MANILA - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday refused to confirm or deny reports that she has asked Vice-President Noli de Castro to be the administration bet in May 2010, but added that the broadcaster-turned-politician "would make a good president."
In a statement, Arroyo said she does not "want to get ahead of VP Noli who said he is nearing a decision" on whether to run for president in 2010.
She reiterated that the ruling Lakas-KAMPI-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-KAMPI-CMD) has an "ongoing selection process for its standard-bearer based on democratic consultations."
"Members of the Lakas-Kampi executive committee have reported to me the progress of this process, and they have also conveyed to me the sentiments of party members," she said.
"I do not want to get ahead of VP Noli who said he is nearing a decision. But I do thank him for acknowledging the value of the administration party's support and for attesting to the earnest work that we do in the Cabinet as well as its significance as 'on the job training' for the presidency," Mrs. Arroyo said.
"The party, the Cabinet, and I regard VP de Castro as a leader imbued with the decency, capability, dedication to public service, and a genuine sensitivity for the Filipino masses. These traits will make a good president," she added.
Proud to have Noli
In a separate statement, Presidential adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio said that, "As chairman of the administration party, PGMA is echoing the views of many Lakas-Kampi members who will be proud to have VP de Castro as their standard bearer, just as the party's consultation and selection process moves to high gear."
"As chief executive, PGMA bears witness to the diligence, dedication and integrity which VP Noli has been serving the cause of the Filipino people, especially the poor, as vice-president, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chair, and senior adviser on the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)," Claudio said.
De Castro appears to be the only remaining viable administration candidate since other aspirants, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and MMDA chair Bayani Fernando, have not made any headway in their popularity ratings despite heavy spending on political ads.
Arroyo, not a kiss of death
On Thursday, de Castro said he would be honored to accept Mrs. Arroyo's reported offer for him to be the administration bet in the May 2010 elections.
De Castro, who has not decided whether to run for president, said he does not believe that an Arroyo endorsement is a "kiss of death" for a candidate.
If he finally decides to run for president, de Castro, an independent, said he will also ask the help of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party for his election campaign.
De Castro said Arroyo's endorsement will not hurt his bid since he has been able to serve the people under the Arroyo presidency.
He said he has received good training after serving in various capacities under the Arroyo administration since 2004.
De Castro declined to say when he will announce his decision whether to run for the presidency.
Not worried of ratings
De Castro ran under the administration alliance in the 2004 elections, beating another broadcaster-turned-politician, Loren Legarda, in a close race.
On recent surveys which show him falling behind other presidential aspirants, de Castro said he is not worried about this development.
He said what is important is that people recognize the work he has done as chairman of the HUDCC.
De Castro said surveys are just temporary; what's important is the result from actual voting on election day.
De Castro placed third behind Senator Manuel Villar and former President Joseph Estrada in the latest Pulse Asia survey conducted last August 2009 of 1,800 respondents.