Lisa Cojuangco on Kris, Noynoy and divided families

By Ces Oreña Drilon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2010 10:38 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2010 07:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It was 1986, and Lisa Cojuangco-Cruz was the only one on the side of her family to campaign for Cory Aquino for President. Her father, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, after all, was considered the closest confidante of President Ferdinand Marcos, whose 21-year rule was being challenged by her aunt.
 
In February 1986, when Marcos fled to Hawaii, her father, loyal to the end, accompanied him with nothing but the clothes on his back and a few thousand pesos in his pocket. Lisa stayed behind, living in Iloilo while her family was in exile in the United States.
 
In 2010, Lisa found herself again in another yellow campaign, this time for second cousin, Noynoy Aquino. The prodigal daughter also proved to be instrumental in renewing their family’s ties with the Aquino family, long estranged because of politics.

Her aunt Cory’s husband, Ninoy, was the toughest critic of Marcos, while her father was his most trusted friend.
 
Common ground with Kris

Lisa says it began when she sought the help of cousin and TV personality Kris Aquino in her advocacy to build awareness on lupus. Lisa is stricken with lupus, a very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by episodes of inflammation and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys and skin.

"It came about whenever I need help, like I put up the LUISA or Lupus Inspired Advocacy Project under the Philippine Rheumatology Education and Trust Foundation, when I needed Kris's help, she was there," Lisa says. 
 
Lisa also says, after the death of former President Cory Aquino, she and her cousins wanted to get to know each other better, since decades of political divisions had made some of them strangers.

“We all wanted to have a reunion to get to know each other because there are so many generations, like I have my children, they had their children, our children have children, so we wanted to have a big Cojuangco reunion. And then this thing of politics again came up, and one of our generations decides to go on his own way, so here starts the fight again, divided again. So that's what happens I guess,” she says, referring to first cousin, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who bolted the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), a political party founded by her father.
 
Lisa says she decided to support second cousin Noynoy Aquino instead, campaigning for him with cousin Kris in Bacolod, Iloilo and Bulacan. (Click here for story.)

'A big fan of Noynoy'

”I believe in Noy. He's a simple guy. He was, maybe, overshadowed too much by a younger sister that’s so famous, famous parents, he wasn't given his chance to shine. I believe he has something in him, he has also the charisma of his mother, his father that people didn't notice. So, now, I must say I'm a big fan of Noy,” she says.
 
The NPC did not support any presidential candidate in the elections, supporting only the vice-presidential bid of Sen. Loren Legarda.

Danding Cojuangco was mum about the soured relations between him and his nephew and political protégé, Gilbert Teodoro, throughout the campaign, but his wife and daughter were quoted widely in media, saying, “Anybody but Gibo.” (Click here for story.)

Sources say Cojuangco had opted to be silent about endorsing the candidacy of nephew Noynoy Aquino, thinking it may do more harm to his candidacy than good.

Instead, Cojuangco instructed party mates quietly to support Noynoy, especially in his bailiwicks, Negros Occidental and Tarlac.

Lisa quoted her father as saying, “Konti lang naman hiningi ko, suportahan niyo lang ang presidente, kung di kayo maka commit sa VP, the party has a VP (referring to Loren Legarda), sa inyo na lang iyo, balato ko na sa inyo, pero sa presidente, ako na mismo, si Noy ang aking kandidato."

'VP is yours, but vote for Noy'

Asked if President-elect Noynoy Aquino met with her father during the campaign, Lisa says, "I really don't know exactly when they met, where they met, if they met or whatever, but I think it was more of a choice between both relatives. Both nephews were running, one, my father says, he helped so much before, and the other one he hasn’t helped, and the one that he helped a lot broke his heart. Not only my father was affected, I personally, was very, very much affected. “
 
Noynoy’s sisters called on Cojuangco the morning of their brother’s proclamation on June 9, to personally thank him for his help in the elections.

Eldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz says, ”Gusto lang namin magpasalamat dahil alam ko, dahil nakausap namin ang mga kandidato, karamihan sa Negros, siyempre iyong sa Tarlac sinabi na nila early on na noong tinanong daw nila kung sino ang dadalhin, ang sabi niya (Danding) si Noynoy.  Kasi he didn’t go all out. Hindi naman siya nag-announce na si Noy ineendorso niya, pero iyong mga lumapit sa kanya para magtanong kung sino ie-endorse niya, sino gusto niya, ang sinabi niya talaga, si 'Noy.”
 
Lisa says she appreciates the gesture of the Aquino sisters, recalling how her first cousin [Gilbert] had abandoned the NPC, despite all the support her father had given him.

”They come from a very simple family, a close-knit family, and what I like about them is they all are there to help each other, so I think if the family is together, you can pull the country together, but if you have a divided family, how can you put a country together?” she says.

'No coco levy deal'
 
Lisa firmly says the support given by her father is unconditional. A case involving the coconut levy collected from farmers during the Marcos regime is still pending before the Supreme Court. 

The levy, now believed to be worth P150 billion, was conceived by Cojuangco to fund projects that would benefit the coconut industry, but critics say the proceeds were pocketed by Cojuangco to finance his private companies.

“I can tell you straight and look at you straight in the eye, no way, my father will fight out all his cases to show that he is not guilty of anything that was accused of him, because he could have done that a few years ago, he could have dealt with [President Fidel] Ramos, he could have dealt with [President] Gloria [Arroyo], why does he still have his cases? Everybody is cleared, we're the only one not cleared. He could have done [a deal] with Erap, he didn't," she says.