League of Provinces of the Philippines

Teodoro rejects Cabinet offer from Aquino camp, says spokesman

Teodoro rejects Cabinet offer from Aquino camp, says spokesman
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Lakas-Kampi-CMD has rejected an offer for its standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. to back out of the presidential race and support Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in exchange for a Cabinet post.

LP stalwarts made the offer after administration big guns, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales III, crossed over to their camp, a move that shocked the administration party.

“He finds no rhyme or reason to withdraw from the race. Being the people’s candidate, he has to finish and win this race,” Teodoro’s spokesperson, Mike Toledo, said by phone.

With the campaign turning into “taunting and disinformation,” the 45-year-old Teodoro was more convinced that the Filipinos deserved a “new brand of politics,” he said.

“He’s more convinced that the Filipinos deserve a new brand of politics—a principled and issue-driven politics—and that can only be achieved under a Teodoro administration,” Toledo said.

Besides, Teodoro has time and again declared that “only God can make him withdraw,” Toledo added.

Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos, chair of the League of Provinces of the Philippines who crossed over to the Liberal Party several weeks ago, made the offer on ANC’s “Strictly Politics” program Tuesday night.

The offer came as rumors swirled that Salceda was joining the LP and a day after Gonzales announced his defection to the party.

Aquino has consistently topped the polls, trailed by Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., deposed President Joseph Estrada and Teodoro.

Toledo also said he doubted that Aquino, the LP standard-bearer, would make the offer to Teodoro, saying he believed there was mutual respect between the cousins.

“Senator Noynoy knows Gibo well enough not to bring that up. Noynoy respects Gibo,” he said, referring to the offer.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general Raymundo Roquero, for his part, laughed off reports that the camps of Aquino and Estrada had been making overtures to Teodoro to gain his support.

“They have casual talk during presidential forums. But that’s all there is to it. There are no arranged meetings,” Roquero said in a telephone interview. “There is no such talk being hatched.”

Teodoro flew to Davao City Friday morning to meet with local supporters and attend a forum for presidential candidates.

He was scheduled to fly back to Manila in time for a rally in Mandaluyong City later Friday night organized by Mayor Benhur Abalos to show that city residents were solidly behind him despite Gonzales’ defection to the LP.

“This is to showcase the overwhelming support of Mandaluyong City for Gibo Teodoro,” Roquero said.

Despite the defections, the party has a lock on the support of 43 re-electionist governors out of 80 gubernatorial positions available, and eight former governors; 169 congressional candidates out of 230 positions in the House of Representatives; 1,100 municipal mayoral candidates out of 1,500 slots, and 100 city mayoral candidates out of 130 slots, according to Roquero.

“They are getting substantial offers from an opposition party, but they remain solid and loyal to Gibo,” he said.

With the support of these candidates, plus the youth, Teodoro could score a victory, he said.

“Nobody is assured of victory here. The survey firms should stop publishing their results. They are not a reflection of the sentiments of the people,” Roquero said. “We see long-drawn out battle in this election. There may be a `come from behind victory’.”

Roquero also clarified that the release of funds to national and local candidates was being scheduled amid reports that some, including Teodoro, have not received their share.

“Teodoro has not mentioned anything about funding,” he said.

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

Arroyo to troops: Vote Teodoro

Arroyo to troops: Vote Teodoro
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

“Campaign for Gibo. Make him win on May 10.” This was reportedly the marching orders of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as she roused party members into campaigning for the Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer.

The resignation of administration standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro and defections by party stalwarts have impacted so heavily on the ranks of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats that it needs “resuscitation,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the economic adviser of President Arroyo, said Tuesday.

Ms Arroyo is reportedly trying to whip the party into mobilizing members and resources behind Teodoro amid speculation that she is secretly backing Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar.

“We’re under resuscitation,” Salceda told reporters, admitting that the departures from the party had caused “a general climate of uncertainty” among governors, congressmen and mayors.

Still, Salceda said, the party was “circling the wagons” around Teodoro and aggressively campaigning for him.

“It’s political CPR,” the outspoken governor said, using as a metaphor the first-aid treatment for patients with heart and lung emergencies.

He added: “There is no organization that will allow itself to simply die. It will fight before dying.”

Emergency meetings

Salceda and other governors held an emergency caucus early Tuesday at Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, to “conduct a loyalty check.”

Several meters away, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD national executive committee led by the new party chair, Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, met at Linden Suites to discuss pressing issues, including funding for local officials.

Ms Arroyo made a surprise appearance at both meetings, purportedly to rouse party members into campaigning for Teodoro and the rest of the administration’s national slate.

“Laguna Gov. [Teresita] Ningning Lazaro asked the President about the Villar issue. And the President told her: ‘That’s why I’m here. That Villar issue is a non-issue,’” party secretary general Raymundo Roquero said, quoting Lazaro.

