IBA, ZAMBALES—The tug-of-war between the United Nationalist Alliance and the Team PNoy administration slate over their so-called “common” candidates has finally ended with the UNA deciding to drop Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, and Grace Poe from its senatorial lineup.
But deposed President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, a senior UNA leader, said he would campaign for Poe, because of his close friendship with the candidate’s late father, Fernando Poe Jr.
“I will still endorse her in my personal capacity. But out of delicadeza, I cannot do that during formal campaign sorties,” he said.
Estrada then floated the names of TV evangelist Eddie Villanueva and his close friend and look-alike, former Puerto Prinsesa mayor Edward Hagedorn, as possible replacements.
“Personally, I want them to be part of the ticket, but UNA has yet to formally discuss it,” he told the Inquirer.
Villanueva is the lone candidate of his Bangon Pilipinas party, while Hagedorn is running as an independent.
Poe maybe hardest hit
Estrada said the UNA decision to drop the three common candidates could hit Poe the hardest, citing Poe’s showing in recent candidate preference surveys in which Legarda and Escudero occupied the two top positions and Poe on the margins of the “magic 12.”
In a statement released during an UNA sortie here, campaign manager Toby Tiangco said the UNA was “no longer obligated to include the names of Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace Poe-Llamanzares on its list of candidates.”
“We have held on to their assurances that they will join us sooner or later. Unfortunately, none of them have taken any concrete move or extended any meaningful gesture to assure us that they will live up to their commitments,” Tiangco said.
“On the contrary, public statements have been made by at least one of them ruling out participation in UNA events. It is clear that they have made up their minds. We need to move on,” he added.
Ending to a row
The decision ended weeks of a highly publicized row between UNA and President Aquino’s handpicked senatorial slate.
Told that Estrada was considering drafting him in the UNA senatorial slate, Villanueva said he would consult his party “if the offer is serious.”
But he said the idea of his running with UNA might not sit well with the administration, considering that his son Joel is a close friend of President Aquino and heads the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“That’s why I don’t want to rush to any decision,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to be independent in my decisions. I want to preserve my moral ascendancy.”
Aquino had openly campaigned for the inclusion of the younger Villanueva in the administration ticket. But the latter eventually withdrew from contention because of his consistently poor showing in the surveys.
Tiangco said he would prefer not to have replacement candidates for Escudero, Legarda and Poe anymore. “I’m OK with nine solid candidates vying for 12 slots,” he said.
Candidate Nancy Binay, the daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay, another senior UNA leader, said that with three candidates fewer, ensuring the victory of all nine remaining bets was “very much doable compared to a 12-0 slate.”