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Angara book: Fernando Poe steered clear of Estrada in 2004 polls

MANILA, Philippines–Concerned about his public image, the late Fernando Poe Jr. wanted to steer clear of his friend Joseph “Erap” Estrada to take away the show-biz glare from his 2004 presidential campaign.

So says former Sen. Edgardo Angara in his new biography, “In the Grand Manner,” launched at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City on Wednesday.

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Angara’s 232-page biography, written by University of the Philippines professor Jose Dalisay Jr., touches on significant events of his life, including the time when the opposition came together to choose a presidential candidate who would go up against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

It was in a meeting with Sen. Vicente Sotto, a friend of both Erap and FPJ, that FPJ’s name came up but Angara says “the only problem” was that FPJ did not want to run.

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Sotto flew to California in December 2003 to follow FPJ, who was visiting relatives there and convince him to run for President.

“Finally, he gave an indication that he was open to the idea,” Angara says.

He says he met FPJ when the actor returned home. He says FPJ was concerned that he lacked the experience needed by a serious presidential candidate and worried about financing the campaign.

“FPJ was actually more concerned about his public image than Erap was. Erap was all out for FPJ, but FPJ privately preferred not to be associated with Erap if he was going to run for President, because he didn’t want the public to think again of the entertainer as a frivolous figure,” Angara says.

“In fact, [FPJ] didn’t want any entertainers to be included in our senatorial lineup,” he says.

‘Crucial factor’

Angara called up the Inquirer Thursday night to add that they told FPJ that Estrada was a “crucial factor” in his candidacy and had convinced him to see the former President in his Tanay, Rizal, residence where he was detained at that time, to seek his support.

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“He (FPJ) did not disown Erap as a friend,” Angara said.

In his book, Angara says FPJ had a “clear idea of how a public figure should look and behave” and admitted this became a problem later.

“[B]ecause he was known as ‘Da King,’ and so he behaved royally, disdaining to give interviews to the media and to talk to mayors and politicians, which hampered his campaign,” he says.

‘Bad experience’

FPJ became averse to media interviews, according to Angara, citing FPJ’s “bad experience with TV reporter Sandra Aguinaldo that almost singlehandedly torpedoed his whole candidacy,” Angara says

He was referring to an incident that happened in April 2004 when, during a rally in Iloilo, FPJ got angry at Aguinaldo after she stood up on the stage to do a report while he was delivering a speech.

“It has been quite a struggle to get this guy to run. And when he was running, it was also a struggle to get him to meet the press and other politicians, other people,” Angara says.

It was at this point that he met with FPJ, together with restaurant owner, Melo Santiago, and explained to him “to change his attitude and to win [the media and the politicians] over.”

They recommended now Vice President Jejomar Binay, who became the general campaign manager and helped FPJ who eventually opened up.

Susan Roces’ role

“He had a script, and he was used to memorizing scripts, so things went more smoothly. [Sotto] had good writers at ‘Eat Bulaga’ who helped with the speeches. From then on, we were able to repair our relationship with politicians and the media,” Angara says.

Susan Roces, FPJ’s wife, “had a role in the background, which later became more prominent,” he says.

Roces’ group included Marichu Maceda and Armida Siguion-Reyna, according to Angara, who says he did not know what advice the women gave to Roces.

“But we had some differences with this group, in giving directions and guidance to FPJ,” he says.

Angara says he had no official designation in the campaign but he organized the opposition alliance and recalls that they moved from one venue to another because they suspected they were under surveillance.

FPJ eventually lost to Arroyo and months later, died after suffering a stroke.

Angara says he had hoped that under an FPJ administration, because of his popularity, the actor would be able to mobilize popular opinion to support massive public works and create jobs.

“And because of his popularity, he would have done it. Erap would have been the perfect person for that, but his ‘midnight Cabinet’ stopped him and refocused his attention on less than desirable activities. I think FPJ would have been a different President from Erap, because he was a straight shooter. Of course, he also had his women, but he wasn’t crony-oriented,” Angara says.

Angara served as agriculture secretary and later executive secretary in Estrada’s short-lived administration.

Corona impeachment

Also in his biography, Angara belies Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s allegation that he and 19 other senators who voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 were allotted P50 million each as “incentive.”

“What Jinggoy Estrada subsequently said about the senators who voted to impeach Corona receiving P50 million each as a reward is rather unfair and reckless,” Angara says.

They did get the funds later for their development projects, he says.

“But no money or pork barrel fund was ever discussed before, during and after the trial. No one knew that those funds were coming,” he says.

Angara explains that the funds come from savings accumulated at the end of the year, mostly infrastructure money that reverts to the general fund if not used.

He says the chair of the finance committees in Congress would recommend to the Speaker or the Senate President that “some of these savings be allocated to lawmakers to support existing projects.”

He says he was not sure where the P50 million went as he was already retiring from the Senate, but it was likely the money went to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Corona’s dollar account

Angara also explains that the senators would have voted to convict Corona had a vote been taken on the day the former chief justice admitted having a “sizeable dollar savings account, which he kept secret because of his understanding that banks that kept the deposit were prohibited from revealing it.”

“That’s true enough if you’re not a public servant and more so not under indictment. But he was both. As a lawyer, I could see that it was a specious argument. Had the vote been taken there and then, he would have been convicted unanimously,” Angara says.

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TAGS: 2004 presidential campaign, biography, Books, Edgardo J. Angara, Elections, Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Politics
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