Upon stepping on stage during an event near Sta. Rosa’s City Hall in mid-March, Gov. ER Ejercito instantly grabbed the people’s attention. A dance hit familiar to everyone played shortly after he greeted the crowd.
It was “Oppa Gangnam Style” by the Korean rapper, Psy, with lyrics tweaked for Ejercito’s campaign.
The people teased him to dance, and he obliged. The covered court erupted in cheers.
At a barangay fiesta in Calamba the night before, 4th district Rep. Edgar San Luis had barely spent a few minutes on stage when the host asked the audience, “Do you want him to sing?”
The people shouted yes, and as if on cue, a love song often used as a theme for movies and soap operas played.
“Minsan lang kita iibigin, minsan lang kita mamahalin,” San Luis sang as he walked down the stage to shake people’s hands.
When it comes to wooing voters, Laguna’s two contenders for governor have very different styles. But they also have one thing in common: they’re often on attack mode, turning almost every chance to speak in public into an opportunity to discredit each other.
The two candidates seemed to have stepped up their attacks after a heated debate on ABS-CBN’s morning show “Umagang Kay Ganda” in March.
After entertaining the crowd with his dance moves, Ejercito went straight to the point: why the people should not vote for his rival.
He said San Luis’ leadership is questionable, calling him a “political butterfly” or someone who habitually shifts political alliances.
Ejercito told the crowd that from his own party, Pangkat San Luis, San Luis moved to Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, then to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), then to Lakas-Kampi-CMD, and then finally to the Liberal Party (LP).
“He has no conviction. He keeps on transferring from one party to another to support whoever has the money and the power,” Ejercito said.
San Luis denies being a political butterfly. In an interview, he says he entered politics as an independent, and became part of NPC for a short while before transferring to LP after the 2010 elections.
“What’s balimbing about that?” San Luis says, using the Filipino term for politicians who jump from one party to another.
He adds that he is loyal to the party and to President Noynoy Aquino, who he says personally picked him as LP’s candidate for governor in the province.
According to San Luis, the President was dismayed by Ejercito’s frequent tardiness in official meetings. In February, President Aquino himself took a swipe at Ejercito for showing up several hours late at a meeting in Malacanang.
Addressing youth groups in Calamba, San Luis said, “I did not expect the President to say that he chose Egay San Luis because the governor made him wait for 3 hours and a half during a discussion on a big issue like the Laguna Lake.”
“How can I be late? I live in the capitol. This guy is exaggerating,” Ejercito says.
“If ever they call me late, that’s because I’m with other people. I’m no ordinary governor. I’m also an actor. And I’m not just an actor. I am Asiong Salonga and El Presidente, that’s why people, not just from Laguna but from all over the Philippines, come to the capitol,” he adds, referring to his lead roles in recent films.
Ejercito also uses as an ammunition against San Luis the congressman’s past support for former President Gloria Arroyo.
One proof, he says, was San Luis’ endorsement in 2007 of a weak impeachment complaint against Arroyo that he knew was bound to fail, supposedly to prevent the opposition from filing a stronger case since the Constitution allows the filing of only one complaint a year.
“He sabotaged the opposition,” Ejercito says, “in exchange for P250 million.”
San Luis denies getting P250 million from Arroyo. He says he sincerely believed in the impeachment complaint that he endorsed on the House floor.
“I am the representative of the 4th district, and it is my right and obligation to endorse a complaint if I believe it is right and has basis. I really believed Mrs. Arroyo must be impeached at that time,” San Luis says.
The mudslinging has covered other issues, such as Ejercito’s wealth, San Luis’ almost P200 million loans from 2 banks, who between the two has more posters and tarpaulins all over the province, and even each other’s pastimes.
Ejercito says that while he is busy making movies aside from being a governor, San Luis plays golf and goes to the casino during his spare time.
San Luis vehemently denies this.
“I challenge him,” he says. “If he is able to prove that I go to the casino, I would withdraw my candidacy. But if he can’t prove it, he should resign because he lied to the people.”
It’s all about politics whenever each of them speaks in public, with little or no mention of how they plan to address the province’s problems, like floods from an overflowing Laguna Lake and the needs of residents in some of Laguna’s less developed areas.
(To be continued)