GUMACA, Quezon—Is former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada doing damage control after Sen. Francis Escudero claimed last week that his godfather was campaigning against him?
It would seem so after Sen. Loren Legarda casually mentioned in a conversation with reporters here on Monday that Estrada had called her up the night after the Inquirer ran a story on his supposed feud with Escudero.
Legarda said Estrada on the phone assured her that they remained “very good friends.”
Escudero and Legarda, both reelectionists, are running with the administration Team PNoy coalition that is led by the Liberal Party, which is headed by President Aquino.
They and a third Team PNoy candidate, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, had been asked by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance headed by Estrada, among others, to also run as guest candidates of UNA.
A few days after the start of the senatorial campaign period on Feb. 12, however, the three were dropped by UNA after they failed to attend its initial rallies.
Escudero is Estrada’s godson. He told reporters in Davao City last week he had received reports his godfather was now campaigning against him and warned that he would not take it “lying down.”
The adverse campaign against him, Escudero said, followed UNA’s decision to drop him (ilaglag) from its Senate slate.
Estrada’s call to Legarda, therefore, was perceived to be an attempt to preempt any thoughts by the latter that the ex-president was also campaigning against her.
Legarda said it was the former president’s son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who rang her up last Friday night and then passed the phone to his father.
“(Estrada) sounded extremely warm, very malambing (sweet). He called to assure me that we continued to be very good friends. I greatly appreciate that,” Legarda said.
She said she had also received reports that it was Jinggoy Estrada himself who helped distribute her campaign materials during UNA rallies in Pangasinan and Cebu recently.
The third Team PNoy candidate to snub UNA, Poe, said she was saddened by reports of the wedge between Estrada and Escudero.
On Monday in this town, Poe said she had not received a similar phone call from Estrada but she remained confident the former president continued to support her Senate bid.
“Our relationship is personal and certain things should remain unspoken,” she told reporters in an interview.
Poe is the daughter of the late movie star Fernando Poe Jr. who was a bosom friend of Estrada’s and who himself ran for president in 2004 but lost to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Poe said she was troubled by the reports of the feud between Estrada and Escudero, especially since both were close to her father who died in December 2004.
“Chiz’s (Escudero’s nickname) friendship with my father was more recent but we are very thankful for that,” she said.
Asked if she would consider initiating a dialogue between the two men, Poe said she did not think she had “that kind of clout.”
But Poe took the occasion to thank Estrada’s other son San Juan Rep. and UNA Senate candidate JV Ejercito-Estrada for his promise to provide her with campaign T-shirts.