Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday dashed all hopes of the administration Lakas-Kampi party to adopt him as the vice presidential bet of outgoing Defense Chief Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro as he stated that there was no possibility of a team up with the administration’s standard bearer.
He said it would be highly unlikely for him to join the administration as he has been identified with the opposition for close to nine years.
“From my point of view, I’m already done with that issue. I’ve been with the opposition for eight years now and I cannot fathom the idea of joining the administration even after its term,” he said.
“I have the utmost respect for Teodoro. However, I have been a part of the genuine opposition and it would be impossible for me to be a candidate of the administration party,” he added.
His commitment to the ranks of the opposition is unquestionable, Escudero stressed, pointing out that his track record would bear him out. “It’s clear, very clear that being a member of the NPC, while most of them supported the candidacy of President Arroyo (during the 2004 presidential elections), I was with FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) and served as his spokesperson and when most of them aligned with the majority bloc (in the lower house), I stood up and became the minority leader.
“And in the last elections, when most of them ran under the ticket of the administration, I ran under the Genuine Opposition (GO),” he said.
The senator repeatedly emphasized that money was never a factor for his resignation and that he had properly relayed his intentions to NPC officials.
He clarified that he resigned because a president should not be tied down to a political party.
“I never prioritized money in my career. I live in a simple house with my simple family. I didn’t dream of having money when I went into public service,” he said.
But even as Escudero took a dig at Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Wednesday, in essence saying he was no billionaire, nor an haciendero, referring to Liberal Party standard bearer, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, Villar, who is still scrounging around for a running mate, left his door open to Escudero.
At the same time, Aquino moved quickly to start the ball rolling on an LP-NPC coalition, saying he will be seeking a meeting with his uncle, business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the founder of the NPC.
Aquino intimated that a coalition between the LP and the NPC is easy since both parties have the same positions against the Arroyo administration.
Villar, for his part, yesterday that he is not closing his doors on the neophyte senator even if he had previously issued pronouncements dismissing the possibility of running in the same Villar banner.
“The NP is open to anyone who wants to join or align with us. He (Escudero) is a highly respected member of the Senate and I respect whatever decision he makes. I know he studied well his decision.
“I do not judge a person on account of what he says or does not say. There may be basis for his saying it at that time. But maybe too, if I talk to him, and tell him that what he had earlier suspected (on the corruption case involving the double insertion in the C5 road) is not true, that statement he made no longer applies. There are many issues such as these,” Villar said in Tagalog.
At the same time, however, Villar yesterday bolstered the possibility of his forming a tandem with Sen. Loren Legarda for the coming May 2010 elections saying he does not discount the merging of forces of their respective parties.
Villar admitted that his NP and Legarda’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) have long been holding talks and almost fell short of discussing the matter of negotiating Legarda’s entry as his running mate.
“It’s possible. I am just saying that everything is possible,” Villar told reporters in an interview, when asked about the reported coalition NPC might have with the NP where he is the party president.
“I don’t see any problem in dealing with them or their dealing with us as a party. For as long as we share the same advocacy and causes, that of advancing the interests of the poor, then there is not much to settle between us,” he said.
“An alliance with another party does not necessarily mean a defection to another political organization,” he pointed out.
“There are those who would support another presidential candidate and that happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to leave their party and join NP. This is just a NP-led coalition. We have a coalition with local parties, national parties. We welcome those who share the same platform with us,” he said.
He admitted that their respective parties continue to hold talks and will declare their chosen candidates when the right time comes.
Escudero appears to have boxed himself in, as far as decisions go, but his political strategist, Lito Banayo, insists that Escudero will seek the presidency, saying that while his principal no longer has a political party, he still has a “campaign structure” that will propel him to victory.
Tribune sources, however said, that Escudero may end up not running for higher office but couldn’t say so in front of his youth supporters.
“He may declare and run for the presidency, but with the collapse of his plans for high office, it is likely that Chiz will opt out sometime in January,” the sources said. “Chiz already had funding problems while he was the bet of the NPC. What more today, when he is party-less?,” the sources added.
Escudero, however, in interviews after he dropped his bolting party bombshell, dismissed reports that his decision was due to the alleged inability of his group to fund his presidential campaign.
“It’s not true. I’m denying it vehemently, that money was an issue, was the reason. Funding was not the core issue and there never was a discussion on this within the party. My resignation was a matter of principles and conviction,” he said in a television interview.
Reports on Escudero and his party encountering some financial problems to bankroll his presidential bid came out immediately after he made public his move to bolt the NPC and left his presidential bid hanging.
Administration coalition’s chief political strategist, Secretary Gabby Claudio, reportedly said it would not be the ruling party to make the first move and offer Escudero the vice presidential slot.
Deputy Presidential Spokesman Lorelei Fajardo, meanwhile, maintained yesterday that it still too early to entertain speculations as many developments are yet to unfold given that there already occurred many unexpected twists in the political scene while approaching the onset of the official filing of certificates of candidacy by those who have aspirations of leadership for 2010.
Fajardo also said that President Arroyo, who also serves as Lakas-Kampi CMD chairman, has not said anything so far with regard to the latest political plans of the administration party since she has maintained the position that she will leave everything for the party majority to decide on political matters.
“The president has always deferred to the party leadership. You see, even in the selection process (where) Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (was) chosen by the executives of the (Lakas-Kampi CMD) party, the President was hands off and she said she is going to follow whatever the decision of the majority party,” Fajardo said.
The NPC also yesterday said that Escudero resigned because of some ideological differences with the party and not about the lack of financial support from the party leadership.
According to Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, NPC spokesman, the party was not offended by his resignation because “we respect his (Escudero’s) decision.”
“We respect our party members and we respect out former party members. We may not agree with what he said said but we respect what he said,” Gatchalian stressed.
Gatchalian was trying to douse speculations raised by reporters that the resignation of Escudero was “all about money.”
Gatchalian said that party members are saddened by the persistent issue of “money matters” being infused into the resignation of Escudero from the party.
He said that aside from Escudero, the NPC as a party also deserves the respect because the party is not about money neither other political parties.
Gatchalian explained that there are some disparities in the ideological stand of Escudero and the party particularly about the issue of re-structuring the payment of the loans of the farmers; the wage hike and the pork barrel.
Gatchalian noted that Escudero wants to condone the debts of the farmers while the party wants to re-structure it. He also said that Escudero pushes legislated wage hike while the party is more for empowering the local wage boards, Gatchalian said.
He said that there is also a difference on the issue of the pork barrel which is acceptable to the party while Escudero wants a line budgeting scheme where all the projects are listed and funded by the national government.
“Remember that the NPC is a moderate-center party, we believe that we should re-structure debts of the beneficiaries but Senator Escudero thinks we should condone them. Already there is that disparity in the way we see things.”
He added that “as a standard bearer you have to be the alter ego of the majority of the party members to show that you actually believe in what the most of the party members believe in. Maybe he cannot project our own platform.”
Gatchalian said that without Escudero the party can look for other presidential candidate whose platform could jibe with theirs.
The youngest among the presidential frontrunners, Escudero is expected to finally announce his plans after consultations with allies and supporters before the deadline for the filing candidacies on Nov. 30. With Angie M. Rosales, Aytch de la Cruz and Gerry Baldo