THE oath-taking of about 2,000 volunteers of the Manny Villar for President Movement at Cebu Grand Convention Center yesterday is proof that the Nacionalista Party is expanding in the country, said reelectionist Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Those who took their oath as volunteers were members of the Association of Former Regional Executives in National Agencies (Afrena), local government officials, the women sector, businessmen and the youth sector.

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Villar evaded questions on why the NP is not fielding local candidates from the governor down, and what transpired in his reported meetings with Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

Former congressman Gilbert Remulla of Cavite repeated in his speech that Cebu will be a swing vote for Villar and the NP, but refused to explain why and how. Sen. Francis Escudero earlier said that with the present situation, local officials, such as barangay captains, mayors and governors, will dictate their constituents on whom to vote for.

Former former president Joseph Estrada, in a visit to Sun.Star Cebu last year, acknowledged that the late Fernando Poe Jr. was defeated by President Gloria Arroyo in Cebu in 2004 because he didn’t have a complete slate of local candidates.

Because FPJ did not have local candidates, Garcia and former congressman Celestino Martinez Jr., who were fighting for governor, both supported Arroyo.

So far, despite reports of meetings between Garcia and Villar, Garcia is still supporting Lakas-Kampi presidential standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro. However, Garcia refused to declare her support for Teodoro’s running mate, actor Edu Manzano, fuelling speculations that she is supporting Villar’s running mate, Sen. Loren Legarda, as earlier reports said.

Like Villar, senatorial candidates Adel Tamano and Bongbong Marcos also consider Cebu as a swing vote and are confident that the NP slate will win in Cebu in May.

In his speech, Marcos said that the present administration, from the National Government down, is practicing corrupt activities that have contributed to the suffering of the ordinary Filipinos.

He suggested reforms, saying those who had stolen from public funds must return these.

Tamano, for his part, said they are confident they will get a huge chunk of the Cebuano votes even though they have no local candidates, saying the Cebuanos are mature voters and they will vote for those whom they think can deliver the services they are expecting.

“Right now, when you do a survey, people will just put the names they remember like remembering Noynoy (Aquino) because of Kris, or they remember Jinggoy (Estrada) because he is an incumbent senator. It’s all popularity.

But we think that as we get closer to the election, people will start choosing on the basis of quality issues,” Tamano said.

He cited the election in 2007 when he was the spokesman of the United Opposition. At the start of the campaign, their candidates were not doing well. But eight genuine opposition candidates and one guest candidate won.