Chiz, Noynoy touch base

by Aries Rufo,

Posted at Nov 11 2009 11:33 PM | Updated as of Nov 12 2009 02:50 PM

MANILA - Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Wednesday doused speculations that he has backed out of the presidential derby and has decided to support Senator Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III of the Liberal Party.

Escudero and Aquino met Tuesday midnight at the former’s New Manila residence purportedly to discuss the 2010 scenario.

However, Escudero said he and Aquino, who is a close friend, did not talk about politics.

Asked if he has abandoned his presidential bid and has agreed to support Aquino’s, Escudero, in a text message, said, “No. (I) have not yet decided regarding 2010.”

Since bolting the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Escudero has been keeping the public guessing on his next step. He was the presumptive standard-bearer of the NPC for the May 2010 polls, until the issue of campaign funding allegedly came in the way.

(Read: Lack of funds from Danding prompted Chiz to quit NPC?)

Escudero has neither confirmed nor denied that the issue of campaign funding was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Aquino, in a phone interview, said he and Escudero only wanted to catch up with each other “since we have not talked for a long time.”
“We only touched base. We talked about our individual situations and where we are now,” Aquino said. “He’s been a close friend for the past 10 years.”

'Not surprising if Chiz backs Noynoy'

In a separate phone interview, LP national president Florencio Abad said the party held a meeting Tuesday night which Aquino attended. The meeting was adjourned just before midnight. Abad said he was not aware that Aquino went to Escudero’s place.

Abad denied there was an active effort on the part of the LP camp or Aquino to court Escudero’s support.

“Both Noynoy and Mar (Senator Mar Roxas) would not do that. It would be presumptuous for them to do it. They would not tell Chiz what to do, and neither would their supporters,” Abad said.

But Abad said it would not be surprising if Escudero decides to support Aquino since the two have good personal ties.

He said that before Roxas decided to give way to Aquino, Escudero was offered to be his running mate. Roxas, however, abandoned his bid following  the death of President Aquino and the outpouring of condolences and support for the Aquino family.

Besides, Abad said Escudero has not attacked Aquino’s presidential bid.

In contrast, Escudero has criticized the presidential bid of former Senate President Manuel Villar, the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party.

Abad said an expression of support would be most welcome and would certainly boost Aquino’s campaign.

A previous survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that without Escudero in the race, voter preference for Aquino would increase.  (Read: Can Chiz win as an independent?)

(Read also: 50% prefer Noynoy in vote-rich Luzon areas: SWS survey)