MANILA-(1st UPDATE)-Senators Manuel "Manny" Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) on Tuesday formally announced their decision to run together in the presidential and vice-presidential elections in 2010.
Calling the tandem "a convergence of platforms," Villar said his decision to choose Legarda was born not of political accommodation but by a common vision to eradicate poverty in the country.
"Good things come to those who wait," Villar said to cheers at the NP event in Mandaluyong City.
The NP president said Legarda practices a new kind of politics and leadership. He also praised the woman senator for being a staunch defender of the environment.
"This is compatible with my platform to eradicating poverty...It is the poor who suffer the most from the negative effects of environmental degradation," he said.
A guest candidate, no merger
In an interview, Legarda said she will come in as a guest candidate of the NP for the 2010 elections. She added that there will be no merger between the NP and NPC, but more of a shared platform for the election.
"Kami ni [former] Senate President, former Speaker, and magiging presidente Manny Villar ay nag-usap at nagkaroon ng convergence ng plataporma, a meeting of the minds, na kami'y magsasama bilang presidente at bise-presidente. NPC at NP," she told ABS-CBN News.
She added that she received the blessing of NPC leaders to choose a standard-bearer after their leading candidate, Sen. Francis Escudero, abandoned the party.
"Umalis ang aming standard-bearer ng walang sabi-sabi. I was given the blessing and support of the entire party to look for my standard-bearer," she said.
Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, NPC spokesman, said their party has not entered into a coalition with the NP.
Gatchalian said that while the NPC has allowed Legarda to enter into a partnership with Villar, the party is still in the process of consulting its members as to who among the presidential candidates they want to support.
"She asked for inputs if we're amenable for her to run the Nacionalista way," he said, reiterating that the party's leadership has allowed her to run with Villar but there was no guarantee from them that they will support the NP's standard bearer.
He said the NP and the NPC has to solve first the overlapping of candidates in the local level before actually agreeing into a coalition.
"There are overlapping of local candidates. NPC takes care of its people. Until those operational issues are threshed out then why are we going to rush into things," he said.
Claudio: It will divide opposition
Commenting on the Villar-Loren tandem, Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary-general Gabriel Claudio called it a "formidable team," but that it will divide the opposition even more.
"The personal chemistry and geographical complementarity are there. We wish them well. For now, they are more a threat to the rest of the opposition than the administration. A strong NP ticket will divide the opposition further, as the administration consolidates its forces into a single, united and compelling electoral machinery," he said.
Liberal Party (LP) vice-presidential candidate Sen. Manuel 'Mar' Roxas II pointed out the tandem was formed after Legarda's "seemingly endless search for a presidential bet to run with."
He noted that Legarda was expected to be the running mate of Sen. Francis 'Chiz' Escudero until the latter's departure from the NPC.
She was also said to have had talks with the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro.
Roxas wished Legarda "good luck" in her decision to run with Villar.
"This move by Senator Loren Legarda is an expected political development. Finally, the senator found a home in Senator Villar," said Roxas.
"We can expect the vice presidential race to be very interesting," he added.
Sen. Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino and Roxas are currently the front-runners in the latest presidential and vice-presidential opinion polls conducted by Pulse Asia from October 22-30. (Read: Aquino leads by 'big margin' in Pulse Asia survey)
"I believe in the capability of the Filipino people to choose who is the most trustworthy and best qualified among the candidates. I know this election will be anchored on who has the strongest platform," Roxas said.
Erap unfazed, will still run
Meanwhile, former President Joseph Estrada was unfazed by the team up between Villar and Legarda.
Estrada said he will still run for the 2010 election despite his declining survey ratings.
In a statement, he also belied rumors that he is backing out of the race to support Noynoy Aquino.
"I have declared that I am running for president and I will stick to my word. These rumors are only part of the campaign strategy of those who would like to seek my endorsement," he said.
Commenting on his declining popularity as reflected in the October 2009 survey of Pulse Asia, Estrada said this was a blessing in disguise.
"Whoever is leading is the one who is usually attacked in the media by his opponents or other critics with various issues, whether true or false, So at this point in time, it's not a wise move to peak already. The real gauge will be the surveys at around February or March next year," Estrada said.