MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Edgardo Angara denied Thursday that he approached Sen. Richard Gordon to withdraw from the presidential race in exchange for cash and a possible Cabinet position under a Villar presidency.
"There is absolutely no truth to that. I was surprised to hear my name being dragged into the issue," he said in a statement.
Angara, who was rumored to be the choice of Villar supporters to be the next Senate President, said the electorate should not dawdle on petty politics but focus on a serious and honest examination of the candidates' platforms.
He added that the next president would face big challenges such as "a dwindling food and water supply, a growing population, poor educational standards, lack of healthcare, and a slipping national competitiveness."
Gordon on Tuesday accused fellow presidential aspirant Villar of attempting to bribe him to withdraw from the race. He said Villar sent an emissary who offered him a Cabinet position and reimbursement of his campaign expenses in exchange for backing out of the presidential race.
The alleged bribe offer was done in the last week of January at the height of deliberations on the Senate Committee of the Whole's report recommending the censure of Villar for unethical conduct in connection with the C-5 road project.
Gordon said the objective of the Villar camp was to convince him to side with them so that they would be able to oust Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate President and stop the Senate plenary deliberations on the ethics case.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Enrile said his chief of staff called him in the last week of January and said that another senator "who Villar was supporting to replace me as Senate President, had approached Sen. Gordon to join the plot to oust me and install a new leadership in the Senate."
He said the offer to Gordon was repeated twice with increasing offers of money, reimbursement of his presidential campaign expenses and a Cabinet position if Villar was elected president. He said Gordon turned down all the offers.
"I have known Sen. Gordon from his younger days, and one thing I can say is that this man cannot be bought. Sen. Villar is dead wrong about Sen. Gordon. You do not put a price tag on everyone, especially not Dick Gordon. Gordon is not for sale," he said.
Enrile said he knew about the plot of several senators to unseat him as Senate President as early as December. He said Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a known Villar ally, called his chief of staff that Villar would try to unseat him if he moved to gather votes for the committee report ordering Villar's censure.
He said Angara feigned ignorance about the coup plot after it failed to push through.
Villar allies gang up on Enrile
Meanwhile, several senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party came to Villar's defense and denied that their standard-bearer would do anything illegal.
Nacionalista spokesman Adel Tamano said Gordon's claim that Villar tried to bribe him was unbelievable. He said making Gordon back out of the race would not benefit Villar since the former's supporters are from the upper class and do not support Villar.
"You have to remember, si Sen. Villar, he is not a lawyer di ba? He is a businessman. He is a guy who became rich by making wise investments. Why invest in Dick Gordon when his ratings are so low? Why do an act na may legal consequences, na baka may makaalam pa? Ang laki ng risk and your returns are so low.," he said.
Another NP candidate, Gilbert Remulla, said Enrile had an axe to grind against Villar after the failed power grab in the Senate.
Still another NP candidate, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., backed Tamano's argument that Villar is the man to beat in the presidential election. He said the bribe offer was highly unlikely and is not in the character of Villar.
"Actually when it comes to the presidential race, he is the only game in town. Kaya it’s possible that they are trying to be part of the groundswell that is developing for Manny Villar," he said.