Teodoro, 45, quit as Lakas-Kampi-CMD chair on March 30, purportedly to focus on his own campaign and make way for a “full-time chair” who would attend to local officials desperate for campaign funds.

The next day, Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez and Francis Manglapus quit as president and secretary general, respectively, to give the executive committee a free hand in picking the new chair.

Shortly afterward, Villarosa, Manglapus and Roquero were elected party chair, president and secretary general, respectively.

The purported support for Villar of the President’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, as well as the defection of his key allies in the ruling party to the NP, forced Teodoro’s resignation, according to an administration senatorial candidate.

New name for group

At the Discovery Suites caucus, 34 governors signed a manifesto to “work hard for overwhelming electoral majorities” for Teodoro, and 16 others expressed intention to sign it.

The governors are members of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, which has lost its chair, Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos, to the Liberal Party, and its president, Camarines Sur Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte, to the NP.

In an attempt to erase the stigma of the defections, they organized themselves into the National Caucus of Governors, and elected Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia as president, Dominguez as vice president, Salceda as secretary general, and former Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolf Plaza as finance officer.

Over at Linden Suites, Villarosa denied that there was a squabble over funds with party vice president Prospero Pichay, and guaranteed “sufficient funding” for local officials.

“They are funded. If there are those complaining, they’re probably asking for additional funds,” she later told reporters without elaborating. “Everything will be attended to.”

To the question of whether she was in effect asking the local officials to stay with the party, she said: “Yes.”

Local officials had yet to receive logistical and campaign support from the party a week after the March 26 kickoff of the local campaign, Mayor Ramon Guico of Binalonan, Pangasinan, a Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial candidate, said earlier.

Guico heads the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who chairs the party’s advisory committee, admitted that support would only be in the form of “usual support for poll watchers.”

‘It’s politics’

Ms Arroyo turned up at the Linden Suites meeting at around noon and stayed to witness the election of officials to vacant but minor party positions.

“I don’t have any instruction. It’s politics,” she told a mob of reporters as she emerged from the closed-door meeting at around 1 p.m. and was led to the elevator by her security men.

But according to Pichay, Ms Arroyo’s marching order to the party was: “Campaign for Gibo and make him win on May 10.”

In an interview after the meeting, House Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia said Ms Arroyo “dropped by to say hello and to show that it’s still status quo, that we should support Gibo.”

“So our message to local officials is: ‘Relax.’” Garcia said.

At Discovery Suites, Salceda said the governors intended to “create enclaves of strength” for Teodoro in the countryside by aggressively campaigning for him.

“We’re doing political CPR. If we’re able to rise from this, we’ll be in fighting form,” he told reporters.

Salceda said that while party conditions now were “less than ideal” than during previous elections, an electoral victory by Teodoro was “within a feasible, strategizable domain.”

“We will exploit our internal strength and deploy this strategy to get 14 million votes—the number of votes you need to win,” he said. “It’s still viable because we have 51 governors.”

The governors’ tough challenge is how to make the city and municipal mayors toe the line and back Teodoro because the funds are coming “in trickles,” Salceda said.

“We can make them stay if there’s enough incentive … It can be funds; it can be popular support,” he said. “My guess is they’re sticking by mere inertia. Meaning, this is the party they know.”

No experience

On the campaign trail in Taytay, Rizal, Bagumbayan standard-bearer Sen. Richard Gordon did not express surprise at the current state of the ruling party and said its standard-bearer lacked the “moral ascendancy” to head it, to begin with.

But when asked if he believed rumors that Teodoro would pull out of the race amid the continuing defections of party members, Gordon said he did not think so.

He said the defections were understandable considering that Teodoro “just suddenly joined the party.”

Teodoro was a member of his uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition before jumping to Lakas-Kampi-CMD to become its presidential candidate.

Gordon praised Teodoro’s intelligence but said the latter lacked experience and a solid track record as a leader.

He said that if there was anything positive in Teodoro’s presidential campaign, it was that it had prepared the latter “for another run in the future.”

Gordon said voters should look beyond money, popularity and political machinery in choosing their leaders, adding that the coming elections were crucial.

Dimaporos

While defections rock the ruling party, the influential Dimaporo family of Lanao del Norte has announced that it remained solidly behind Teodoro.

On Monday, Gov. Khalid Dimaporo, the provincial party chair, gathered administration candidates and leaders from 22 municipalities to a meeting in Tubod town where they formalized their stance.

Among those in attendance were party stalwarts Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo, Fatima Aliah Dimaporo and Irma Umpa-Ali.

“We want to send a message that we are not affected by negative media reports and that we are firm in our commitment to deliver a landslide victory for Lakas-Kampi-CMD in Lanao del Norte,” Dimaporo said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer in Davao City. With reports from Edson C. Tandoc Jr. in Taytay, Rizal; and Jeffrey M. Tupas, Inquirer Mindanao