MANILA – Clad in his trademark green shirt, presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr has the makings of a champion: mestizo good looks, a commanding but amiable presence, and an esteemed educational background. When he swaggers through the room, people turn. When he talks, everybody listens.
But despite the demeanor, political analysts say he lacks the so-called masa appeal that will win him the presidency. Another major drawback is his association with the current administration, which is faring negatively in net satisfaction ratings.
Teodoro is barely figuring in the polls. His ratings in recent popular surveys were lower than 1% and even after being endorsed by the ruling party Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats, his ratings barely increased to 4% in the latest Social Weathers Stations survey. Results from the October Pulse Asia survey also showed Teodoro’s rating as a meager 2%.
The executives of the ruling party, however, seem unfazed by the figures. According to Regie Velasco, secretary general of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, the vast machinery of the party will bring Teodoro victory in 2010. “Local [candidates] will bring the national candidate. No other party could claim the same advantage as Lakas,” he says.
Formidable as it may be, analysts agree that the administration party can work as both Teodoro’s ace and disadvantage.
The merged Lakas-Kampi-CMD brings together around 1,677 incumbent local executives under its roof. According to reports, 71 governors, 62 city mayors, and 984 municipal mayors are under the Lakas banner. There are also 139 out of 216 Lakas-Kampi members in the House of Representatives.
Some of its members, however, are leaving to join the Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party, whose standard bearers are topping the surveys. “The party is big but it has no power. Survey ratings will come first before local chiefs support Teodoro,” Ramon Casiple of Institute of Political and electoral reforms, says.
A seasoned lawyer, Teodoro is one of the scions of the prominent Cojuangco clan of Tarlac. He is the sole son of former Social Securities Systems head Gilberto Teodoro Sr and Mercedes Cojuangco, the sister of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco of the San Miguel Group. His mother is also the first cousin of former president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino, the mother of current Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno Aquino III.
When he entered politics as a representative of the 1st district of Tarlac in 1998, he headed the Nationalists People’s Coalition, a party Cojuango created for his failed 1992 presidential bid. Teodoro was dubbed as Cojuangco’s “political son” and was said to be closer to “Tito Danding” than the latter’s sons.
“Ang relationship namin ni Tito Danding, natural ‘yun sa pulitika. Minentor niya ‘ko…sa ilalim ng NPC. Nag-umpisa ako as congressman, siya personal ang tumutulong sa pagkakampanya ko,” he tells broadcaster Cheche Lazaro in an interview for Probe Profiles.
This time around, Teodoro is not expecting any support—both financial and personal—from his uncle. Rumors surfaced of an alleged friction between the two even before Teodoro left NPC to join the administration party. Teodoro denied any rift but claimed severing ties with the older Cojuangco, saying they have different views.
The businessman too, showed disinterest in financing Teodoro’s campaign and downplayed a coalition between Lakas-Kampi-CMD and NPC. Further fueling the fire are reports that Cojuangco will allegedly support the congressional bid of his younger brother against Teodoro’s wife, current Tarlac representative Monica Prieto-Teodoro, in 2010.
‘Be your own man’
To survive President Gloria Arroyo’s “kiss of death,” Benito Lim, political science professor, stresses that Teodoro should “be his own man.” Tuazon agrees and says that Teodoro should show that “he is not Gloria [Arroyo].”
During his 9-year stint in the House of Representatives, Teodoro has consistently sided with Arroyo. He voted to trash impeachment complaints filed against Arroyo in the lower house, and has openly supported motions for a Constituent Assembly in 2006.
His loyalty paid off when he was appointed secretary of national defense in 2007 and eventually became the standard bearer of the merged administration party. Teodoro strongly pushes for the amendment of the 1986 Constitution, triggering debates that he is merely a front man in Arroyo’s pursuit to remain in power beyond 2010.
As chief of national defense, Teodoro always supports Arroyo’s platforms, saying it is improper for him to go against the powers that put him in his current position. He also said in an interview in DZMM that if he is the president, he also wants his cabinet members to support him.
Teodoro is unlikely to show his independence, says Lim.
Overcome Noynoy, Villar
Teodoro needs to beef up his “personality factor,” Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment and Governance says. “He should speak eloquent Filipino and he should transcend the mestizo look. People want somebody coming from them. He has to appear masa,” he adds.
Aside from edging up Teodoro’s “personality factor,” he should also beef up his own platforms. “He appears to be somebody with no clear programs. He’s only continuing Arroyo’s programs,” Tuazon says.
According to Casiple, the former defense chief needs to beat Aquino’s momentum and credibility as a reform candidate. “He has to portray himself as a reformer, someone who is more responsive to the needs of the people.”
Always trailing behind the surveys, Teodoro finally gained the spotlight during the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng. But the performance of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, which he heads, was criticized for its lack of preparedness.
Similarly, the recent Maguindanao massacre will not beef up his ability to snag the presidency from Aquino and Villar. “It’s a very big negative factor against Gibo (Teodoro’s monicker)… He is still Gloria [Arroyo] and the massacre is a dark spot for Arroyo’s administration,” Tuazon claims.
Lakas-Kampi-CMD, however, is still confident that once the party comes out with campaign advertisements, Teodoro will become the voters’ top choice. In his latest advertisement, doe-eyed Teodoro narrates his platform for 2010—political unity, quality employment, education for all, health care. The straightforward infomercial highlights his credentials and insists that a proper candidate should not only use his heart but also his head. But whether his advertisement delivers the votes Teodoro need has yet to be seen.