TARLAC CITY (UPDATE) —Tarlac Gov. Susan Yap on Tuesday introduced Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Isko Moreno Domagoso as the "next Philippine president", but clarified later she has yet to endorse a presidential candidate in the May 2022 elections.
"Maraming, maraming salamat po sa pagdalaw ninyo sa Tarlac and we wish you all the best," Yap told her constituents during the party's campaign rally here.
"Wala pong iba, pakinggan natin ang susunod na presidente, Mayor Isko Moreno."
(Thank you for visiting Tarlac and we wish you all the best. Let us listen to none other than Mayor Isko Moreno.)
But during a chance interview, Yap told ABS-CBN News Digital that her statement on stage was not a categorical endorsement.
"Isko is the first one who had a rally here in Tarlac and as the mother of the province and the governor, of course, we will welcome all candidates," said Yap, who ran unopposed in the 2019 elections.
"Wala pang endorse (No endorsement yet). I belong to NPC and NPC has not decided who to endorse yet."
While the Liberal Party's national candidates won in Tarlac in the 2016 national elections, the province — which boasts of some 898,000 registered voters — is now dominated by the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).
Yap is a member of the NPC, whose chairman — Senate President Vicente Sotto III — is running for vice president with Sen. Panfilo Lacson as his president.
All 3 legislative districts of Tarlac are represented by NPC members — the late Charlie Cojuangco, Victor Yap, and Noel Villanueva. Tarlac Vice-Governor Carlito David is also a member of the NPC.
'POLITICAL PARTIES DO NOT MATTER IN PH CONTEXT'
Despite the Tarlac governor's statement, Domagoso's campaign manager Lito Banayo said he was confident that the Yap family of Tarlac wants the Manila Mayor to become the next Philippine president.
"Who’s hosting us? NPC," he told ABS-CBN News Digital in a separate interview after the campaign rally here.
When prodded about Yap's statement that her party has yet to officially back any presidential contenders, Banayo said: "That’s what she says for now."
"We don’t want to put local candidates — governors, congressmen, mayors in a bind, in a spot at this point in time — kasi may mga projects pang inaasahan ’yan sa national government (because they are still waiting for projects from the national government)," he said.
"OK lang, walang problema ’yun [statement niya], but I know deep in her heart and in the heart of the Yap family, si Isko ang gusto nila."
(We have no problem with her statement, but I know deep in her heart and in the heart of the Yap family, they like Isko.)
Banayo said he expected local officials to formally endorse presidential bets around April "once the local elections roll in."
While the NPC chair earlier said that his partymates are expected to back Lacson's presidential bid, Banayo noted that "political parties do not matter in the Philippine context anymore."
"They have become flags of convenience," said the veteran campaign manager, who also worked on the presidential bids of Lacson in 2004, of former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010 and President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.
In 2016, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas and vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo only managed to win in Tarlac because Aquino - who hails from the province - was then the incumbent president, Banayo said.
"Kita mo, konting-konti yung diperensya between Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, even if Grace Poe had a new party," he said.
(You see, Mar Roxas had a very slim margin against Grace Poe, even if Grace Poe had a new party.)
Roxas won Tarlac with nearly 195,000 votes, while Poe came second with about 186,000 votes.
In the 2016 vice presidential race, some 243,000 voters from Tarlac chose Robredo, while her then rival Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. got about 214,000 votes from the province.