THE group of junior military officers who tried to overthrow the Arroyo government in 2003 backed the candidacies of Senator Manny Villar Jr. for president and Senator Mar Roxas for vice president.

In a press conference in San Juan Wednesday, Magdalo national spokesman Ashley Acedillo said the endorsement of Villar was a result of nationwide consultations among Magdalo’s 400 chapters nationwide.

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Villar is the standard bearer of Nacionalista Party (NP) while Roxas is running under the Liberal Party (LP).

“After tabulating the votes of the said chapters, the chosen presidential candidate (Villar) garnered 52 percent of the votes with a winning margin of five percent over the second-ranking candidate,” the resolution said.

The group said the endorsement of Villar's candidacy was based on the following conditions:

* no alliance or agreement between him and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

* continuance of Magdalo's anti-poverty advocacy

* secure peace in Mindanao

* reform and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

* allow detained Magdalo chairman Antonio Trillanes IV to perform his duties as duly-elected senator.

Villar, who was in Pasig, welcomed the endorsement.

“Ako ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa Magdalo na nagpahayag ng kanilang buong pagtitiwala at pagsuporta sa aking kakayanang mamuno ng ating bansa (I am very thankful to Magdalo for declaring their full trust and support on my capacity to lead the country),” Villar said in a statement.

The Magdalo has earlier endorsed Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero but the latter withdrew from the presidential race last year and resigned from the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC).

The 55,000-strong Magdalo also endorsed a mixed senatorial lineup consisting of former Marine colonel Ariel Querubin (NP), former Scout Ranger regiment commander, Brigadier General Danilo Lim (LP), Senator Pia Cayetano (NP), Senator Jinggoy Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Susan “Toots” Ople (NP), Representative Gilbert Remulla (NP), lawyer Adel Tamano (NP), Representative Ruffy Biazon (LP), former senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (NPC), lawyer JV Bautista (PMP), Joey De Venecia (PMP) and Representative Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos (NP).

The group said their members had the capacity to deliver between 200,000 to 300,000 votes for their chosen candidates.

Although he thanked Magdalo for the support, Lim has a different presidential bet.

“I am grateful that they have endorsed my candidacy and have pledged to continue to do so. However, their support for Senator Villar's presidency runs counter to my present situation having been adopted and supported by another party,” Lim said in a statement.

Lim has been adopted guest candidate of the LP and Partido ng Masang Pilipino who are fielding Senator Noynoy Aquino and former President Joseph Estrada as standard bearers, respectively.

The bemedalled officer is facing rebellion charges in connection with the November 2007 standoff at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City and also faces charges of mutiny before a military court in connection with the February 2006 coup.

Lim and detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV however were allowed to post bail last week by a Makati court for the rebellion charges.

Aquino’s reaction

Senator Aquino has no hard feelings against the Magdalo group for not endorsing him for president in the upcoming polls.

“That is their right if that is what they choose. I am sure there are members in Magdalo who have been continuing to support us and will continue to support us,” he said.

“I haven’t talked to Senator Trillanes in such a long while, I don’t know why they decided it,” Aquino added.

JC scores Villar

In a related development, Ang Kapatiran standard bearer John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes said the country should be wary of a Villar presidency.

“I'm scared (for the people) because how much is he spending, P10 billion?” he said, adding that he used the money to buy off the electorate.

The 40-year-old Olongapo City councilor said the political advertisements of Villar are giving the public a “wrong impression” by projecting he cares for the poor because he came from it.

“It’s pure propaganda. He’s giving the wrong impression to the people. It does not follow. It’s not logical that he loves them because he allegedly came from (their ranks),” he said.

The campaign slogans of Villar showed him as the champion of the poor because he himself came from a poor family and was successful to reverse his fortune.

But the statements of de los Reyes seemed not to catch up with the people yet if based on the latest results of Pulse Asia survey.

In the survey conducted January 22 to 26, 70 percent of the 1,800 respondents said they have “big trust” on Villar, while 64 percent said they trust rival Senator Aquino.

NP spokesperson and senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla said Villar’s trust rating could have been higher if not for the "black propaganda and disinformation campaign launched by his political rivals."

“Umasa po kayong hindi sisirain ni Sen. Villar ang tiwala at pagmamahal ninyo (Rest assured that Sen. Villar will not betray the trust and love you have extended to him),” Remulla said in a statement.

Trailing Villar and Aquino were former President Estrada (33 percent); Administration bet Gilbert Teodoro (32 percent); Senator Richard Gordon (26 percent); Bro. Eddie Villanueva (15 percent); Senator Jamby Madrigal (14 percent); Vetellano Acosta (5 percent); JC delos Reyes (4 percent); and Nicanor Perlas (4 percent). (Virgil Lopez/With Angela Casauay/Sunnex)