MANILA - Sen. Francis Escudero on Wednesday announced that he has resigned from the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), the political party of business tycoon Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco Jr., and asked for time to decide whether he would still pursue his presidential bid.
Escudero explained in front of a crowd of supporters and media at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City that he left the party to allow himself to decide on his own what position he should run for in 2010.
"Madalas ko pong sinasabi na ang desisyon o pasya kaugnay sa pagtakbo o hindi pagtakbo o ang pagtakbo sa partikular o anumang posisyon, dapat personal sa isang tao at hindi dapat pinapasa o inaasa kaninuman," he said.
He added: "Let that be the first test of leadership of any putative candidate: for that person to decide on his own whether or not he will run or what position he will run for."
Escudero, 40, said he is taking that first test by leaving the NPC. He joined the NPC in 1998.
He said he believes that someone who wants to run for president in next year's election should not be allied with any political party.
"Hindi puwede na nakakadena ang kamay at paa sa partido," he said, adding that a candidate aspiring for a high position in government will not be able to do what he's supposed to do if he is allied with a congressmen or senator who belongs to the same political party.
Asked if he is really gunning for the presidency, the senator said he has yet to decide on the matter. He asked his supporters to give him more time to decide as he had just been freed from the party.
The senator, however, stated that he will run for a higher position, which is either the presidency or the vice-presidential post.
Escudero has three more years left in the Senate. Even if he loses in May 2010, he will remain a senator until 2013.
Escudero reportedly met with Cojuangco, the founder and chair emeritus of NPC, Tuesday night, after which he decided to leave the party.
Escudero’s decision to quit the party came days after Sen. Loren Legarda, his former partymate, declared her intention to run for vice-president, but left open the option of running with presidential candidates of other parties.
Escudero said he informed the party's chairman, former Isabela Governor Faustino Dy Jr., about his resignation before making the announcement.
Shocked NPC members
Shocked members of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) started convening right after Escudero resigned from the party, a party official said Wednesday afternoon.
"Party members are coming as we speak," Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, NPC secretary-general, told ANC's Dateline Philippines when asked what will be the party's next step after Escudero's resignation.
Duavit said the party may come up with an official statement within the day regarding Escudero's sudden resignation.
He said party members started getting in touch with each other right after hearing the senator's announcement at Greenhills, San Juan City, where he was expected to declare his plans for the 2010 national elections.
"What's happening is we are getting in touch with party members because this is a shock to us. He was able to talk to the chairman, but not to the general membership," Duavit said.
He added that some party members have expressed disappointment and sadness over Escudero's decision. "They were looking forward to Senator Chiz running under the NPC banner," he said.
No party split
Duavit, meanwhile, said that as far as local party members are concerned, the party remains strong despite Escudero's resignation from the party.
"At least as far as the party is concerned, the local parties are strong. We are in contact with them," he said.
The congressman said he does not see other members leaving the party to follow Escudero.
However, he admitted that some loyal supporters of Escudero may still support his possible presidential run. He said that personally, he is "still inclined to support" the senator's candidacy.
Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and presidential peace adviser, Avelino Razon Jr., was with Escudero at Club Filipno. He said he was not bolting the party, but he will continue supporting the senator's presidential run.