IN MY hometown Mabalacat, which borders Tarlac, some folks believe that while Liberal Party’s Noynoy Aquino has the southern half of the province as his bailiwick, the northern towns “belongs” to Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s Gibo Teodoro.

Friends and acquaintances I had conversation with about Noynoy and Gibo, who both belong to the influential and affluent Cojuangco clan of Tarlac, think that the province will be divided between the cousins. Peping Cojuangco’s camp will go for Noynoy while Danding Cojuangco’s camp will go for Gibo.

But the statement of Gretchen Cojuangco, wife of Danding, in Bacolod on Sunday points towards another direction.

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"Anybody but Gibo. Anybody," was her reply to reporters’ question about who between Noynoy and Gibo her husband would support in the May 10 elections.

Her statement was clearly inconclusive on Danding’s choice among the presidential hopefuls. She did not say her husband would go for Noynoy – she just said “anybody but Gibo.”

This could mean Danding’s camp will support Nacionalista Party’s Manny Villar, whose running mate is Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the political party founded by Danding, its current chairman emeritus.

Danding’s camp might also go for Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino’s Erap Estrada. The two were teammates in the 1998 presidential and vice presidential elections.

Gretchen said they “felt very bad” for Gibo, belying reports that he and Danding are just fine with each other. She said Gibo did not ask permission from her husband when he left NPC and transferred to Lakas-Kampi-CMD to become its standard bearer.

She disclosed that Danding had “the biggest plans and belief” for Gibo, whom she described as “so intelligent.” But Gibo abandoned his uncle’s party.

In Pampanga, the race for the presidency is expected to be a tough fight between Noynoy, Villar, and Gibo. Noynoy is a Kapampangan and enjoys the support of many Kapampangans. Villar is also popular among Pampangueños and is supported by many local candidates. Gibo is being supported by most of the incumbent local officials in the province.

Some go for Noynoy because of his promise to wage war against corruption in government. Some believe the multi-billionaire Villar will not have to steal money from the people because he’s already rich. Some prefer Gibo for his intelligent responses to questions in forums and political discussions.

But for Noynoy to maintain his lead, he should refrain from making childish gestures and reckless statements that undermine his perceived maturity and good judgment.

Earlier, he was criticized for stating during a forum last month at De La Salle-Zobel School in Muntinlupa City that “there are credible surveys and there are surveys that can be bought in Quiapo” when asked about the Dec. 27-28, 2009 Social Weather Station (SWS) survey that showed Villar’s surging rating.

After several days, he stated in a letter to the SWS that the survey firm “is a competent and respectable social research institution” and that his camp still believes that the SWS “remain true to their mission to deliver true and competent service to the Filipino public.”

Saying one thing today and a different thing the next day does not speak well of someone’s character. Maybe some old folks in my community are correct in pointing out that Noynoy is not Cory and not Ninoy.

The latest SWS survey shows Noynoy with 42 percent, Villar 35 percent, Erap 13 percent, Gibo 4 percent, Eddie Villanueva 2 percent, Richard Gordon 2 percent, Jamby Madrigal 0.4 percent, Vetellano Acosta 0.3 percent, John Carlos De Los Reyes 0.2 percent, Jesus Nicanor Perlas 0.1 percent, and undecided 2 percent. The survey was made between January 21 and 24 this year.