ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – Even if Gilbert Teodoro is President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s official candidate, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer is not yet assured of this province’s support as local officials want to cast their lot with a "winnable" contender, former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis 'Chavit' Singson said.
"President Arroyo is telling us to endorse Gibo, but we have not openly supported him yet because we have to wait for the decision of the mayors…Mahirap naman sasabihin ko tapos matatalo dito," he told reporters on Friday.
Teodoro has been at the low end of the presidential polls since his name was included by survey firms last year.
He trails former President Joseph Estrada, Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III, and Nacionalista Party presidential contender Manuel Villar by wide margins.
He has failed to hit double-digit rating despite spending heavily on political ads, and his highest so far has been 5%. In the last Pulse Asia survey, Aquino (37%) and Villar (35%) were statistically tied, while Estrada was third with 12%. (Read: Aquino, Villar tied in Pulse Asia survey)
Singson stressed that his choice for president will depend largely on the decision of the province's local chief executives, who will formally endorse a presidential contender by the first week of March.
The political configuration of the local government shows that all 34 incumbent mayors are members of Arroyo’s party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD. One of them, Candon City Mayor Allen Singson, has openly said that he’s going for Teodoro.
Allen is Chavit’s nephew.
Singson and Arroyo
While Singson does not want to formally endorse any presidential contender yet, his alliance with Arroyo will be a factor in his official choice for the top post.
Singson is running to reclaim his seat as governor under the Lakas-Kampi-CMD party. He has been an Arroyo ally since 2001, when he played a major role in the downfall of then President Joseph Estrada.
Singson was the whistleblower who said that Estrada accepted protection money from illegal gambling operators, an accusation which led to Estrada's impeachment and ouster by a military-backed uprising in January 2001.
Due to the key role he played in Estrada's impeachment trial and ouster, President Arroyo has helped protect and promote Singson's economic and political interests.
In politics, Singson was one of the administration senatorial candidates in 2007, but lost. He was later appointed deputy national security adviser despite his lack of qualifications.
On Saturday, Teodoro will stand as godfather of Singson’s son, Ryan, in his wedding. Whether this will help clinch Singson's backing remains to be seen.
Supporting the son
Meanwhile, Singson told Newsbreak that even though he will no longer support Estrada for the presidency, he will endorse the deposed president’s son, Jinggoy.
Jinggoy is running for re-election in the Senate under his father's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). He has placed either first or second in the senatorial surveys.
Singson said he is also open to endorsing other PMP senatorial candidates, such as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former Sen. Franciso Tatad.
Mayor Allen Singson will likewise support senatorial candidates who were present in Estrada’s Ilocos Sur campaign sortie on Friday.
Aside from Jinggoy, Joey de Venecia III, Tatad and Enrile attended the lunch hosted by the younger Singson at the city hall of Candon.
Singson and Estrada were literally just a few blocks away from each other Friday in Ilocos Sur.
While Estrada was having lunch with Singson’s nephew in city hall, Chavit was taking his meal at Max's restaurant, which is just a ride away.
Estrada reiterated that that he has already forgiven his Singson for helping remove him from Malacañang in 2001. "I have already forgiven everybody,’ he said.
Singson, on the other hand, said that he maintains cordial relations with his former drinking and gambling buddy.
Singson’s lone opponent for the gubernatorial post, Efren Rafanan, is running under Estrada’s party.