MANILA - Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo on Wednesday said Cabinet officials will not be subjected to a loyalty check after Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo endorsed the candidacy of opposition Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Fajardo said she does not know if other Cabinet members are planning to endorse Aquino following Romulo's announcement.
"We don't really talk about politics during Cabinet meetings, we are just focused on governance. Right now, I don't know of any other Cabinet member who has said that they are supporting any other candidate. I don't see the need for a loyalty check right now," she said in an interview on ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
In the same interview, Fajardo said Romulo's endorsement of Aquino should not be seen as enough basis for the foreign affairs secretary's resignation.
"We respect his honesty in saying that he has long supported the Aquino family. There are many forms of support such as moral support and prayers...," she said.
She added though that any Cabinet member who actively campaigns for a candidate other than the administration standard-bearer Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro should resign.
Romulo earlier said he is supporting Aquino's presidential bid, making him the first Arroyo Cabinet member to openly declare his support for the Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's Europe News Bureau, Romulo cited his deep ties with the family of former President Corazon Aquino, saying the late Mrs. Aquino supported him since he became assemblyman of the Regular Batasang Pambansa until he became a senator for 12 years from 1987 to 1998.
"In 2007, I voted for Noynoy Aquino so my ties with the Aquino family have been deep and lasting. And so I've always voted...I've always been with Tita Cory and voted for the Aquinos," Romulo said.
Asked if he will again vote for Noynoy in 2010, Romulo said: "I have voted for the Aquinos all the time."
On Tuesday, Romulo said that despite his personal preference for Aquino, he will not be joining the opposition and will continue serving the Arroyo government until June 30, 2010.
"I have to make it very clear that such comments do not in any way diminish my service and support for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Neither does it mean that I am moving to the opposition. I am standing by the President until the end of her term and beyond," Romulo said in a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He said democracy in the Philippines is "strong and vibrant" as he expressed confidence that the people will choose a successor to President Arroyo who will build on her legacy and "move us forward to a brighter and stronger nation."
Romulo son backs Gibo
Unlike his father, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said he is supporting Teodoro in the 2010 elections and not Aquino.
The congressman said he has already talked to the defense secretary and relayed his support after his father declared his support for the opposition senator.
"I have a personal commitment with Gibo. If you search his character and his programs, I know that he can do the job of a president. Most of the criticisms against Gibo is that he will continue some programs of the present administration that people don't like. We have to remember that as defense secretary, Gibo is very tough on corruption especially on contracts that he perceives to be irregular and he has focused on that while he is in the defense department," he told ABS-CBN News.
Romulo also agreed that his father should resign from the DFA if he actively campaigns for Aquino.
"[Secretary Romulo] told me that he would support PGMA and that his support for Aquino is born out of a special relationship. If that is the only thing he did, then that should not be enough to ask for his resignation. That said, a Cabinet secretary serves at the pleasure of the president. Fajardo already said a Cabinet member should have the confidence of the president and if that is not there, the service will be affected. But if the confidence is there, then he should continue," he said.
He earlier said the late former President Cory Aquino once asked her youngest daughter-actress, Kris, to make a free campaign ad for his father when he ran for senator in 1987. He said Mrs. Aquino is the godmother of Romulo's eldest child.
Romulo also noted that his father is not a member of any political party.
'Romulo as political casualty'
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said Romulo should first resign before he supports Aquino in his presidential bid.
"If they cannot support the administration's decision, then the only logical thing that you should do is honorably resign from their position. If I were in his place, if he can't support my president... then I have to resign from the Cabinet," Enrile said.
Enrile said Romulo's position was a sign of the division within the administration.
Zubiri, a supporter of Teodoro, said Romulo's expression of preference for Aquino has embarrassed the president and had affected the party.
For his part, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said it would be wrong for the Arroyo government to fire Romulo simply on the basis of his preference for Aquino in 2010.
"Bert Romulo is the brightest light in the Cabinet, and it will be a monumental folly to snuff him out on the petty basis of his tentative choice for 2010. Dog-catchers you can fire anytime but you don't serve your foreign affairs secretary his walking papers just because his politics doesn't jibe with yours," Recto said.
"You don't make a senior statesman a casualty of politics or the first victim of a purse. And you don't subjugate the welfare of OFWs and diplomacy to political whims. And Gibo is a strong competent candidate who has his own charm and powerful draw that you don't have to crack the whip so others will follow," he added.
Lakas-Kampi CMD secretary-general Gabriel Claudio said Romulo should be given a chance to explain his statement in favor of Aquino. Claudio said it appears to be just Romulo's personal preference. -- With reports from Ron Gagalac and Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News