BY WENDELL VIGILIA and JP LOPEZ
THE Nationalist People’s Coalition is studying a possible coalition with other parties like the Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manuel Villar and the administration’s Lakas-Kampi CMD which is fielding Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as standard bearer in next year’s national election.
The NPC, founded by businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, on Wednesday lost a potential standard bearer when Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who had been with the party for 11 years, resigned.
Escudero and Rep. Rex Gatchalian (Valenzuela), NPC spokesman, yesterday belied talks the resignation was triggered by money matters.
Gatchalian said it was because of ideological differences.
Gatchalian confirmed the possible alliance with another party but could not say which will be more acceptable to NPC members, some of whom are allied with the administration and others with the opposition.
"We are in the process of consulting our members. I do not wish to preempt the process so I cannot comment (on which is more acceptable, NP or Lakas)," he said.
Gatchalian said "a lot" of other parties have been approaching NPC stalwarts for a coalition.
Gatchalian said while the party may still be reeling from Escudero’s resignation, he is sure "no party member would follow the footsteps of Chiz."
"Respetuhin natin ang kanyang desisyon at ’wag lagyan ng kulay. What is important is for the party to move on," he added.
Escudero, in announcing his resignation Wednesday, expressed belief that any presidential candidate, or president, should not be beholden to any party so he could pursue genuine reforms.
Talks were that Escudero resigned because the NPC would not entirely finance his presidential bid. Cojuangco reportedly offered only P200 million. A presidential aspirant would need P1 billion to P2 billion to run a nationwide campaign.
Escudero said money was not the issue.
"The subject of financing was never discussed, or was it ever an issue within the party. My resignation was a matter of principles and conviction," he said in an interview at Umagang Kay Ganda TV program.
"Hindi pera ang pinag-uusapan at walang pinag-uusapang pera sa partido. Prinsipyo at paninindigan ang aking ginamit at naging dahilan para ako’y magbitiw," he added.
Gatchalian said differences over the party platform led to Escudero’s resignation.
At a forum in Quezon City, Gatchalian said the ideological differences between Escudero and NPC members arose from their appreciation of the party’s platform.
"He mentioned some things on Wednesday that are not in agreement with the party platform. Remember, NPC is a moderate-centrist party. We believe that we should restructure debts (of agrarian reform) beneficiaries while Senator Escudero is for condoning (these debts)," said Gatchalian.
"The disparity is in the way we look at things. He’s pushing for legislated wage hikes, while we are more for empowering the local wage boards," he added.
"It’s unfortunate to make an issue out of this (financing) in relation to Senator Escudero’s resignation from the party. First, of all we need to respect the senator who’s among the topnotchers in the 2007 elections. He was a three-term congressman. He deserves more respect rather than us putting a price tag on him," he said.
The party allegedly promised Escudero P5 billion in campaign funds for his presidential bid next year but the amount was reduced to P200 million allegedly because of his declining performance in the surveys.
Escudero clarified 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.
Escudero also denied claims he is losing the support of NPC members.
"The party has not become lukewarm to my bid. The support remains and it has neither waned nor disappeared," he said.
Escudero said he maintains a good relationship with Cojuangco, and the party’s vice presidential candidate, Sen. Loren Legarda, even after severing ties with them.
He doused rumors he will be joining the administration Lakas-Kampi.
"I have the utmost respect for Secretary Teodoro. However, I have been a part of the genuine opposition and it would be impossible for me to be a candidate for the administration party," he said.
Loren has said she is willing to work with "anybody" as long as her advocacies will not be affected.
Talks about a Villar-Legarda tandem floated after the woman senator declared her intention to run for vice president even before Escudero made public his political plans.
Escudero’s father, Rep. Salvador Escudero III (NPC, Sorsogon), said his son’s decision had something to do with the political reforms he has been espousing.
"It was clear that my son resigned from NPC to push for reforms. He has no ill-feelings toward the party leaders," he said.