MANILA, Philippines?Fix the ?Villarroyo? mess.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered ruling party officials to squelch reports that she is backing Sen. Manuel Villar and abandoning the administration?s standard-bearer, Gilbert Teodoro.
In response, the executive committee of the Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats party is set to issue a manifesto after its meeting on Tuesday, reassuring Teodoro of its support, said House Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, the new party chair.
?Do something about this talk?fix it,? Villarosa quoted the President as telling her and other party officials during their recent visit to St. Luke?s Medical Center-Global City in Taguig City, where First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is confined because of a heart condition.
Talk that Villar was the ?secret candidate? of the Arroyos gained traction after a ruling party official and an administration senatorial candidate said last week that Teodoro quit as chair of Lakas-Kampi-CMD on March 30 because the Arroyo couple were backing Villar, presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party (NP).
The party official, who asked not to be named, said Teodoro uncovered the shift of support when members of the Garcia clan of Cebu decided to back Villar.
The official said Teodoro had learned from Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia that the other Garcias switched support to Villar after receiving a call from Mike Arroyo.
Villar has denied the he was the candidate of the Arroyos, saying that he has not sought money or help from Ms Arroyo and her husband. A lawyer of Mike Arroyo dismissed the allegation as false.
Reports of a Villar-Arroyo alliance has triggered defections by Lakas members to Villar?s camp.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles acknowledged that Lakas members were being driven to jump ship due to the confusion in the party leadership.
Villarosa said Ms Arroyo was taking ?calmly? reports that the ruling party was disintegrating.
She said Ms Arroyo asked her allies to do ?whatever needs to be done? to address the situation. ?Is there such a problem? Take care of it,? Villarosa quoted the President as saying.
Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel ?Mikey? Arroyo, the President?s elder son, said his family was not affected by speculations of a double-cross in the ruling party.
?It?s not true,? he told reporters in Lubao, Pampanga. ?Our family has gone through so many false innuendoes. So, I don?t see anything new. You see all our mayors, our barangay captains. They?re wearing green (Teodoro?s campaign color). Right??
In Malacañang, a deputy spokesperson of Ms Arroyo said the President was maintaining her support for Teodoro but just don?t expect her to campaign for him, with nearly a month to go before Election Day.
Gary Olivar said Ms Arroyo?s move to immediately replace the ?top management team of the administration party? with people who included her close ally, Villarosa, indicated her support for Teodoro.
?She?s certainly showing concern and wants to stay on top of what?s going on,? he said at a briefing.
Changes in strategy
Following the President?s instructions, the party?s executive committee is set to hold a meeting on Tuesday to tackle reports that the First Couple was backing Villar.
Villarosa said the committee would also discuss changes in Teodoro?s campaign strategy to improve his ratings in surveys. Teodoro has remained in distant fourth in all major surveys.
She said Teodoro was welcome to attend the meeting at the Linden Suites Hotel in Pasig City at noon.
Villarosa said Teodoro could end up benefiting from the ?Villarroyo? controversy on account of the ?sympathy? he might get from voters. She noted that Teodoro was being portrayed as an ?underdog? in the presidential race.
?He is, in a way, being helped with this,? Villarosa said. ?At this point, we realized that everybody would do what (he has) to do to bring Gibo (Teodoro?s nickname) down. We are also determined to bring him up.?
The ruling party chair downplayed the departure of Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri and Luis ?Chavit? Singson, former deputy national security adviser, from Lakas to join the NP.
?We have more than 100 congressmen. We have more than 40 governors out of 74. We have the organization at the local government units. We are not worried. We just have to keep our faith,? she said.
Villarosa said she had also talked with Gwen Garcia and had been assured that the influential Garcia family would keep their ?word of honor? and maintain their support for Teodoro.
In Negros Occidental, Gov. Isidro Zayco said that contrary to rumors that the Lakas-Kampi-CMD was breaking up, the party in the province was intact.
Zayco, party chair in the province, said he and other members were loyal to Teodoro.
In Iloilo City, Villar asked for ?fair treatment? from the media.
Villar, who spent time speaking in three radio stations in the city denying the ?Villarroyo? talk, lamented that reports against him had been given more attention than the negative reports about his closest rival, Sen. Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP).
Villar said the allegations of his political rivals were ?pure lies? but his rivals were very influential with the media.
Film on Ninoy, Cory
Villar cited the airing of the 1988 Australian film ?A Dangerous Life? by television network ABS-CBN during the Holy Week.
The film, aired in three parts, is based on the 1986 Edsa uprising and depicts the last years of the Marcos dictatorship.
The film focuses on the assassination of Sen. Benigno ?Ninoy? Aquino Jr. in 1983 and the candidacy in the 1986 snap presidential election of Corazon ?Cory? Aquino that led to the overthrow of Marcos. The Aquino couple were parents of the LP standard-bearer.
?I?m spending my own money and I?m painstakingly building the Nacionalista Party (but) end up (with accusations that) people join me because (the First Gentleman) said so. They have forgotten that I?m a former Senate president and (House) Speaker,? Villar said.
Lie detector test
Sen. Jamby Madrigal challenged Villar to undergo a televised lie detector test ?if indeed he has nothing to hide and is not the secret presidential candidate? of the Arroyos.
?That will settle the matter once and for all,? Madrigal told the Inquirer Monday. Villar was ?lying through his teeth? with his claim that there was no deal between him and the Arroyos, she said.
The independent presidential candidate said ?a bare denial by Villar of his deal with Mike Arroyo and Mrs. Arroyo proves nothing.?
The senator said Villar ?will make a deal even with the devil just to win the presidency.?
In Baliuag, Bulacan, Aquino and his running mate, Sen. Manuel ?Mar? Roxas II, stood pat on their ?Villarroyo? charges.
In a press conference hosted by Bulacan Gov. Joselito ?Jon-jon? Mendoza, Aquino pointed out that Villar had not spoken against Ms Arroyo on any issue despite styling himself as an opposition leader.
Kiss of death
Political allies of Villar slammed the ?dirty tactics? of Aquino supporters who were former members of the Arroyo administration.
?I think it?s about time that we reveal who are the brains behind this. This is the work of the ?Topak ni Noynoy,? Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, NP spokesperson, said in a press conference.
Cayetano said ?Topak? stood for ?Trapo, Oportunista, at Kamag-Anak, Inc.? within the circle of Aquino.
He said it was this group that started linking Villar to Ms Arroyo, knowing that her endorsement would be a ?kiss of death? to any candidate. With reports form Christine O. Avendaño, Jerry E. Esplanada, Gil Cabacungan and Nikko Dizon; and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas