MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis Escudero yesterday denied meeting with President Arroyo and seeking her support for next year’s presidential elections.
“I have not sought, nor will I seek, the endorsement of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Nor have I authorized anyone to do so,” Escudero said in a statement after reports came out that “young” presidential hopefuls are secretly soliciting Mrs. Arroyo’s support even as they criticize her in public.
“Let Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) Chairman Bayani Fernando or Vice President Noli de Castro, or anyone else who might want her blessings, get that endorsement, which they have been seeking from day one, for all I care,” Escudero said.
The youthful lawmaker said he had not even announced if he is going to run, but if he would, he will “seek only the endorsement of the Filipino people and will run as opposition because he had been consistently against, and had even questioned the mandate of this administration from the very start.”
Escudero stressed that he was the spokesperson for the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential elections and had led impeachment complaints against Mrs. Arroyo in the House when he was representative of Sorsogon.
He said that he voted consistently against the administration on major policy positions, such as the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement, expanded value-added tax, and the Human Security Act.
“To get back at me, this vengeful administration has withheld the release of my countryside development fund since 2005. And now, its proxies have taken the debate over its performance in the past nine years down to the gutter by spreading intrigues against my person,” Escudero said.
“If all my criticisms were just for show, why are they mad at me now?” he asked in Filipino.
Dancing with the enemy
Senators yesterday urged Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo to name the presidential hopefuls who were seeking the endorsement of his mother so that the country would know who among the members of the opposition were dancing with the enemy.
Senators Manuel Roxas II and Manuel Villar Jr. also denied any meeting with Mrs. Arroyo, even through back channels, saying they would never align with the administration.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said they would like the Filipino public to realize who were the true oppositionists.
Pimentel said “Mikey (Arroyo) should identify these Trojan horses so we could punish them.”
Roxas and Villar said they would not know who was being referred to.
“Anyway, I have never been engaged in such games and will never be a part of that game. Besides when (President Arroyo) attacked me she made it very clear the presidentiable most different from herself is Mar Roxas,” he said.
Villar bantered that it was a compliment being included among the suspected “young candidates” trying to secretly coalesce with Mrs. Arroyo.
“For sure I will run with the Nacionalista Party as its president,and while we are open to possible alliances or while we were welcoming new members to the party, we are ready to field candidates from president down to the local officials, mayors, councilors,” Villar told reporters.
He said he would not want to make any further comment because he was not sure whether the issue was true.
Lacson said those pretending to be opposition but aligning with the administration should be unmasked, but he expressed doubt that any opposition member would like the President’s endorsement.
Lacson said he also did not have any idea if there were any opposition members indeed seeking Mrs. Arroyo’s help in the 2010 elections.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, advised Mikey Arroyo to tell it straight that his mother’s desperation prompted the Palace to court opposition bets.
“Mrs. Arroyo’s son should name names and present proof. We have always maintained that the people should know who the real oppositionists are, and those who are only presenting themselves as opposition but are in fact administration by association,” he said.
Binay said the reality is that the administration is desperately raiding the ranks of the opposition in the absence of credible and winnable national candidates for the 2010 election.
United Opposition spokesman Ernesto Maceda reminded the younger Arroyo that the administration party had earlier admitted they were considering adopting senators identified with the opposition.
“The truth of the matter is that Mikey Arroyo is hiding the fact that it is the administration which is making desperate naked efforts to raid the opposition’s lineup to resuscitate the administration’s ranks which has reached rock bottom credibility with voters,” Maceda said.
Earlier reports had quoted administration party stalwarts Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ray Roquero and Danilo Suarez as saying that the Lakas-Kampi-CMD is seriously open to adopting either Villar or Escudero as its standard-bearer.
“In any event, Mikey should name names. The people and the United Opposition definitely want to know who are traitors within its ranks. If he can name them and show proof beyond mere conjecture and self-serving insinuations, by all means he should do so,” Maceda said.
“Otherwise, we assume that as in the past, Arroyo is just showing character flaws similar to his honesty-challenged mother. Either he is the boy who cried wolf or telling us half-truths meant to inveigle the public once more,” Maceda added. — Jose Rodel Clapano