MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – Former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson confirmed on Saturday that he is no longer supporting the candidacy of his political party-mate Gilbert Teodoro Jr., and is supporting Nacionalista bet Manny Villar Jr. instead.
Singson, who is running for governor of Ilocos Sur, told ABS-CBN News that he could not support Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Teodoro because a majority of his allies in Ilocos are supporting Villar.
He also revealed that Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao was one of those who convinced him to support Villar's presidential bid.
However, Singson, the provincial chairman of Lakas-Kampi-CMD in Ilocos Sur, clarified that he has not joined the Nacionalista Party.
Despite his recent move, Singson claims he will still remain friends with Teodoro and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed him as deputy National Security Adviser in 2008.
Both Arroyo and Teodoro stood as principal sponsors at the February wedding of Singson's son, Ryan, and the daughter of incumbent Ilocos Sur Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano.
Singson's announcement comes after a series of "defections" by key Lakas members who have chosen to support Villar. The NP bet has been a front-runner in national poll surveys, way ahead of Teodoro.
Lakas-Kampi-CMD's spokesperson, however, shrugged off the news, claiming that they have been expecting Singson to withdraw support from Teodoro.
“It’s not totally unexpected. We have had information that he was leaning towards that… We are prepared for this,” said Francis Manglapus, Lakas secretary general.
Singson has not filed an official letter of resignation, but Manglapus said they can "quickly replace him" if he does.
He said Teodoro still has a solid base of support in Ilocos Sur, especially since the provincial governor, Deogracias Savellano, is still loyal to the Lakas standard-bearer.
"We still have the current governor who is behind Teodoro," Manglapus said.
Teodoro still reportedly enjoys the support of "the northern alliance", composed of at least 40 provincial governors.
However, Manglapus does not discount the possibility of more "defections" by more Lakas members after the start of local campaigns last March 26 (Friday). The party's local machinery was expected to boost Teodoro's campaign.
Manglapus said other Lakas members who are planning to bolt from the party should decide soon “so that we can clear the air and focus our resources.”
Among those who have jumped ship and declared support for Villar are Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, the provincial chairman of Lakas-Kampi-CMD in the province. His son, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, is also a member of Lakas.
Several members of the pro-Arroyo Garcia clan in the vote-rich Cebu province have also reportedly chosen to support Villar instead of Teodoro. With reports from ANC and Brian Realgo, ABS-CBN Laoag.