SEN. Manuel Villar and Kugi Uswag Sugbo (Kusug) candidates made official yesterday their alliance for the May elections, but the presidential bet kept mum on what transpired during a closed-door meeting with local administration allies.

The Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer confirmed meeting some Cebu congressmen at the Marco Polo Hotel yesterday noon, but did not reveal their names and what the meeting was about.

With two days left before the start of the local campaign period, Villar said he remains hopeful he can get more local leaders to join the NP.

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Among those he hopes to have an alliance with is One Cebu, he said.

“These are all continuing discussions, with all the governors in the Philippines…We are looking for alliances in the country, including Cebu,” he said after his press conference at the Marco Polo Hotel.

But in a meeting last night with mayors and vice mayors, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said One Cebu will honor its commitment to support Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

“I hope that you are with me here, mayors and vice mayors,” she said, “because if you are not, it’s best that we part ways now.” She mentioned “palabra de honor” (word of honor) at least eight times in a 20-minute speech.

“In this season of shifting political alliances, they say there’s no such thing as word of honor,” the governor said. “But I beg to disagree.” She said she would rather risk losing all of the mayors’ support, than lose her self-respect.

Villar confirmed meeting some congressmen and mayors from Cebu, including Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, but declined to say whether they have reached an agreement.

“Was he here?” asked Rep. Pablo Garcia (Cebu Province, 2nd district) when reporters met him at the Marco Polo Hotel yesterday.

Winston paid

Reporters were tipped that the deputy speaker and four other provincial congressmen met with Villar: Eduardo Gullas of the first district, Pablo John Garcia of the third district, Salimbangon and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz of the sixth district.

Except for Ruiz, who is running for mayor of Mandaue City in the May 10 elections, all the other congressmen were endorsed by One Cebu, which is committed to administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro.

Pablo John Garcia, when asked to confirm if a meeting took place, said in a text message, “As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to confirm.”

Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President Winston Garcia also walked out of the hotel more than 30 minutes after his father Pablo left. He denied attending a meeting with Villar.

Former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia, Kusug’s candidate for mayor, said his cousins have no participation in Kusug’s alliance with the NP.

He also confirmed Winston paid the bill for the lunch and launching of the Kusug-NP alliance in the hotel, which around 150 supporters attended.

Budget

Villar repeatedly said he will not make any agreement for financial support with Kusug, and that NP can only help Kusug through the party’s organization.

“We will now be working very closely with NP. As of now, we have no support from NP. Definitely they will have to have a budget for Cebu City, and hopefully whatever that budget is will be given to us. I don’t know how much, but I would think that maybe on election day, you probably need at least P15 million and before election, that could be a few millions more,” Alvin said.

Like Villar, he declined to say what transpired during the closed-door meeting with officials from the province, saying he is only authorized to talk about Kusug, a separate entity from One Cebu.

Alvin said that while he would have wanted the Garcia clan to support only one presidential candidate, it may “already be too late and maybe they have decided for Gibo (Teodoro).”

Villar arrived at Marco Polo at noon, accompanied by Gullas, Minglanilla Mayor Eduardo Selma, Naga City Mayor Valdemar Chiong and businessman Ricardo Reluya, husband of San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Reluya.

Shirt

They went straight to one of the rooms of the hotel where they held a closed-door meeting.

At 12:30 p.m., Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez left the room to answer a call on his mobile phone. Also seen entering the meeting’s venue were Dumanjug Mayor Cesar Baricuatro, Lapu-Lapu City mayoral candidate Junard Chan, Cebu City south congressional candidate Jonathan Guardo and Cebu City north congressional candidate Mary Ann delos Santos.

Interviewed at One Cebu’s meeting last night, Ruiz said she was at the penthouse earlier in the day, meeting with former Mandaue City mayor Thadeo ouano.

Salimbangon said he was at the hotel to meet with doctors who are in town for the Operation Smile medical mission.

As to rumors about an impending shift in One Cebu’s loyalty, Pablo said: “Look at my shirt.” He wore a One Cebu shirt.

Asked about Winston, Pablo John said that while he, his father Pablo and sister Gwendolyn have chosen to support Teodoro, Winston is free to make his own decision. However, the last time they talked, the congressman said that the GSIS president did not want to get involved in politics.