CEBU CITY -- Cebu will “make Senator Manuel Villar the next president,” Representative Eduardo Gullas said, a day after the Nacionalista Party standard bearer’s reported meeting with administration allies in Cebu fanned speculations of shifting alliances.
But One Cebu spokesman Rory Jon Sepulveda said there’s “no semblance of truth” to a national broadsheet’s report that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies in Cebu have abandoned lawyer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Gullas said he’s confident Cebu will deliver for Villar, the way it gave Arroyo a crucial one-million-vote margin in the 2004 elections.
The first district congressman attended a closed-door meeting Wednesday noon between Villar and local politicians at Marco Polo Hotel. That meeting took place after Villar signed an alliance with this city’s opposition party Kugi, Uswag Sugbo (Kusug), led by mayoral candidate Alvin Garcia.
Teodoro, for his part, is flying in Friday to join a One Cebu rally in Argao, said Rex Carampatama, chairman of Green Team Cebu and spokesperson of Gibo Volunteers.
With over 2.2 million registered voters, Cebu is the country’s most vote-rich province.
As head of the local administration party, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is not looking for an “honorable exit” and will keep her word to support Teodoro, Sepulveda said in a press conference.
He pointed out that in Wednesday night’s meeting, One Cebu officials showed they fully support the party’s decision to support Teodoro. He referred to Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia, Representative Pablo John and Representative Benhur Salimbangon. They are the chairman emeritus, secretary-general and vice president, respectively, of One Cebu.
Sepulveda said the governor wanted to reiterate that all One Cebu members are free to go if they can’t embrace her decision to support Teodoro.
“Exploratory talks,” like those reportedly between Representative Nerissa Soon Ruiz and the Villar camp, are frowned upon.
“If she, he or they want an exit, be it graceful or disgraceful, they are free to leave One Cebu. As far as One Cebu is concerned, there should be no exploratory talks. The party already made a commitment… (We are) solid behind Teodoro and solid behind Governor Gwen,” Sepulveda said.
The governor’s brother, Government Service Insurance System President Winston Garcia, is not a member of One Cebu and has no role in the local administration party, he added.
Also on Thursday, Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez said: “Eventually, all the Garcias will go to Villar.”
He recalled in late November that he was invited to meet with Villar and his wife Cynthia for “preliminary discussions” on the possibility of fielding Sanchez for governor.
But Sanchez said he was only able to meet with Cynthia, and later learned from the senator’s staff that the governor reportedly had a scheduled meeting with Villar that same day.
“My impression was that Gwen was trying to block my entry into the Nacionalista Party,” said the vice governor, who is seeking reelection under the Liberal Party ticket.
Meanwhile, a candidate for board member in Cebu’s second district said he expects “massive defections” by the second or third week of April.
Access to funds and a presidential aspirant’s chances of winning are among the key factors that could swing local politicians, said Oliveros Kintanar, a former Cebu provincial prosecutor.
Kintanar admitted that even though he was adopted by the Liberal Party in December 2009, he decided to become the Nacionalista Party’s candidate for board member.
“There’s really an advantage if I will align with NP because this party has vast resources. The party can organize rallies where I can voice out my programs and platform of government,” Kintanar said.
“In politics, there are no permanent friends and permanent enemies,” he said. “There are only permanent interests.” (GC/JGA/RSA/EOB/Sun.Star Cebu)