Saturday, October 24, 2009

Manny-Loren shaping up

Legarda turns down offer to run with Teodoro

MANILA, Philippines – The possible tandem of Senators Manuel “Manny” Villar and Loren Legarda for 2010 took shape Saturday as he closed the door on a teamup with Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, the administration standard-bearer.
With Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno pulling out of the vice presidential race, the administration’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD was pressing Legarda to form a tandem with Teodoro.
To sweeten that offer, the ruling party said it was not averse to coalescing with Legarda’s party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition. It’s actually the NPC’s decision, according to Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general Gabriel Claudio.
“She continues to be a viable, desirable running mate to Gibo. That is certainly open and seriously considered by the party,” Claudio said by phone on Friday night.
But Legarda is not biting.
“With due respect, gratitude and admiration for Gibo, I hope that he can share my advocacy and platform … even as I stay with the opposition,” she told the Inquirer yesterday on the phone.
Asked about the chances of a teamup with Villar, the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Legarda said:
“I am quietly, deeply reflecting on who could best help me accomplish my goals for the people.
“I will only consider it if he accepts my platform on sustainable development, good governance and climate change adaptation, and priority on migrant workers, which is so close to my heart.”
Legarda had earlier revealed that she was being courted by Villar, Teodoro, and Senator Francis Escudero, the presumptive standard-bearer of the NPC.
Same advocacies
Villar could not be reached on the phone.
Sought for comment, NP spokesman Gilbert Remulla heaped praise on Legarda, saying she was “an advocate of the same issues and programs that Senator Villar has been pursuing for the last two decades, which are OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] and the environment.”
“Her politics is only secondary to her advocacies, and that is the basis of a true leader,” Remulla said.
Legarda declared her intention to run for vice president at a press conference that followed a Friday rally at the Rizal Park where she launched her “green” candidacy. But she did not say whether she would run under her party, and who she would be running with.
Hours earlier, Puno announced that he would no longer run in tandem with Teodoro in order to focus on the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the recent back-to-back storms.
Legarda said she found Teodoro “intelligent and a man with integrity.”
“Amid the call of the times due to the recent typhoons, it’s not easy to be defense secretary, doing the work of an NDCC [National Disaster Coordinating Council] head while trying to campaign [for president],” Legarda said.
She said that despite her decision not to team up with Teodoro, they would still find a reason to work together in pursuit of her advocacies.
Escudero spurned?
Lakas-Kampi-CMD had been holding talks with Legarda for her to run with Teodoro under its banner. It is to hold a national convention on November 12 where Teodoro, his running mate and senatorial candidates are to be proclaimed.
There are reports that NPC chairman emeritus Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco has changed his mind about bankrolling Escudero’s presidential candidacy.
If the reports are true, these would free Legarda and clear the way for a coalition between Lakas and the NPC for the 2010 polls, said Claudio, who advises President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on political matters.
“It was previously presumed that NPC would have its own candidate for president. There’s a lot of speculation – indication that Senator Escudero just might not be endorsed by the party itself. So that gives rise to the prospects of a Lakas-NPC coalition,” Claudio said.
Only weeks ago, the Escudero-Legarda tandem appeared to be a done deal, with the two senators starting to map out their national campaign strategy.
Escudero was to have announced his presidential run early this month.
But in a surprise move, he deferred his announcement, purportedly in deference to the rescue and relief operations for typhoon victims.
Ball in NPC court
Claudio said the ruling party had no objection to a coalition with NPC, which, if formalized, could be the institutional basis for “a Gibo-Loren tandem.”
Party officials had described the tandem as “a potent combination.”
“[But] this is something we can’t decide unilaterally,” Claudio said.
Yesterday, he sent this text message: “The ball is in NPC’s court.”
Claudio said it was the League of Provinces of the Philippines that had endorsed the Teodoro-Legarda tandem as a condition for the coalition of the ruling party and the NPC.
There is a “rainbow coalition” of Lakas, Kampi, NPC and other parties in the House of Representatives, but none has been forged at the national level.
On the other hand, an NP stalwart said negotiations were ongoing for an NPC-NP alliance.
One issue being resolved is Legarda’s request to stay with the NPC in deference to Danding Cojuangco, said the source, who is privy to the talks but asked not to be named for lack of authority from Villar to discuss the matter publicly.
The NP stalwart admitted that the Villar camp was engaged in one of its most vital negotiations to defeat the Liberal Party tandem of Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel “Mar” Roxas.
Vilma et al.
As for Batangas Governor Vilma Santos running for vice president under the administration banner, Claudio said the ruling party had yet to get “a formal declaration of availability or non-availability” from her.
“No truth to that,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said over the state-run dzRB. “Somebody told me – I think it was Gabby [Claudio] – that there’s nothing definite about Vilma. Somebody just floated the idea that she could run as VP.”
If the party fails to get Legarda, or even Santos, to team up with Teodoro, it can fall back on its allies, Claudio said.
He named some of them as Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, both Lakas-Kampi-CMD members, and Tourism Secretary Ace Durano of the NPC.
“If [the NPC] will not allow Senator Legarda to be Gibo’s running mate, Lakas-Kampi will proceed to field somebody from its own ranks, where other excellent materials for vice president, can be drawn,” he said.
Popular VP candidate
A ranking Lakas-Kampi-CMD executive conceded that if the administration’s problem was Teodoro’s low popularity, “then obviously we will go for a popular vice presidential candidate.”
He said the administration actually had “a stable of ‘vice presidentiables.’”
To those named by Claudio he added business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan and actor and TV host Edu Manzano.
He cited Pangilinan’s “financial clout and muscle,” Garcia’s “Visayan bailiwick” and Manzano’s “celebrity appeal.”
But a governor from the Visayas said both Garcia and Durano had refused the offer to become Teodoro’s running mate.
Revilla is said to prefer the senatorial race where he is practically a sure winner, if recent survey results are any indication.

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