16 Luzon lawmakers defect to Villar camp
By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Sixteen lawmakers from Northern Luzon are defecting to the Nacionalista Party (NP), Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla told The STAR yesterday.
Padilla said his colleagues in the Northern Luzon Alliance (NLA) made the decision during a meeting in Baguio over the weekend.
“There were 32 of us members of the Northern Luzon Alliance who attended the meeting. Fifteen of them who do not belong to the Nacionalista Party made a commitment to support Senator Villar,” he said.
He said Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan, who was not able to go to Baguio, sent word that he too would support NP standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar.
Villar was not present during the meeting organized by Padilla and Deputy Speaker Eric Singson.
If Villar wins, Padilla might be NP’s candidate for speaker.
The 16 who have pledged support for Villar include Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and Pangasinan Rep. Conrado Estrella III from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). Both earlier promised support for Lakas-Kampi presidential candidate Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro.
Some NPC lawmakers earlier decided to coalesce with the NP. However, Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco and his father billionaire businessman and NPC founder Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. do not recognize the coalition.
The Cojuangcos maintained they are not supporting a presidential candidate but are supporting Sen. Loren Legarda, NP’s vice presidential guest candidate, originally from the NPC.
Padilla said the other NLA members who did not commit during the meeting in Baguio would most likely also support Villar.
“They just asked for time to consult their leaders,” he said.
He expects Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson to defect to NP because his father, former Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, has already shifted support to Villar.
In Isabela, other than Aggabao, Padilla said former Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Rodolfo Albano Sr. would most likely transfer to the NP.
Albano is seeking a House seat in the first district of Isabela. His son, incumbent first district Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, said he is remaining with the administration party Lakas-Kampi.
“I’m not the type who will abandon a friend especially when he is down. I will support Gibo all the way,” he said.
Padilla said the Ortega clan of La Union is also expected to defect to the NP.
Villar and Legarda last Sunday held their fifth campaign sortie in Davao City where they had the “Rockatropa Concert of Tropang Villar.”
The political rally drew a crowd of 80,000.
Rosalinda Duterte, 56, said she traveled two hours from Tagum City with her two grown up daughters and two neighbors to shake Villar’s hand.
“He is my idol. His life story is very inspiring. I believe he can pull us out of poverty because he did it with his life,” she said in Filipino.
Her neighbor, Salvacion Dimarugso, 59, said she admires Villar for his achievements in life. She said she supports him despite the C-5 road extension controversy hounding him.
Some of the celebrities who entertained the crowd were boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, rapper Andrew E., singer April Boy Regino, host-actors Randy Santiago and John Estrada, singers Jesssa Tarragona, Mae Rivera, Layman, Aegis, actress Ara Mina, and band 6cyclemind.
Villar and Legarda yesterday criticized their strongest rival, the Liberal Party (LP), for supposedly conditioning the mind of the public that there would have been vote rigging in the upcoming elections if they do not win.
LP vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II earlier said they would have been cheated if they do not win the election.
“I may be cheated, too. But I also do not think that I will lose,” Villar said.
NP senatorial candidate Ramon Mitra, a former Marine officer, said the upcoming elections would be the “toughest test” for the military to protect the credibility of the elections by maintaining peace and order, especially now that murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan have been dropped. – With Christina Mendez