Albay LPs drop 6 Team PNoy bets

Then and now. President Benigno Aquino III and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda seem to be sharing something amusing at the First National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation at the Bicol University Amphitheater in Legaspi City in this file photo taken on Nov. 2, 2011.Inset, Salceda announces his support for UNA senatorial candidates Jack Enrile and Nancy Binay on Monday.

LEGAZPI CITY – Provincial leaders in Albay on Monday defied the administration’s orders to work for a 12-0 sweep, dropping six candidates from the Team Pnoy slate in favor of five opposition bets and one independent.

The announcement drew a swift response from the Palace, which took Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, LP provincial chairman, to task for allowing a split.

“We expect LP people to endorse LP candidates. You are a sworn member of the LP and we expect you to endorse the national candidates of the Liberal Party,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

But Salceda, governor of a province with 720,000 votes, said local LP leaders had printed sample ballots showing a 6-5-1 split, with five members of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance and independent candidate Teddy Casino showing up on the document.

Salceda, who is running for reelection, said his personal preference was 10-2, and that he would campaign for UNA bets JV Ejercito and Juan Miguel Zubiri in the vote-rich province.

Sample ballots that Manila Standard saw showed the five UNA bets were Milagros Magsaysay, JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Miguel Zubiri and Jack Enrile.

Administration candidates dropped from the list were Salcedo’s fellow Bicolanos, Senators Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes,  and Jamby Madrigal.

The sample ballot also excluded the names of Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Senator Aquilino Pimentel III of PDP-Laban and Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan.

Magsaysay and Madrigal were LP’s new recruits, who had displaced original LP members, House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III and former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta from the administration’s senatorial slate.

Local leaders said the split was also aimed at registering their displeasure at the “shabby and unfair treatment” against original Liberal Party members like the Zigas, who had been with the party for the last three generations.

“The LP in Albay is divided now. Despite the shabby treatment, I chose to remain but my son Ricky left and is now the official candidate of UNA in Tabaco, Albay, against a new LP recruit,” former senator Victor Ziga told the Manila Standard.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, president of the opposition UNA, said the split in Albay only proved that the 12-0 sweep promised by Liberal campaign manager Senator Franklin Drilon was impossible.

Already, Binay said, 11 provinces controlled by the Nationalist People’s Coalition have vowed to support the UNA, even though they are allies of the Liberal Party on the national level.

“The LP and the Palace tried to make Salceda recall his statement and to strictly toe the 12-0 line but they only managed to squeeze from him a 10-2 of his own list,” a source privy to the attempts to impose party discipline told the Manila Standard.

“Salceda told the LP hierarchy and the Palace that he could not do anything about the 6-5-1 combination in the sample ballots that were being distributed now, saying they represented the consensus of the local leaders also belonging to other parties, not just the LP,” the source said.

The Manila Standard learned the sample ballots that contained the 6-5-1 senatorial slate were under the control and safekeeping of the local LP leaders, who outnumbered those belonging to other parties.

The governor’s announcement of a 6-5-1 split came after a one-on-one luncheon meeting with Binay when the contingent went to Albay for a sortie on Sunday.

In the evening, Binay proceeded to a campaign rally in Tabaco, where he endorsed Ziga’s son, who is running for a House seat against the son of former House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

Lagman’s son Greco, a former councilor of Quezon City’s Third District, relinquished his post to be able to comply with the residency requirement of being able to run for congressman in another district.

Copies of the sample ballots showing the 6-5-1 combination confirmed reports that junking has become widespread and that the party leadership has failed to make their members toe the 12-0 line.

The copies of the sample ballots had been printed days before Salceda’s meeting with Binay.

Salceda did not say why the Team Pnoy candidates were being dropped but the local LP leaders said most of them were those who failed to help Bicol when it was struck by devastating typhoon.

“With the recent political realignments in the Bicol region, Albay has started peeling off its yellow tones. Governor Salceda said the 12-0 dream of LP will never happen in Albay, which has an estimated 720,000 registered voters,” UNA secretary general and campaign manager Toby Tiangco said.

Tiangco said the sample ballots being distributed in Bicol would deal a huge blow against candidates of Team Pnoy who were junked.

“Elections are local. National elections highly depend on the local machinery, and the command votes are not in the hands of national officials. Sample ballots are critical in this stage because local officials are the ones who deliver the votes,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco said local party support switched from the administration to the opposition when known LP loyalists in Albay were displaced in elective posts when the Liberal Party decided to accommodate former Lakas members.

“The combination of names in the sample ballots for Albay obviously show a divided LP in the region,” Tiangco said.

Ziga said while he remains with the LP, he has no choice but to fully support the candidacy of his son in UNA.

Ziga said LP officers led by Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Tansport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya did not even bother to reply to his letters or his text messages and did not return his phone calls.

“Abaya simply texted me and said the official candidate of LP for congressman in Tabaco, Albay was Lagman’s son, a new recruit. The LP ignored my pleas to consider and accord due courtesy at least to the loyalty shown by the original LP members but to no avail,” Ziga said.

Binay, former President Joseph Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile immediately welcomed Ziga’s son to their fold.

Tiangco said in 2010, Albay delivered 62 percent of its votes–the largest by any province–for President Aquino, and was regarded as the “yellowest province” next to Tarlac.

Historically, Bicol has always been an opposition bailiwick.

“With the collapse of the NPC-LP coalition looming in the horizon, UNA has everything to gain from the local rivalries,” Tiangco said.

The NPC and a large number of LP members have already distanced themselves from Team PNoy and vowed their full support for the nine senatorial candidates of UNA.

LP’s Magsaysay immediately questioned Salceda’s motive behind the junking and demanded that a party discipline be meted out against the governor.

“The voters would ask why he was doing this being an LP party official… That is a distortion of the good intentions of the President,” Magsaysay said.

But Hontiveros was not surprised by Salceda’s move, saying he had always been known for his independence.

Casino thanked Salceda for his support and said he hoped that other local officials would follow suit in supporting his senatorial bid.

Over the weekend, Casino said Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte endorsed him as his bet for the Senate.

Pimentel, whose name also does not appear on the sample ballot, said the LP should police its ranks against actions that jeopardize party interests.

He urged Liberal Party leaders to set an example with “wayward examples.”

Salceda earlier explained that he joined Binay because he is an “ally” of President Aquino.

The governor was a former staunch ally of ex-President turned-Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo under the Lakas-CMD before he joined the LP, abandoning then presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro during the 2010 presidential elections.

His defection came after he called on all governors to sign a manifesto supporting Teodoro’s presidential bid.

Salceda denied mentioning any names of candidates who would be junked.

In an earlier interview with reporters during Team PNoy campaign sorties in Albay, Salceda said it would be 10-2 victory for Team PNoy in his province, but that he would fight for a 12-0 sweep.

He said Ejercito and Zubiri, who trace their roots to Albay, were consistently strong in provincial surveys.