SAN FERNANDO, Philippines – Just a day after President Arroyo gave orders for ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD to ensure a win for presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro Jr., officials in her bailiwick of Pampanga vowed to do just that by mobilizing their sizeable local machinery.
Regional executives said the Arroyo bailiwick is “solidly behind” Teodoro’s candidacy, with around 70% of local officials able to deliver votes in his favor.
Teodoro campaigned in Arroyo’s “home court” on Wednesday with his running mate Edu Manzano and 4 members of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial ticket.
Over 500 Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidates, including presidential son Rep. Juan Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, attended the sortie at San Fernando in Pampanga to reiterate their support for Teodoro.
“Pampanga is for Gibo. He is getting stronger and stronger here by the day,” Rep. Arroyo said.
Regional district campaigner Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales said Lakas-Kampi-CMD has command over 3 out of 4 congressmen, all 20 municipal mayors, 538 barangay chiefs almost all village counselors.
The province had 1,206,182 registered voters as of March 2009.
Assuming a 60 to 70% voter turnout (or 800,000 voters), Gonzales estimates they can deliver at most 500,000 votes for Teodoro.
“Conservatively, we can say Gibo can get 400,000 to 450,000 votes here, along with the whole slate. It is significant to ensure a win,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in an interview.
Other local officials were less conservative about their estimates.
Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, Pampanga Mayors’ League spokesperson, claimed his municipality can deliver a landslide victory.
“100% ang barangay captain ko. 100% ang aking ex-kapitan. Kasama ko lahat ng leaders ng all sectors. Bakit hindi ko masasabi na mala-landslide si Gibo sa Candaba?” he said.
Noynoy vs. Gibo
Coincidentally, Teodoro’s cousin and rival in the presidential race, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was also in Pampanga to campaign for the Liberal Party.
Some parts of Pampanga are reportedly partial to Aquino owing to the influence of Liberal Party member Pampanga Gov. Eduardo Panlilio.
Rep. Mikey Arroyo conceded that “everyone has a chance to [win votes]” in Pampanga, but added that the area is still largely controlled by Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Teodoro, for his part, said he is confident that Pampanga will deliver enough votes to make him win in the province.
“It would be useless for me to go to a place where I think I won’t win,” he told reporters at the San Fernando sortie.
Teodoro’s visit to Pampanga came just a day after a Lakas-Kampi-CMD executive meeting where President Arroyo herself ordered party officials to fix cracks in the party and focus on delivering a solid victory for Teodoro.
Lakas-Kampi-CMD, in recent weeks, has suffered defections by key members to rival parties, namely the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party. Local candidates also complained of lack of funds from the party.
The administration party was also hounded by rumors that Arroyo was secretly supporting Nactionalista standard-bearer Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. instead of Teodoro; and that there was alleged infighting among high-ranking party members.
‘Arroyo was always there for me’
All is now well with the Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, Teodoro said, and that it is “as strong as it always was.”
He said he always felt Arroyo’s support even before the campaign started, and that he is “always satisfied” with the help he gets from his party mates.
“I have honestly always been convinced of the support of the President. And never had I made any statement in public that there was no such support,” he said.
“There has always been support. There are just propaganda rumors circulating, that’s why they had to call an ExeComm meeting just to show that these things are not true,” he added.
Arroyo has not campaigned with Teodoro in any of his sorties in the past 2 months. However, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD bet said the president doesn’t need to do so.
“I’m sure the president would not want to eat into our campaign time by attending, since we’re the ones who have to be heard,” Teodoro said.
Teodoro was also unperturbed by a recent Pulse Asia survey that showed he was still at 4th place with 7% voter preference, compared to survey frontrunners Aquino, Villar and Estrada.
He said he has stopped believing in surveys, even in ones that place him higher in the presidential race rankings.
Rep. Mikey Arroyo said they had privately commissioned a survey “for their guidance” that put Teodoro at a “significantly higher position” than his rank in the Pulse Asia survey.
The former defense secretary vowed not to quit the race, despite his negative exposure in poll surveys and media.
“In this campaign, would I stop? That’s common sense already. More than anything else, my self-respect is more important. I will not quit.”
Rumors that Teodoro would bolt the party surfaced after he resigned as Lakas chairperson in order to focus on his campaign.
A few cracks in the party’s ranks also showed when some local candidates complained of not receiving funds from the party.
According to Lakas vice-chairperson Prospero Pichay, the party allotted P90 million for the campaign, most of which were funneled to logistical support for media advertising instead of being given to candidates.
Gonzales admitted that Pampanga officials have not received funds from the party’s finance committee, but he insists they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are volunteering to spend our own money. Money is not an issue for us because we believe in Gibo,” he claimed.
Retirement fund for village chiefs
With over a month left until election day, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD slate is reportedly focused on clinching the support of barangay officials nationwide in order to reach the grassroots level.
The party, which trusts its local machinery to deliver votes, expects 538 member barangay officials and “kagawads” (counselors) to campaign hard for Teodoro.
“We’re going down to the barangay level and we’re going to win this election,” Teodoro said.
In Pampanga, Gonzales said awareness for Teodoro is high among voters since they have saturated the area with Gibo posters and banners.
But they still have to convince these voters to pick Teodoro as their next president.
“We are in the next phase, which is conversion of votes for Gibo,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
As a bonus for village chiefs if he becomes president, Teodoro promised to create a P17 billion retirement fund for all 41,000 barangay captains nationwide.
The Lakas-Kampi-CMD bet said it was Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danny Suarez who suggested the scheme.
He said the government cannot afford to pay for the salaries of all barangay captains and counselors, but it can feasibly set aside a percentage of revenues for a trust fund.
“We will do this under the law that a retirement fund for barangay chairmen can be created,” he told 500 mayoral and village-level officials at Wednesday’s caucus. “So when you grow old and need help, you have a source of money.” (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak) Photos by Kristine Servando.