems and the need to elect an experienced leader. The infomercial subtly criticizes LP standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for being inexperienced.

In a separate statement, NP said the new advertisement is expected to increase Villar’s competitive advantage.

Villar said Aquino cannot implement genuine economic reforms because his party has absorbed President Arroyo’s economic team, the latest being Mrs. Arroyo’s economic adviser, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The others are former administration finance and trade secretaries Cesar Purisima and Roxas, and economic planning director Ralph Recto, architect of the 12 percent Expanded Value-Added Tax.

Aquino has said more administration allies are expected to transfer to his party.

‘Gloriaquino’

Villar said Salceda’s defection to the LP disproves allegations of a secret alliance between him and President Arroyo.

Villar alleged that it is Aquino who has a hidden alliance with the President.

“Gloriaquino is very clear. They coined Villarroyo to mislead the public from the real events,” he said. “If we were to be suspicious about something, it should be about the relationship between President Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino.”

In a campaign sortie in Bulacan last April 5, Aquino said he does not welcome administration party members to transfer to his party.

Villar’s running mate. Sen. Loren Legarda believes their party can still corner votes in Bicol despite Salceda’s defection to LP because Albay is only one of the provinces in the Bicol region.

Salceda endorsed Legarda’s candidacy a week ago.

“Bicol has solid support for NP-NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition). We should get it straight from him (Salceda). Albay is only a province in the Bicol region, so we can’t say that the region has solid support for the Liberal Party.”

Camarines Sur Gov. Lray Villafuerte doubts Salceda can bring support to the LP.

Villafuerte, chair of the League of Provinces, is confident that he can deliver votes from Camarines Norte and Catanduanes, aside from his province.

“We (NP) have support not only in Bicol but also in big provinces,” he said.

He said two other administration members – Masbate Gov. Elisa Kho and Sorsogon Gov. Sally Lee – would support the NP if they decide to join the defection bandwagon.