Gov. Joey has no word of honor, says Lakas chair
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The defections from the ruling party Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) continue.
Re-electionist Albay Gov. Jose “Joey” Salceda—the Cabinet member who called President Arroyo a “lucky bitch” and got away with it—has abandoned the ruling party to join a staunch Arroyo critic, the Liberal Party (LP) of presidential aspirant Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“Last Monday evening, I accepted the challenge of my Ateneo classmate Noynoy to become the Bicol regional chairman of LP. My task is to make him win in Bicol on May 10, 2010,” Salceda said in an e-mailed statement.
Salceda said it was a “difficult political decision.” He sought the guidance of the Albay clergy, his former classmates in the seminary, particularly Fr. Jovic Lobrigo.
Aquino and Salceda were classmates at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU).
“Over a long period since February, I have seen in my YahooGroups the vigorous efforts of our common batch—Batch 81 of AdMU especially Batch 81 BS Management Engineering—to help our batchmate in his crusade. I distinctly remember Noynoy as a seatmate in the English class. He struck me as being quite ordinary for the son of the biggest political prisoner, a future martyr-hero and a future President,” Salceda added.
Salceda said many of Aquino’s supporters are his friends, too. He named LP director general Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon, LP campaign manager Florencio “Butch” Abad, LP guest senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros, former social welfare secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, and former defense secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz.
LP welcomes Salceda
Liberal Party members welcomed Salceda’s move to the party.
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III said Salceda's move ensures Aquino's victory in the vote-rich Bicol region. Albay has nearly 700,000 votes.
Other Bicolano politicians supporting Aquino are Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo and Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who comes from Sorsogon.
"It is an indication that a bandwagon is now in the offing in favor of Senator Aquino. For the first time since 1998, there is no true blue Bicolano running for President. With key Bicolano leaders supporting Noynoy, there is a big chance that we will win big in the Bicol region," Pangilinan told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
“I think he should be welcomed. He is a very intelligent governor. He’s got the experience of being a legislator. He’s also a governor. I think he should be welcomed in the LP,” said returning senatorial candidate Ralph Recto. He also left Lakas-Kampi-CMD last year to join LP.
Asked if he expects more Lakas-Kampi members to defect to the LP, Recto said: “I think so. This is a historical election. You have to be on the right side of history as well. Noynoy is the best candidate to be president. It is no surprise that many others would do the same.”
“I think Lakas has no chance of winning as far as the presidency is concerned. If there is news of resources not going down or funding for national candidates not going down, maybe they are concentrating on Congress and the party-list system,” he added.
Favored GMA ally
Salceda’s move comes as a surprise because he is one of the closest and favored allies of President Arroyo.
In 2008, Salceda figured in a controversy when he called President Arroyo a “lucky bitch” during a forum at the Ateneo Graduate Schools.
Salceda later apologized for the “bad joke.” He explained that he meant to say “lucky girl” because in spite of her political woes, she was lucky that the economy was in good condition. He said the remark was meant to refer to President Arroyo’s short temper.
In terms of government projects, Albay province was favored by the Arroyo administration.
Among the big-ticket projects the province received are the following:
- construction of the P3.4-billion Daraga International Airport
- P776 million public infrastructure funding
- installation of the P560-million worth Doppler radar
- P977.3 million for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which assists 70,000 poor families in the province
- P1.25 billion worth of assistance after Typhoon Reming.
Although Salceda is a close ally of President Arroyo, Tañada said Salceda has an “independent mind.”
“People who speak their minds are welcome,” the LP spokesman added.
Lakas: Salceda has no word of honor
Lakas-Kampi chairman Negros Occidental Rep. Amelita Villarosa and executive secretary Leandro Mendoza lamented Salceda’s decision.
“He is one of those who stood up, very passionate when he said the palabra de honor (word of honor) team is intact campaigning for Gibo. He is the one making all the speeches,” Villarosa told ABS-CBN News Channel.
“Joey is always a great help. He is a good friend of mine,” Mendoza added.
But Villarosa said Salceda is not a big loss to the party because they have other leaders in the region.
Not to worry
“Gov. Joey Salceda is not the only Kampi party leader in that area. We have Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Mayor of Legaspi City, and other congressmen within the area,” she said.
Despite the defections, Villarosa said she remains confident that the party can make their candidate, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., win.
“We take this in stride. We move on. We focus, making sure our candidate will win, we are confident our candidate will make it. Let’s wait and let’s see who wins in the election. It’s Gibo Teodoro,” Villarosa said.
Lakas-Kampi secretary-general Rey Roquero denied rumors that other Cabinet members, such as Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Budget Secretary Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., are also bolting the party
“This is pure black propaganda waged by our opponents,” Roquero said.