Lakas-Kampi defections: ‘Villaroyo’ or ‘Gloriaquino’?

By Carmela Fonbuena,

Posted at Apr 17 2010 12:56 AM | Updated as of Aug 05 2010 03:28 AM

NP, LP get almost equal share of turncoats from the administration

MANILA, Philippines--Those who are saying that the exodus of administration candidates to the Nacionalista Party (NP) is proof that Manuel Villar Jr. is the secret candidate of President Arroyo should re-think their assumptions.

The Liberal Party (LP) of Benigno Aquino III has practically the same share of defectors from the President's party, the Lakas-Kampi, a headcount done by shows.

As of April 15, less than a month before the elections, 42 incumbent governors, congressmen, and city mayors have either bolted Lakas-Kampi or declared support for presidential candidates other than Lakas standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Of these, 22 went to join or support the NP and Villar, and 20 to the LP and Aquino. (Clck here to see "Lakas-Kampi Members Who Have Defected or Declared Support for Other Presidential Candidates.")

Both camps are claiming that more Lakas-Kampi members will defect to join their parties in the next weeks.

“Kapag matatapos na ang term ng isang pangulo, ang mga local officials ay lumilinya at sila ay pumipili ng kanilang magiging lider. Higit na nakararami ang gustong lumipat sa akin dahil sa ako ay dating Speaker at Senate president (Every time a president’s term is about to end, realignments are expected. There are more local politicians who want to join NP because I was a former Speaker and Senate president)," Villar said on Tuesday.

“Within the next week or so, halos araw-araw meron kayong maririnig. Di lang galing sa Lakas, Meron din tayo galing sa ibang partido. Nagulat ako nagn nalaman kong sila interesado pala (Almost every day, you will hear of such developments. They will come not only from Lakas but from other parties as well. I was surprised when I learned they were interested),” Aquino said.

Lakas-Kampi has been beset by defections since last year. House Speaker Prospero Nograles early this week also warned of the possibility that stalwarts of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, the original party before it merged with Kampi, could re-group to endorse another presidential candidate.

The surveys ratings of Lakas-Kampi's Teodoro have not been picked up. The March 2010 Pulse Asia survey shows he is trailing with 7%, compared to Aquino’s 37% and Villar’s 25%.

Lakas-Kampi vice presidential candidate Edu Manzano and senatorial candidate Raul Lambino are also complaining about the lack of financial support from the party.

Real opposition

The political parties of the closest rivals in the presidential race, the NP and the LP, have proclaimed themselves as the "real opposition" and accused each other's bets of being President Arroyo's "secret candidate."

In February, LP secretary general Luis Martin Gascon actively distributed press releases warning about the supposed secret coalition between President Arroyo and Villar. LP used the term "Villaroyo."

They hit Villar's refusal to prioritize corruption cases against President Arroyo. They squeezed Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Eshmael Mangudadatu's claim that Villar is allied with the Ampatuans. They were suspicious of the NP coalition with the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), the original party of Teodoro.

NP, LP, and NPC are coalition partners of Lakas-Kampi in the House of Representatives.

They hit the defections of Lakas-Kampi stalwarts Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, Cebu Mayor Alvin Garcia, and Bukidnon Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri.

But most of all, LP criticized NP's adoption of former agriculture secretary Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante, the alleged mastermind of the P728 million fertilizer fund scam that allegedly aided President Arroyo's campaign in 2004. He is running under NP in Capiz. Bolante was not a member of Lakas-Kampi, but he is a perceived ally of the administration.

The allegation of a "Villaroyo" coalition was bolstered in early April, when reports came out that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo called Lakas-Kampi stalwart Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia to shift his support to Villar. Cebu is the country's biggest voting province with 2.2 million voters.

Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes said the "Villaroyo" tag may have contributed to Villar's drop in the March 2010 survey. Villar's rating decreased to 25 points, from 29 points in February.

Noynoy's relatives

The NP was initially content just denying the "Villaroyo" coalition. Then it fired back with "Gloriaquino."

Villar said that the recent defection of President Arroyo's economic adviser Albay Gov. Jose "Joey" Salceda from Lakas-Kampi to LP is a "vindication" for him.

"If we were to be suspicious about something, it should be about the relationship between President Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino,” Villar said.

Salceda is one of the closest and favored allies of President Arroyo. He was an economic adviser of the President and his province was a recipient of various projects.

NP spokesman and senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla said that "Gloriaquino" is also evidenced by the active and major involvement of former members of the Arroyo Cabinet in Aquino's campaign.

LP's vice presidential candidate, Manuel Roxas II, was a former of trade secretay of Arroyo. Newsbreak reported that under him the trade department's spending on advertisements increased 10 times the full year before he ran for senator in 2004.

Arroyo's former economic planning chief, Ralph Recto, the brains behind the expanded value added tax, is trying to return to the Senate as an LP candidate. Other former Arroyo Cabinet members who are running different aspects of Aquino's campaign are former finance chief Cesar Purisima, former education secretary Florencio Abad, former defense secretary Avelino Cruz, former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, and former peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles.

NP also stressed that Aquino has a number of immediate relatives still working for President Arroyo--his paternal aunts Tessie Aquino-Oreta and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara and uncle Paul Aquino, and his maternal uncle Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. and the latter's wife Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco.

Villar also dared Aquino to divulge who his funders are. “Where is he getting his money? Is this the fruit of their Gloriaquino collusion?” Villar said. He said he is not beholden to anyone because he is using his own money for the campaign.

“Maybe he is benefiting from the Arroyo administration because he has some relatives in her Cabinet. He's the one with connections, not me. There are also some LP members employed by President Arroyo. Baka kaya may propaganda sila na ako daw ay secret candidate ng Malacañang dahil gusto nilang itago ang katotohanang sila ang totoong nakikinabang (Maybe the reason they came up with the propaganda that I am Malacañang's secret candidate is for them to hide the truth that they are the ones benefitting from the administration),” Villar added.

“It's not impossible to have a ‘Gloriaquino’ candidate. To me, they have more to gain from an alliance with Malacañang than me. My supposed links with Mike Arroyo is really just vicious black propaganda. What is sinister is how they invent lies to hide their own political machinations,” Villar said.

'It's not GMA'

Political analyst Allen Surla of the De La Salle University said that defections from political parties happen every election, and President Arroyo may not have anything to do with it.

"It doesn't seem it has anything to do with President Arroyo. Lakas-Kampi is a marriage of convenience in the first place," he said.

When politicians consider their own interests, Surla said, party loyalty becomes secondary. "These are politicians who want to win. To them [it's], 'Let's forget party loyalty. Meanwhile, if you want to win, you either go to the political party that will give you the machinery or you go to the 'winnable' party."

Surla doesn't think the LP has the resources, but it has the supposed advantage of being popular at this time. —Research by Jesus Llanto,