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Loren Legarda: Single mom has no FG

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:26:00 05/10/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Loren Legarda

MANILA, Philippines?A ?24/7? president?

To Sen. Loren Legarda, a single mother with two teen-age sons, that could be the most persuasive argument for putting her in Malacaang.

?I am a mother to the country. I am married to the country,? said Legarda, one of the most assiduous of the half-dozen or so senators aspiring to run for the highest office in 2010, at a recent dinner with Inquirer editors and reporters.

?I have no First Gentleman (FG), I have no husband, no boyfriend (though many boy friends),? said the senator whose marriage to homicide convict and former Batangas governor Tony Leviste was, according to her, annulled by the family court last year.

Legarda, 49, has yet to formally announce her candidacy but the dinner?which she hosted and catered (through the family-owned Kai Japanese restaurant)?was by way of conveying her desire to run and explicating what a Legarda presidency might be like.

?If and when? she becomes President, Legarda said her biggest advantage is that as a single woman she will not be distracted from the duties of governance and affairs of state.

She said the prospect of yet another woman President was not an issue among voters in the provinces.

If she runs and wins, Legarda will be the country?s third female head of state, after Cory Aquino and the incumbent, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Nor does she think it an encumbrance being without a partner to help her weather the ups and downs of a six-year presidency.

Lonely at the top

?The presidency is a personal sacrifice, especially for those like me who do not intend to make half a cent on anything. What I have when I come in [will be] the same thing I have when I leave,? she said.

?The presidency could be a very big sacrifice because it can be very lonely at the top and oftentimes even a thankless job,? said the senator, a member of the Nationalist People?s Coalition (NPC), the political party founded by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco.

Last Thursday, the NPC announced that presidential candidate is a toss-up between Legarda and Sen. Francis Escudero

Legarda said she would disprove the adage that ?power corrupts, [and] absolute power corrupts absolutely.?

?I believe in legacy, not in personal interest. I will prove that saying wrong if and when I finally throw my hat into the ring,? she said.

The failure of the political opposition to come together and unite around a common standard-bearer is the only thing that is keeping Legarda from announcing her candidacy.

Except for the administration?s Vice President Noli de Castro, the consistent topnotcher in surveys of presidential preferences, all the front-runner presidential aspirants are in the opposition stable?Senators Legarda, Escudero, Manuel Villar, Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Roxas and ousted President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada.

The ratings of Legarda, Escudero and Villar have been statistically the same in most surveys, followed by Estrada, Lacson and Roxas.

Legarda was the vice-presidential running mate of the late opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004, but they both lost to Ms Arroyo and De Castro.

40% for Legarda-Escudero

?We in the opposition can?t run together. Five of us can?t run against each other. That would be foolish and disastrous for the political opposition. And if we want to serve our people, we have to give way to whoever has the vision who can win,? she said.

She said she and Escudero, an NPC party mate, had yet to talk about which of them should slide down.

According to a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in July 2008, a Legarda-Escudero tandem would obtain 40 percent of the vote, if the elections were held during the survey period.

A Villar-De Castro team-up would get 26 percent, and a Roxas-Francis Pangilinan pairing 13 percent.

Advocacy ads

Legarda said she was surprised at her high ratings because she had not put out any television ads?except once for Earth Day in 2008?and has not been touring the countryside like others.

Legarda has joined Estrada in some of his out-of-town sorties, but she said the latter has yet to make up his mind about running.

As for the ubiquitous television advertisements of some of the would-be presidential aspirants, Legarda said she was against such a media blitz as it gives the impression that ?everybody has a price and everybody is for sale. And those who are deserving, credible, incorruptible, competent will be more marginalized with the blatant use of money by candidates who have huge war chests.?

?It?s dangerous for candidates to have huge war chests because it would and could corrupt the whole system, and make elections which are already expensive, more expensive,? she said.

She said it would be better if the moneyed candidates would just spread their wealth to feed the 40 million Filipinos who live on P50 per day and help the typhoon victims in Bicol and all over the country, and the more than 500,000 internally displaced people in Mindanao.

The eldest and only girl in a brood of three, Legarda was born and grew up in Malabon. She belongs to a family of educators, physicians, public servants and journalists.

She completed her primary and secondary schooling, with honors, at the Assumption Convent, and graduated cum laude, with a degree in broadcast communications, from the University of the Philippines.

Topped senate twice

She has topped the Senate race twice, in 1998 with more than 15 million votes, and in 2007 with over 18 million votes.

Now on her second Senate term, Legarda chairs the committees on agriculture, health and demography, and climate change, and also chairs two oversight committees.

The senator has authored and sponsored vital legislation dealing with environmental protection, promotion of entrepreneurship, protection of the rights of women and children, overseas workers and labor.

Her other advocacies include providing better health services, social justice, national unity and inculcating the value of nationalism and love of country.

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