BATANGAS, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Former President Joseph Estrada revealed Tuesday that he has received offers to withdraw from the presidential race in exchange for a large amount of cash from a rival candidate.
In an ambush interview, Estrada said some go-betweens have been talking to him for the past 9 months trying to convince him to withdraw. In exchange, the go-between's principal will then reimburse his expenses incurred in the campaign.
The former president said he met his rival's go-betweens on two to three occasions, and the last meeting happened 2 weeks ago.
Asked who was behind the move, Estrada said: "I can't [say]. That's deniable. But probably, it's someone who has lots of money."
When asked whether it was a rival with the same campaign color (orange) as his, he said: "Ha, ha, ha, wala akong sinabing ganyan!" ("Ha, ha, ha, I didn't say that!")
Estrada said his rival was probably afraid of losing in the polls and wants to win over his supporters.
"Pwedeng natatakot, siguro gustong makuha suporta ko. Pero di nya makukuha suporta ko," he said.
("He/she may be afraid so he wants to win over my supporters. But he/she won't be able to do it.")
Estrada did not say how much money was offered, but said he refused it since he was insulted by the offer.
"I couldn't turn my back away from these people," Estrada said as the crowd behind him chanted, "Erap, Erap, Erap!"
'What will my allies say?'
Estrada added that he cannot turn his back on his political allies, especially those who have joined his team.
"Ano na lang sasabihin ko kay Senador Enrile, nandyan din ang aking anak si Senador Jinggoy, si [Makati City] Mayor [Jejomar] Binay. mawawalan sila ng ulo," he said.
("What will I say to Senator Enrile, or my son, Senator Jinggoy, and Mayor Binay. They will lose their leader.")
Estrada said the rumors that he will withdraw from the presidential race may also be coming from his rivals.
Rumors of Estrada's alleged withdrawal from the presidential race have been reported since last year.
Estrada currently ranks third in recent presidential surveys with 11% or around one in 10 voters choosing him for president. (Read: Noynoy widens lead over Villar in new survey)
Interviewed in Tacloban City where he was campaigning, Senator Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP), the only rival of Estrada with the same campaign color, denied the insinuation that he asked Estrada to withdraw from the race in exchange for money.
Villar said he has even advised Estrada to just ignore calls for him to withdraw, adding that the former President was a formidable opponent.
Impact of Estrada withdrawal
Estrada's withdrawal from the presidential race coupled with an endorsement would allow Sen. Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP) to widen his lead over Villar.
On the other hand, an Estrada endorsement of Villar would be a much-needed boost for the real estate tycoon, who was behind by 11 percentage points in the last survey commissioned by the LP camp. Villar was statistically tied with Aquino in a January 22-26, 2010 survey. (Read: Aquino, Villar tied in Pulse Asia survey)
Although Estrada's pro-poor platform is similar to Villar's, his running mate, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, is a close political ally of the Aquino family. (Watch video: Aquino-Binay tandem in the works?)
Other senatorial candidates of PMP were also with Estrada at the Batangas sortie. The group was warmly received in Batangas City before they made their way to the town of Ibaan.
Singer Rico Puno, who's running for vice-mayor in Makati, also came and sang "May Bukas Pa," and took the senatorial candidates on singing mode, with each one singing a verse then passing the mic to another.
The former president also sang and belted out his classic, "Kahit na Magtiis." -- report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News