VP Binay taps Puno as campaign adviser
The race for Malacañang begins next week with Vice President Jejomar Binay on the lead, thanks to Ronaldo Puno, the campaign strategist behind the election campaigns of three Presidents.
Puno, who engineered the electoral victories of Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, joined the core team of Binay’s campaign in September last year, according to Reginald Velasco, secretary general of the National Unity Party (NUP).
Puno is chief adviser to the NUP. His brother, Antipolo Rep. Roberto Puno, is the chair of the NUP.
Velasco said Binay’s lawyer JV Bautista confirmed at a hearing in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday that Puno was working as an adviser to the Vice President’s campaign.
Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is making a bid to be designated as the dominant minority party, which would enable it to field election watchers, and gain full and priority access to election results.
A source from Binay’s camp last night confirmed that Puno was working for the Vice President’s campaign.
Puno has been helping Binay since last year, said the source, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to talk to the press.
“[Puno] gives the Vice President ideas on the campaign,” said the source.
Another source from Binay’s camp said Puno, a former secretary of the interior, was directing the Vice President’s campaign, including where to put his ads.
Although on top of Binay’s campaign, Puno is not paid, according to the source, who also requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Battered by allegations of corruption during his three terms as mayor of Makati City, thrown at him mostly in a long-running Senate investigation, Binay lost a nine-month lead in the polls last June after he was overtaken by Sen. Grace Poe.
A junior politician who topped the 2013 senatorial election and became presidential timber almost overnight, Poe surged past Binay, bringing the Vice President to second place with voter support of 42 percent in the Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll.
Then Puno came aboard to reenergize Binay’s campaign.
The second source said Puno joined the Vice President’s camp even before the corruption scandal broke out.
“It appears that Puno’s entry has had its desired effect as Binay’s campaign has stabilized and the survey numbers have gone up since he joined Binay’s team,” Velasco said in a phone interview.
Back on top
In Pulse Asia’s poll taken from Sept. 8 to 14, 2015, Binay got a 19-percent voter support, putting him in a virtual tie with Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas (20 percent) and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (16 percent) for second place behind Poe, who scored 26 percent.
Three months later, Binay was back on top, with 33-percent voter support in Pulse Asia’s Dec. 4-11 poll and 26 percent in the SWS Dec. 12-14 survey.
Poe, facing disqualification from the presidential race because of questions about her citizenship and residency in the Philippines, tied with Binay for the lead in the SWS poll but fell to third place in the Pulse Asia survey, with her voter support whittled down to 21 percent.
Duterte surged to second place in the Pulse Asia poll (23 percent) but remained in fourth place in the SWS survey (20 percent).
At the start of 2016, Binay firmly held the lead, with voter support of 31 percent in the
Jan. 8-10 SWS poll. Poe remained in second place (24 percent), followed by Roxas (21 percent) and Duterte (20 percent).
Running against Binay, Poe, Roxas and Duterte are Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People’s Reform Party and Rep. Roy Señeres of Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka.
Velasco said Puno would be a big asset to Binay’s campaign, considering he was the main architect of Ramos’ narrow victory in 1992 and the brains behind Arroyo’s upset victory over the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) in 2004.
Santiago, who also contested the 1992 presidential results, claims she was cheated.
FPJ, Senator Poe’s adoptive father, protested his loss to Arroyo, claiming fraud, but he died seven months after the election.
Velasco said that while Puno had apparently made his choice for President, NUP’s members had not yet decided which candidate to support in the presidential election.
He said members of the NUP, which had 2,000 candidates running in the general elections, were leaning toward taking Puno’s cue and supporting Binay.
Velasco said the NUP could provide UNA core support in the House of Representatives should Binay win Malacañang.
“The NUP is bigger than UNA by far and Binay would certainly need numbers in the House if he wins,” Velasco said.
The NUP was formed in 2011 by former members of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, who wanted to shed off their identification with the Arroyo administration. The party is part of the Liberal Party-led administration coalition in the House.
Puno served two times as interior secretary, first under Estrada (1999 to 2000) and second under Arroyo (2006 to 2010).
He was also the first representative of Antipolo, a congressional district created in 2004.
The Inquirer tried to talk to Puno through his associates but he declined to be interviewed for this report. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Nancy C. Carvajal and Inquirer Research