Still reeling from the controversy brought about by his girlfriend’s parental disapproval of their relationship, reelectionist Sen. Francis Escudero found himself in another challenging spot.
He slid down from second place that he held for quite a while in Social Weather Stations’ election surveys.
Escudero (independent/Team PNoy, 48 percent) lost 14 percentage points and slipped from second place in the previous round to third to fourth places, where he was tied with San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada (UNA, 48 percent). Estrada gained six percentage points and surged from his previous rank of ninth to tenth place in the previous survey.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who went solo most of the way during the first half of the campaign period to conduct what he called “listening tours,” has taken the second place from Escudero.
Loren, Alan: Statistically tied
Trailing usual topnotcher Sen. Loren Legarda by just two percentage points, 59 percent to 57 percent, Cayetano is statistically tied for first place with his fellow administration candidate Legarda because the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Escudero said the recent SWS survey results were a wake-up call for him to put more work in his reelection bid.
Heart Evangelista, 28, is Escudero’s girlfriend for eight months now. Known as Love Ongpauco in real life, she is the sixth and youngest child of the Ongpauco couple.
Heart’s parents announced in a press conference last week their displeasure over Escudero’s behavior and their fear that the senator would be unable to support their daughter’s material whims in case they end up legally bound to each other.
Before Ongpaucos’ headlines
But the senator’s issues with Heart’s parents had yet to hit the headlines when the latest SWS survey results were gathered in the middle of March.
Conducted on March 15 to March 17, the survey asked 1,500 respondents nationwide: “If the elections were held today, whom would you most probably vote for senator of the Philippines?”
The survey found six candidates of the administration-backed Team PNoy and two candidates from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in the Top 8, while four Team PNoy and three UNA candidates contended for the last four seats, SWS said.
Tied in fifth to seventh places were Nancy Binay (UNA), former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar (NP/Team PNoy) and Sen. Koko Pimentel (PDP-Laban/Team PNoy) with 47 percent.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (NP/Team PNoy, 44 percent) was in 8th place, while Sen. Gringo Honasan (UNA, 43 percent) gained 9 percentage points and rose to 9th place from 15th place in the last survey round.
Grace Poe slides
President Aquino’s cousin Benigno Paolo “Bam” Aquino (LP, 42 percent) was in 10th place, followed by former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chief Grace Poe (independent/Team PNoy, 40 percent), who lost 8 percentage points and slipped to 11th place from fifth to sixth places in the previous round. Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara (LP, 39 percent) took the 12th spot.
Also within striking distance of the Magic 12 were Cagayan Rep. Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. (UNA, 37 percent) and former Sen. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr. (LP/Team PNoy, 37 percent), who shared the 13th to 14th places.
Former Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri (UNA, 35 percent) dropped out of the winning circle and fell to 15th place, from 11th to 12th place in the last survey.
Escudero in a text message indicated that the most recent survey made necessary a review of what he had been doing the past few weeks.
“Survey results really go up and down. But we study all surveys and this latest poll is perhaps a wake-up and a signal for us to dig in and work even harder than what we have been doing so that we can convey our objectives, platforms and the truth to more of our countrymen,” Escudero said.
Deciding to withdraw from running in the 2010 elections, Escudero cemented his reputation as a very popular politician when the candidates he publicly endorsed and supported—then Sen. Benigno Aquino III and then Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay—won the presidential and vice presidential elections, respectively.
“The survey is a good basis to review what you have done, what you are doing and what you will do,” Escudero added.
Had it been a political squabble, Escudero would easily demolish the opponent with his charm and effusive language.
But he acknowledged that his hands (and tongue) were tied in case of a possible face-off with his girlfriend’s parents, Rey and Cecile Ongpauco.
“It would have been different in a political battle. I can easily rebut and put in context the criticisms and falsehoods against me,” Escudero said in an interview over dwIZ on Tuesday.
But arguing with the parents of one’s lady love is definitely taboo. Not that the senator plans to.
Escudero said there should really be no quarrel with Heart’s folks at all as he had paid the proper respects to the couple.
“Did I not do it?” he asked in Filipino, referring to efforts to ingratiate himself with the parents as any suitor is wont to do.
“Like what Heart said in one interview, we did all those things. Who would do the negative things the couple had mentioned?” Escudero added.
Fetching water, chopping wood
At one point, the senator was reminded of their matchmaker Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s advice for him to woo Heart’s parents as suitors are supposed to do.
“The only thing that I did not do was to fetch water. But there’s water in their (condominium) unit,” the senator said.
At one point, the senator who is often introduced as a native of Sorsogon province, was also asked whether he tried his hand at cutting firewood like rural men courting women do.
“I did not chop firewood because there was electricity,” he replied.
But whatever efforts he exerted, Escudero said everything appeared to be for naught.
“We find ourselves in a difficult situation. Heart’s love and respect for her parents remain. I still respect Heart’s parents,” Escudero said.
He said he was surprised at Heart’s parents’ revelations that his behavior did not sit well with her parents. In a column last week, the INQUIRER’s Ramon Tulfo initially quoted an unnamed source saying the Ongpaucos found Escudero “uncouth” and “disrespectful.”
The source also said the senator reeked of alcohol during his encounters with Heart’s parents.
In a subsequent column, the Ongpaucos were quoted as saying that Escudero acquired a P5-million gold watch through a “Chinese businessman” and gave it to their daughter.
An expensive trailer was allegedly one of Escudero’s pledges to Heart, along with the prospect of earning big money through a “law firm” where the senator is involved.
The Ongpaucos were also anxious that their daughter would eventually live in sin with Escudero since he acquired only a civil annulment of his marriage to Christine Flores with whom he has twins.
At this point, Escudero said he was more concerned about how things had adversely affected Heart whose manner he noted, had changed after her parents’ public revelations.
Gone were the easy laughter and bright smile, the senator said.
But as all love stories go, the senator agreed that what did not destroy them would make them stronger. With a report from Inquirer Research