MANILA, Philippines?"Who is my vice president? Not someone rich, not an ilustrado, one who is courageous, a man of honor and a genuine member of the opposition.?
Thus did Senator Francis ?Chiz? Escudero describe Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in a television advertisement to be aired next week.
People have yet to see the ad but already it is causing a stir since Escudero has chosen to endorse Binay as the vice president of Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III instead of his running mate Senator Mar Roxas.
Escudero said in a live interview over ANC Thursday that the ad, paid for by friends of Binay, ?should not be a cause for division or conflict within the LP.?
Escudero also taped another ad for Aquino that will be aired on television within the week.
?There is no bloc voting in our laws. This is the essence of democracy, that each and every voter is allowed to choose who he wants to vote for a particular office,? he said.
?I?m not saying that Senator Mar is not [a] true [member of the] opposition. I?m saying Mayor Binay has been with the opposition longer, has done many things and is not just a talker. Also he has not backed away from a fight as recent history has shown,? Escudero said in Filipino.
?Anyone who thinks that my ad is against a specific person, well, I do not spend all my waking hours just thinking about him,? he told news anchor Karen Davila.
In a separate interview over dzMM earlier in the day, Escudero said he would rather go for Binay ?because his heart is in the right place,? adding he wants a leadership that ?combines the heart of Noynoy and the hands of Binay.?
Asked what he thought of Roxas, Escudero answered, ?Kulang sa kalyo,? which implies wealthy life.
The senator was also evasive when asked the ilustrado he referred to in the ad was.
Escudero said Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manny Villar ?claims he grew up poor but no one asks him who he is alluding to when he says that. My endorsement is just the same, it is not against anyone.?
For this reason, Escudero said he believes no one has the right to block the airing of his ad ?because it is not meant to hit anyone. Just because I don?t support a specific person does not mean we are enemies.?
He said the Liberal party has not tried to block the ad.
Davila, however, noted speculation that Escudero could be supporting Binay to thwart Roxas? future plan to become president in 2016, an office that Escudero is reportedly also eyeing for himself.
?I am nearsighted,? Escudero replied. ?Even if it were true, why should I be making enemies this early? It?s not in my interest to draw the line this early if indeed that is on my mind. This (endorsement) has nothing to do with (Roxas) or any of his plans and everything to do with Mayor Binay insofar as the vice presidency is concerned.?
Escudero said his preference for Binay stems from their involvement in the opposition since 2004 when the late Fernando Poe Jr. ran against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
?I?m not saying that Senator Mar is not a genuine member of the opposition but Mayor Binay has been with the opposition for a longer period. When Mayor Binay and I were with FPJ (Poe?s initials), Senator Mar was running on the administration ticket,? Escudero said.
Besides, Escudero said, the Aquino-Binay tandem would provide a better balance in governance.
?One is from the legislature while the other is an executive official. It might not be advisable for both presidential and vice presidential candidates to be from the legislative branch,? Escudero explained.
He added that it would also be more advantageous if the running mates do not come from the same comfortable economic class.
?Everyone says Noynoy comes from a rich family, so it might be a good thing if his running mate does not come from another rich family. And since Noynoy purportedly lacks experience, his vice president should have a background to make up for this. I think (Aquino and Binay) will complement each other,? Escudero said.
Escudero was also asked why he did not choose Senator Loren Legarda, his erstwhile party mate in the Nationalist People?s Coalition who is also running for vice president, or former president Joseph Estrada, his own wedding sponsor, who seeks to vindicate his name.
?This is not about the persons I did not choose but about the person I have chosen, who is Mayor Binay,? he insisted.
Escudero refused to elaborate on earlier reports saying the media team he lent to Aquino found itself in conflict with Roxas? men within the LP.
?My staff was not removed. We chose to stand down and let the LP, Noynoy?s campaign team, decide on the matter. It is not my habit to curry favor in a situation like that.
?My team was not picked out. I decided to stand down because I decided not to cause any problems in the campaign, simply because there were changes, adjustments in the campaign that they wanted to do so we paved the way for that. It?s not really an issue. There was no argument, walang sigawan, away, bangayan (no shouting match, quarrel, bickering),? he added.
Nevertheless, Escudero said he has not communicated with Roxas either on the phone or through text since then.
?There is no need for us to talk. I am not mad at him. I have no issues against him. Just because I do not support his candidacy does not mean I am mad at him,? he said.