MANILA - The Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) national executive committee on Wednesday chose Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as its standard bearer in next year's presidential elections.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Teodoro got the overwhelming majority during the national executive committee's voting. He, however, declined to divulge the exact result of the vote.
The party's deputy secretary-general Silvestre Bello said the result was proof of a "clear mandate" that Teodoro should be the party's standard-bearer.
"Subject to ratification by a national convention to be called by the party in accordance with law, the candidate of Lakas-Kampi-CMD for the 2010 presidential election, as endorsed by the party's national executive committee, is the honorable Gilbert C. Teodoro," announced the party's secretary-general Gabriel Claudio.
Claudio also announced that the party's national executive committee expressed preference for Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno as the party's vice-presidential candidate.
Teodoro's rival for the endorsement, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando, left the Edsa Shangri-La hotel in Mandaluyong City ahead of Claudio's reading of the official statement.
Fernando had earlier presented a motion before the national executive committee to consider setting a clearer criteria for choosing the standard bearer, which was effectively denied after top party members decided to push through with the voting.
The MMDA chairman had insisted that he was the rightful standard-bearer as he has been an old-timer in the party. He also declared that he might leave the party if it fails to chose to endorse him for the presidential post for the 2010 elections.
Ermita, meanwhile, said that Fernando was "entitled to his opinion" and that the selection process seemed fair.
"At least what we can say is that Chairman Bayani Fernando had been given all the opportunity as had been given to Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro," he said.
Next move: Making Gibo popular
Ermita said that after finally announcing its standard bearer, the party's next challenge is how to make Teodoro more popular to voters.
"It is our task now to push for the better awareness of the party's candidate. We will see in the coming months when surveys are held and how they will fare," he said.
He said that Teodoro's low popularity in recent surveys, referring to the defense secretary's less than 1 percent rating, would serve as a challenge to the party's members.
"These recent surveys, where our candidate has not registered well, will serve as a challenge...This will be a challenge for our candidate," he said.
He added that the party has the capability of bringing up Teodoro's survey ratings as it is "the most organized, the biggest and the strongest party."
In an interview over ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Teodoro expressed confidence that his survey ratings will go up once the Lakas-Kampi-CMD picks him as its standard-bearer.
"Kapag nagkaisa na ang partido, kapag nagsama-sama na lahat ng miyembro, hindi puwedeng hindi umakyat iyan eh," he said.
He predicted that the election survey results will change once all aspirants have finally filed their certificates of candidacy on or before November 30.
Duplicating Ramos, Magsaysay
The former lawyer and three-term congressman aims to duplicate the political careers of two former presidents -- Ramon Magsaysay and Fidel Ramos -- who rose to the top after successes in the defense department.
Magsaysay, the first defense chief to be elected Philippine president, succeeded in breaking the back of the agrarian-based Huk rebellion in the early 1950s.
Ramos, a bemedalled retired general, was hailed as a hero of a popular revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986. Six years later, he became the second defense chief to win the country's highest political post.
An air force colonel in the reserve force who flies light planes and keeps himself fit with daily shadow boxing, Teodoro is hoping his crackdown on Muslim and communist rebels will boost his image. He has been a vocal champion of more investment in defense.
Teodoro belongs to one of the country's most powerful political families, the Cojuangco clan in Tarlac.
For the election, he may get backing of his uncle Eduardo Cojuangco, who heads cash-rich San Miguel and is one of the wealthiest men in the country.
He used to be a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), but quit in July after he joined the ruling party.
His wife, Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro, who used to be a commercial model, took over his Congress seat as representative of Tarlac when Arroyo appointed him as defense secretary in 2007.
Teodoro has shrugged off criticism about his low popularity, saying the party machinery will help him catch up with survey leaders who are mostly from the opposition. -- with a report from Reuters