BATANGAS, Philippines – He once served and even spoke for a president that the ruling party now vilifies every chance it gets, but on Wednesday, March 16, Eduardo Ermita raised the hands of Manuel Roxas II and Leni Robredo, presidential and vice presidential bets of the Liberal Party (LP).
Ermita, former executive secretary and spokesman of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, hosted the LP tandem on Wednesday during a visit to Balayan town in vote-rich Batangas province, which has about 1.5 million voters.
If in Arroyo’s home province of Pampanga, allies have been told to support opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay, this doesn’t seem to be the case in Batangas. (READ: Arroyo to allies: Help Binay win)
The former military general wasn’t wearing the ruling party’s trademark yellow, nor was his daughter, Batangas 1st District Representative Eileen Ermita-Buhain. But the father-and-daughter tandem raised the hands of the LP bets, addressing both Roxas and Robredo as “the next president” and “next vice president” of the country.
Arroyo is the immediate predecessor of LP chairman President Benigno Aquino III, whose 2010 campaign focused on anti-corruption. Arroyo’s presidency was marred by persistent allegations of corruption and electoral fraud.
Ermita is one of the original members of the party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats of former president Fidel V Ramos and Arroyo. His daughter was a member of Lakas in the 2013 elections but has since moved to the Nacionalista Party (NP).
His alliance with Roxas and Robredo may raise eyebrows, particularly because the Aquino administration has made it a point to highlight the supposed failures of the Arroyo administration.
Weak in Calabarzon
Robredo, however, downplayed any perceived conflict of interest.
“Lahat ng supporta welcome. Pero yung importante siguro kahit anong klaseng suporta, hindi nagbabago ang tinatayuan namin at paniniwala,” said Robredo in a chance interview when asked about Ermita’s support.
(Any kind of support is welcome. But what’s important here is that no matter what sort of support comes our way, our principles and beliefs don’t change.)
Such support is badly needed. Batangas belongs to the vote-rich Calabarzon Region, where voter preference for both Roxas and Robredo is weak.
This is in fact the tandem's second visit to the province since the official campaign period began on February 9.
According to the latest Laylo opinion poll, Roxas ranked 3rd in the region, with only 15% of respondents saying they would vote for the LP standard-bearer. Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay topped the polls in the region, with 33% each.
Roxas lost in the province when he ran for vice president in 2010, getting 383,170 votes compared to Binay’s 558,748 votes. Aquino, meanwhile, won by a landslide in the province, getting more than 600,000 votes.
Batangas is the 7th most vote rich province in the country and is dominated by allies or members of the ruling party. The sitting governor, Vilma Santos-Recto, is a member of the ruling party.
Her husband, Senator Ralph Recto is seeking re-election under both the LP-led coalition and presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe’s senate slate. Recto has only joined LP sorties.
The LP’s gubernatorial candidate in the province is another incumbent, vice governor Mark Leviste. – Rappler.com