'NPC can deliver swing vote in 2010'

by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 03 2009 08:41 PM | Updated as of Nov 04 2009 07:47 PM

MANILA - The country’s second biggest political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), can play an influential role in the May 2010 polls despite the resignation of its supposed standard-bearer Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero, party officials and an analyst said.

If the party can unify to support another presidential candidate, the NPC can spell that candidate’s victory, said political analyst Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform (IPER).

“They can lend weight to any presidential candidate as a major ally. If it's Senator Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III, it will cement his victory. If it's Senator Manuel Villar, it will give him a real crack at winning,” Casiple said.

The NPC is backed by its founder and chair emeritus, businessman Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco, Jr., who is also chairman and CEO of San Miguel Corp. (SMC). 

Reports are rife that NPC vice-presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda will be the running mate of Nacionalista Party (NP)  standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar.

NPC secretary-general Rizal Rep. Michael John “Jack” Duavit told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak party members have yet to come up with a consensus on what to do as far the presidential election is concerned.

Loren’s consultations

NPC spokesperson Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian said Senator Legarda and party members are separately holding consultations. 

“She, being the presumptive vice presidential candidate, she is doing her own consultations. We will all sit down later together to decide,” Gatchalian said.

In an emergency meeting following Escudero’s announcement last October 28 that he was leaving the party, the NPC agreed to keep “all options open” in 2010. They also reiterated support for Legarda's vice-presidential bid.

Swing vote?

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, chairman of the NPC's political task force, is in favor of coalescing with other parties. 

“We believe very strongly, if we take a consolidated position from the NPC originals, the new adherents, and other prospective allies, we can deliver the swing vote that will bring victory to whoever we will endorse. We have enough numbers and voting support,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in a phone interview.

If the electoral race will be a close one, the NPC can deliver a swing vote. Villafuerte estimates that the NPC can influence 20% to 30% of the voting population.

However, Casiple downplayed Villafuerte’s projections. “Not as a swing vote. They can become a major block if still unified,” he said.

Villafuerte was formerly president of President Arroyo's party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi). He opted not to join the merged Lakas-Kampi-CMD and planned to support the presidential bid of Escudero. 

As head of NPC’s political task force, Villafuerte will be in charge of political mapping nationwide.

Free for all

But Duavit said the party may also repeat their strategy in the 2004 presidential elections, when their local politicians were given a free hand in choosing the presidential aspirant to support.

The party was split between supporting President Arroyo and the leading opposition candidate, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr..

“We’re all out for Senator Loren. There is no question about that. But as far as going for a bigger coalition, we will have to hear the sentiments of our members,” Duavit said.

Escudero’s pending decision on whether to pursue his presidential ambition in 2010 may affect the party stand, too.

Villafuerte said several members may opt to support Escudero in their individual capacities.