Teresita Lazaro

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