PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – On orders of the detained former president, allies of reelectionist Pampanga Second District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have been working hard to help secure the victory of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the tight presidential race.
“There is no formal proclamation yet, but minus the formal proclamation, the marching order of the former president is to help the Vice President,” former Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez told Rappler on the sidelines of the United Nationalist Alliance standard-bearer's sortie in Arayat, Pampanga, on Sunday, March 6.
Suarez is co-chairman of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the political party of Arroyo. He is one of the advisers in the Binay campaign associated with the former president. (READ: Who are the people behind Team Jejomar Binay?)
Arroyo is under hospital arrest for plunder charges over the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds while she was president. She is suffering from multilevel cervical spondylosis or the weakening of the bones.
Last year, Arroyo asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to allow her to be placed under house arrest in her La Vista residence or in Pampanga, which was backed by the House of Representatives. The Ombudsman has opposed the move.
'Pampanga, Zambales for Binay'
According to Suarez, Binay's expression of concern for Arroyo's health has "reverberated" with voters in the province.
“Noon pang day one, nang na-detain si GMA, gumawa na ng position si VP na dapat bigyan ng pagkakataon magpagamot and that has been reverberating in the province (Since day one when GMA was detained, VP already made the position that she should be given treatment, and that has been reverberating in the province),” said Suarez.
Binay and Arroyo used to be political foes – he was among Arroyo's staunchest critics over corruption scandals and allegations of election fraud in 2004. Binay was the campaign manager of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr, whose daughter, Senator Grace poe, is a top contender in the 2016 presidential race.
Binay had also accused Arroyo of orchestrating his suspension for graft allegations when he was Makati mayor in 2006.
Same needs, same promises
In the 2010 elections, Binay lost to Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II in Pampanga by 193,000 votes.
Former Candaba mayor Jerry Pelayo said this won't happen to Binay in the May polls as there is stronger support for him in the province.
"Dito sa Pampanga, ‘yung mga incumbent at ‘yung mga dating mayor at magkakatunggali sa lokal dito, nagkaisa sila for Binay. Bahala sila sa lokal pero lahat ito well represented by 22 municipalities and 3 cities. Lahat sila may delegation na nangangahulugan na lahat dito sa Pampanga, naging idol nila si Binay,” said the Arroyo-Binay supporter.
(Here in Pampanga, the incumbent and former mayors who are rivals in the elections all agreed they would support Binay. They can do whatever they want in the local elections, but all are well represented here, including the 22 municipalities and 3 cities. They all sent a delegation which means in Pampanga, Binay is their idol.)
Former Zambales representative Mitos Magsaysay, another Arroyo ally, also told Rappler that voters in Zambales and the rest of Central Luzon favor Binay's programs, particularly promises of free healthcare and education, scrapping income tax for workers earning P30,000 and below, and the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“‘Yun po ‘yung po ang gustung-gusto ng constituents sa Zambales, kaya ang Zambales din, full support po sa kandidatura ni VP Binay (That’s what constituents in Zambales want, so they’re fully supporting VP Binay),” Magsaysay said.
In October 2015, the “Pangulo na si Jojo Binay Movement” Regional Parallel Group Central Luzon was launched to help campaign for Binay.
Some 4,000 regional, provincial, and municipal leaders from Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales took their oath as members of the group.
Will Central Luzon also deliver votes for Binay’s running mate, Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, and the Senate bets of UNA? Pelayo said yes.
“Siyempre, may usapan naman dito na kung sino ang unang kasama ni Binay, talagang dadalhin, including the senators (Of course. We discussed here that whoever is with Binay, we’ll vote for them also, including the senators)," he said.
Honasan is at the bottom of surveys on vice presidential bets. Among UNA's exclusive senatorial candidates, only Sarangani Representative and boxing icon Manny Pacquaio is currently among the probable winners.
Meanwhile Angeles, Pampanga Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan said he welcomes all national candidates in his city.
“I helped organize Senator [Grace] Poe and Chiz [Escudero] rally last
week. I also welcomed [Davao Mayor Rodrigo] Duterte’s visit to city hall last February
and I will welcome Vice President Binay’s visit to Angeles today and helped
him in his sorties last year in the city’s Pampang market and SM City
Clark,” he said in a text message to Rappler on Monday.
“This morning, Senator Ping Lacson was with me at the city hall and Isko
Moreno and [Roman] Romulo last month.. I welcome all national candidates in Angeles. Si Mar Roxas lang and 'di pa dumadaan sa city hall (Only Mar Roxas is yet to visit city hall)...That’s the whole story,” Pamintuan added. – with reports from Jun Malig/Rappler.com