LUKBAN, Quezon—The ruling Liberal Party’s (LP) head in Bicol, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, apparently wants to have his cake and eat it too, and the senatorial candidates on the administration Team PNoy who are struggling to break into the Top 12 in the polls don’t like it a bit.
Salceda, who drummed up a million votes in Bicol for President Aquino in the 2010 election, announced on Sunday that he would vote for opposition senatorial candidate Nancy Binay, raising hackles on Team PNoy.
Former Senators Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr. and Jamby Madrigal, both running again for the Senate but doing poorly in the preelection polls, on Monday questioned Salceda’s pitching for Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay, one of the leaders of the opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Salceda reportedly clarified that he did not endorse Binay’s senatorial run during her visit to Albay on Sunday.
He also reportedly said President Aquino’s goal of a clean sweep of the senatorial race by his team would not happen in Albay.
JV and Jack, too
Salceda reportedly said he was also supporting UNA senatorial candidates Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito Estrada, son of former President Joseph Estrada, and Jack Enrile, son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Magsaysay, Madrigal and former party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros are racing against time to convince voters to send them to the Senate.
Like Magsaysay and Madrigal, Hontiveros is having difficulty moving into the Top 12 in the polls. She nearly landed a seat in the Senate in her first run in 2010, finishing the race in 13th place.
Binay, unheard of in Philippine politics until February, is safely ensconced in third place in the latest Social Weather Stations preelection poll.
“This is not right,” Magsaysay said, referring to Salceda’s openly supporting Binay.
“To think that [Salceda] is the head of [the Liberal Party chapter in Bicol]. It might have been a personal choice, but he is expected to have additional responsibilities given his position in [the party],” Magsaysay said in Filipino.
Asked whether he thought what Salceda did was improper, Magsaysay replied, “Yes.”
Magsaysay, Madrigal and Hontiveros arrived here along with reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara for the Bicol leg of Team PNoy’s campaign.
President Aquino led the team’s rally, held in the Southern Luzon State University gym.
Magsaysay said Salceda could also have “deep, compelling reasons” for his choice of Binay, which the Liberals immediately took as a hostile move against the party.
But Madrigal asked the public to “read between the lines” despite Salceda’s insistence that his announcement should not be considered an endorsement.
Salceda is considered one of the more colorful characters in Philippine politics.
He once called his ex-benefactor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “a lucky bitch” for surviving relentless attacks by her detractors.
Salceda was one of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD leaders who designed a campaign strategy for presidential standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro in 2010.
But when it became clear through the preelection polls that Aquino would be elected president, Salceda bolted the Arroyo party, joined the LP and worked to help send Aquino to Malacañang.
‘Setback’ for Salceda
Magsaysay said Salceda’s announcement “does not look nice” and added that the governor should brace himself for “a setback” for his indiscretion.
“Salceda is crossing to the other side. That does not show a good example as a party leader. That is a distortion of the President’s good [government] goals,” Magsaysay said.
Madrigal said it was possible Salceda was beholden to the Vice President, hence his announcement of support for Binay’s daughter.
Political observers believe Salceda is looking ahead and trying to get in the good graces of the Vice President, who has made known his plan to contest the race for Malacañang in 2016.
Magsaysay and Madrigal warned Salceda that he could be hurting his own credibility in Bicol.
Asked whether Salceda should be sanctioned by the party, Magsaysay said: “He does not need to be sanctioned, but he should explain himself. His conscience should tell him that.”
Madrigal and Hontiveros acknowledged that Salceda had a right to choose candidates.
Hontiveros dismissed the issue, saying Salceda had always been known for being “independent-minded.”
Angara and Pimentel, in separate interviews, agreed that Salceda could have been expressing a personal opinion, and refused to take sides.
Not the only one
UNA’s JV Estrada thanked Salceda for his support and said the Albay governor was not the only one from the LP who supported opposition candidates.
“There are many who have committed to support me, but I will not name them until after the elections so their party would not retaliate against them,” Estrada told reporters in Bulan, Sorsogon, on Monday.
He said he had received information that the LP was asking their local allies to submit copies of their sample ballots to the party’s headquarters for a review of their contents.
The information means the LP no longer trusts its local allies to support its national candidates, Estrada said.—With a report from Leila Salaverria in Sorsogon