Arroyo ally Pineda backs Mar, Leni
SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga—The wind has shifted in GMA country.
Addressing President Aquino, Pampanga Gov. Lilia “Baby” Pineda, a staunch ally of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on Thursday vowed to support the administration coalition in May’s national elections.
“Mr. President, you poured in billions of pesos worth of projects, especially in infrastructure, here in Pampanga and [those] funds were for the development of the province of Pampanga. All of the [people of Pampanga] here today promise you that they will support all of your candidates,” Pineda said in Filipino at a gathering of nearly 15,000 people who filled the Capitol compound in Santo Niño village.
Pineda also declared Pampanga’s support for President Aquino’s hopes and dreams for more growth and development for the whole country.
It was definitely a solid endorsement, and the only thing missing was the traditional raising of candidates’ hands by Pineda on the stage.
Pampanga has a voting population of 1.28 million. The declaration of support by the influential Pineda could improve the standing of the Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer, Mar Roxas, and his running mate, Leni Robredo, both of whom are in second place in the latest voter preference polls.
In his speech, President Aquino said he and Pineda “were not close.”
“But Nanay Baby (Pineda) cooperated with us in all of our projects (for Pampanga),” he said.
Mr. Aquino said a compressed list of national projects for Pampanga actually reached nine pages. A further digest by his speechwriters ended up with four pages, single-spaced.
The President said that for infrastructure alone, his administration poured P16.94 billion for Pampanga, compared with P9.41 billion spent for the province from 2005 to 2010—the years Arroyo was in power.
Among the projects, he said, were the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road Project Phase 2, the Lazatin Flyover, the San Fernando 1st Green Road and the Aquino Bypass Road.
Mr. Aquino considers Pampanga his home province. His late father, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was from Concepcion town, formerly of Pampanga but had since become part of Tarlac province.
The President visited Pampanga on Thursday to preside over a flood-control project meeting, arriving in the province at 2 p.m.
Pineda, whose family is accused of running the illegal numbers racket “jueteng” in the province, heads the local Kambilan political party and is part of the National Unity Party (NUP), whose members are the remnants of Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi, which lost power when her term ended in 2010.
But more remarkable was the amiable interaction of Pineda and Mr. Aquino, who continues to criticize Arroyo for failing to bring development to the country and getting embroiled in corruption allegations during her 10 years in office.
On Wednesday, Mr. Aquino compared the Arroyo administration to a sour pineapple for all the tartness it brought to the country.
At every campaign rally of the LP, at every activity where he inaugurates government projects, Mr. Aquino does not fail to criticize Arroyo.
Support from Pampanga
But in Pampanga on Thursday, the only reference he made to the Arroyo administration pertained to his presidential campaign in 2010.
“In 2010, you know that I am a rival of your provincemate, I was with the opposition at the time. I was able to campaign a little here in Pampanga but despite that I didn’t lose your support,” he said.
His victory, he stressed, gave him the opportunity to bring “real public service” to the country.
Pineda is a close friend of Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman who has spent most of the last six years in detention at a government hospital as the Aquino administration pursues a plunder case against her.
As Pineda began her speech, Mr. Aquino stood up and walked to her to adjust her microphone. The governor was standing at the corner of the stage and Mr. Aquino himself brought the mic stand to the center, prompting cheers from the crowd.
Pineda said that under the Aquino administration, 50,000 families benefited from the government’s conditional cash transfer, a poverty reduction program initiated by the Arroyo administration.
She also said that 136,000 families have benefited from PhilHealth.
Pineda is running unopposed for reelection.
Former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, who was Mr. Aquino’s candidate in the 2010 elections, declined to comment, but he clarified that he was supporting only Robredo.
This was Roxas’ sixth visit to Pampanga, the first in the company of President Aquino. Pineda gathered large crowds for him during those visits.
Pineda has not shown any signs of resentment toward Roxas, who castigated her in front of her top police officials in 2013 for failing to stop jueteng in Pampanga.
Pineda’s husband, Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, had been called to the Senate during the administrations of President Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada for questioning about jueteng.
He has denied financing or running jueteng in Pampanga. With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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