Arroyo orders Lakas to close ranks, ensure Gibo victory

By Kristine Servando,

Posted at Apr 06 2010 07:44 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2010 03:45 AM

Officials ‘fix’ problems of defections, lack of funding

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 1) – Following a surprise visit by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at a Lakas-Kampi-CMD meeting on Tuesday, members of the administration party solidified their ranks and resolved to stand by their standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro Jr.

Officials of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, which recently suffered defections by key members, held a 2-hour closed-door meeting to “iron out administrative problems” and to elect a new set of officers to vacant party posts.

Among those newly elected by the party were former Agriculture Sec. Arthur Yap as senior vice president for external affairs, former Justice Sec. Agnes Devanadera as senior deputy Secretary-General, and Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez as Treasurer.

Other elected officers were Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado as vice president for Visayas, assistant secretary Serafin Benaldo as executive director for education and training, Rep. Victor Francisco Ortega as regional chairperson for Region I, Rep. Rodolfo Valencia for Region IV and Rep. Anton Lagdameo for Region XI.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD governors, in a separate meeting at nearby Discovery Suites, conducted loyalty checks among its members and resolved to unify their support for Teodoro.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD lost key members to rival political parties: the Nacionalista Party, whose standard-bearer is Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr., and the Liberal Party, whose presidential bet is Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD also became the subject of political intrigues stemming from an alleged "secret alliance" between Arroyo and Villar--a rumor that party officials strongly denied.

Tuesday's meeting marked the first time since Lakas-Kampi-CMD's merger that President Arroyo attended an executive committee meeting. The appearance was reportedly not included in her official itinerary.

Asked if she gave instructions to her party, she told media: "I did not give instructions. It's all political."

However, Lakas-Kampi-CMD Vice President Prospero Pichay said Arroyo, before leaving the meeting early, told officials to campaign for Teodoro.

No more defections?

After the meeting, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD Executive Committee, led by acting chairperson Amelita Villarosa and vice president Prospero Pichay, signed a resolution “affirming [the party’s] unity behind the presidential candidacy of [Teodoro].”

They also vowed to “intensify its nationwide campaign to give [Teodoro] a victory” on May 10, mainly relying on their local machinery.

Pichay and Villarosa said this means they will mobilize local candidates who can deliver “command votes.”

They declined to specify, however, whether they will step up their TV, print, or radio ad campaigns. Teodoro has used at most 10% of the total allowed airtime on Television per network.

In the same vein, the 51-member National Caucus of Governors under Lakas-Kampi-CMD signed a “Manifesto of unwavering support for presidential candidate [Teodoro].”

The governors, which elected Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia as their president in the same meeting, committed to “work hard for overwhelming electoral mahorities for Gibo Teodoro” in their areas.

Pichay told they are confident that there will be no more defections from party members until election day, since Lakas-Kampi-CMD members had given their palabra de honor or word of honor to stay loyal to the party.

However, Pichay said that if other Lakas-Kampi-CMD members to defect to rival parties, it will be because of numerous reasons—among them the want of funds, having friendships outside the party, or being swayed by surveys.

Pulse Asia had recently released a survey dated March 21 to 28, 2010 where Teodoro maintained his 7% average, and is still lagging behind survey front-runners Aquino, Villar, and Joseph Estrada.

Party officials, however, said they do not give importance to Teodoro’s relatively poor performance in surveys.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman insisted: “Surveys can be wrong. And if there is any effect of this, it’s that it will be in favor of the underdog.”

Funding problems?

In the ExeComm meeting, Lakas officials had also discussed funding issues raised by senatorial and other local candidates under their ticket, some of whom had complained of not receiving funds from the party.

Senatorial candidate Raul Lambino, for instance, said many local candidates were not given funds by the party to pay for media advertisements.

Lambino, who claims to be the poorest senatorial candidate in the Lakas slate, said he has been using funds from his own pocket to pay for campaign expenses. He estimates that he has spent around P20 million already.

Pichay admitted to Newsbreak that “[money] can also be a factor for some [defections], if the party cannot release funds.”

He said the party decided to release a total of 90 million pesos for the campaign, barely enough for each candidate. Villarosa described this amount as “petty cash.”

The funds were reportedly not given to candidates but was used for logistical support for TV, radio, and print ads.

“Nag-aabono na nga ako. [I am already shelling out my personal funds]. But I will not run away from my responsibility,” Pichay said.

The Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice-president, however, said other parties have the same financial problems, and that the ruling party is “in a better [financial] position” than other parties, according to Pichay’s friends in rival political parties.

Villarosa, meanwhile, assured that they will spend more “within the limits of the law.”

Asked how much they have allotted for the campaign, Villarosa said: “We will spend what is needed and we will meet our commitments and what is authorized by law.” (Newsbreak)