THREE grandsons of the late president Corazon Aquino spent the weekend campaigning in Cebu for their uncle, presidential aspirant Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, visiting public markets and schools, and holding their first press conference.

They also handed over a plastic jar full of coins and bills, donated by an unspecified group of workers, to the Liberal Party’s gubernatorial candidate in Cebu, lawyer Hilario Davide III.

"The Manny Pacquiao Blog". Click here for stories and updates on the Filipino boxing champ.

Asked what quality sets their candidate apart from the other presidential aspirants, Justin Benigno “Jiggy” Cruz, at 24 the eldest of the Aquino grandchildren, cited Senator Aquino’s honesty.

He admitted, however, that their candidate needs to overcome his reluctance to discuss his accomplishments as a three-term congressman of Tarlac and a first-term senator.

“He’s very shy and he wasn’t prepared to run in this election. At first, he lagged behind in terms of visibility,” said another nephew, Miguel Abellada.

The younger Aquinos’ effort to woo voters, particularly those under 36, came amid reports their uncle was statistically tied in the latest survey with Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar, at least in the Visayas.

About 39 percent of the Visayas respondents in Pulse Asia’s survey from Feb. 21-25 picked Aquino. Villar had 38 percent. Nationwide, Aquino led at 36 percent over Villar, whom 29 percent of respondents chose.

Apart from campaigning in provincial sorties and online, the younger Aquinos also offered glimpses of their uncle’s lesser-known side.

“The one rule in his room is that you can’t move his speakers,” said Eldon Giulo “Jonty” Cruz. “Yun talaga ang kagagalitan niya (That really annoys him).” The senator, they said, is such an audiophile that he has arranged his speakers in such a way that they “produce the most optimal sound.”

Their “Tito Noy” is also a techie and a marksman, who used to visit the range every Sunday and even trained his bodyguards himself.

Abellada said they have learned to ignore speculations the senator is autistic—“he’s just weird in some ways”—and have taken it as a sign that other contenders have dug up no dirt on their candidate.

Local ally

In an ambush interview after the press con, gubernatorial candidate Davide said he is thankful for the Aquino grandchildren’s support and described the jar of cash as another illustration the party is waging “the people’s campaign.”

He admitted the local party is in need of funds, especially against “an incumbent who is well-entrenched and has all the resources.”

The former Cebu City councilor said that if elected governor in May 2010, he will order within first 60 days a review of all “questionable” contracts of the Provincial Government “to see if there’s evidence of graft and corruption and see to it that those responsible should be investigated and prosecuted.”

Asked for comment, Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda texted: “He is desperate to come up withsome sort of a program of government, and that’s the only one he can think of? How about his position on provincial properties? Follow the wishes of his master?”

Davide said his sorties in the province have exposed him to complaints about the lack of facilities and medicine in district hospitals, which contrasts with the “wastage of public funds” in such transactions as the P98-million purchase of the Balili estate in Naga.