MANILA, Philippines – Eyeing the presidency in 2016, Vice President Jejomar Binay has recruited to his party the governor of the Philippines’ most vote-rich province.
Cebu Gov Gwen Garcia, who officially joined Binay’s party Friday, May 25, has promised to bring votes to the Vice President’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). Garcia has expressed an intention to run for senator under PDP-Laban in 2013.
In a press conference, Garcia said she moved to PDP-Laban after she read the “signs” that Binay is a “man of destiny.”
“When I was invited by him to join, I readily accepted, because I think this is the right direction – for our local party, first of all, the One Cebu Party, and of course this is the right direction for our country under the leadership of Vice President Binay,” Garcia said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“We had proven in the past that if we in Cebu will remain united, we truly can deliver,” Garcia added.
Based on government data from the latest elections, Garcia’s province has the most number of voters among all Philippine provinces. Statistics show Cebu had 2.41 million voters in 2010, with the province of Cavite trailing it at a distance with 1.66 million voters.
The Garcias constitute a political force in Cebu, the same province that gave former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the widest lead over actor Fernando Poe Jr in the 2004 presidential elections.
This early, Binay is fortifying his machinery for the 2013 and 2016 elections. This is the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a coalition between PDP-Laban and former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. (Read: Binay and the politics of firsts.)
In the 2010 elections, a strategy that worked for him was a “highly personalistic approach” toward local officials, according to the best-selling book Ambition Destiny Victory: Stories from a Presidential Election.
“Binay had been socializing with local officials for years, and these were not just local officials but ground-mover local officials. His relationship with them was (that of) pare (buddies),” explained pollster Pedro Laylo Jr in the book.
Along with Garcia, Binay recruited to PDP-Laban another prominent politician in the local scene – Zambales Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay. (Read: Magsaysay, Gwen Garcia joining Binay’s party.)
Kiss of death?
Both Binay’s new recruits, however, have long been associated with detained former President Arroyo. In the 2010 elections, association with or endorsement by Arroyo was considered a “kiss of death” for any politician.
While saying Cebu owes Arroyo their “gratitude,” Garcia downplayed her association with the former president in connection to her senatorial bid.
“I am presenting myself as a senatorial candidate not on the basis of my association with GMA, although I will not be defensive or apologetic about that. I am presenting myself on the basis of what I have accomplished in Cebu based on my now 8 years of experience of governor, and how the programs that we have instituted could perhaps be brought to the national level,” Garcia told Rappler.
Magsaysay, for her part, said her association with Arroyo will not affect her senatorial bid.
“Actually, all those who are criticizing (me)… and associating me with her, were also her allies before,” Magsaysay explained. – Rappler.com