MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero accepted the "challenge" to be the running mate of declared presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe on Thursday, September 17, reiterating that they would remain without a political party.
Before a roomful of family, friends, and supporters at Club Filipino in San Juan, Poe introduced Escudero, who replied: "Tinatanggap ko nang buong tapang ang hamon ni Senator Grace na maging katuwang niya."
(I courageously accept Senator Grace Poe's challenge to be her partner.)
He said a Poe-Escudero tandem will establish a "Gobyernong may Puso" (Government with a Heart), a play on the his standard-bearer's initials.
In his brief speech, he also took a swipe at his critics – those who say he is too ambitious and that he is weighing down Poe's presidential bid.
"Escudero lang ang aking apelyido, di kasing bantog ng Quezon, Roxas, o Osmeña.... Naniniwala ako na ang bawat Pilipino, mayaman o hindi, bantog o hindi ang pangalan, may karapatan ialay ang sarili," he said.
(I'm just an Escudero. My family name is not as famous as Quezon, Roxas, or Osmeña.... I believe that every Filipino, wealthy or not, with or without a famous name, has the right to offer up himself.)
President Benigno Aquino III had met with Poe and Escudero to convince Poe to be the running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II. Talks failed, however, with some LP insiders saying that Escudero was the "roadblock" to a Roxas-Poe tandem.
But even before those meeting called by the President, Poe herself had said that she wouldn't run without Escudero. She said she trusts and is more comfortable with the senator, who had been a family friend and political ally since 2004, when her father Fernando Poe Jr ran for president.
While there had been talks between Poe and the Nationalist People's Coalition, the second largest political party in the country, Escudero reiterated that their tandem would be independent.
"We believe that whoever runs and serves as president or vice president should not be member of a single party – LP, NPC, NUP, NP, UNA or others," Escudero said in Filipino. "Pilipinas po ang aming partido...at mga Pilipino ang aming mga kapartido (Our party is the Philippines, and the members of our party are the Filipino people)."
Escudero used to be a member of the NPC. He left the party after some disagreement on campaign funding when he was positioning to run for vice president in 2010.
Escudero is halfway through his second term as senator. He started his political career at 28, when he was elected representative of the 1st district of Sorsogon. He served in that capacity for 9 years.
At Thursday morning's event, Escudero ended his speech the same way Poe did when she declared her presidential bid the day before, September 16: "Ako si Chiz Escudero. Buong pagpapakumbaba ko pong inaalay ang aking sarili bilang inyong ikalawang pangulo."
(I am Chiz Escudero. I humbly offer myself as your vice president.)
The declaration made Poe-Escudero the first tandem for the 2016 elections. The two other presidential aspirants, who declared their bids weeks earlier than Poe – Vice President Jejomar Binay and resigned Interior Secretary Roxas – have yet to name their running mates.
The ties that bind
While some critics and analysts said Escudero is a baggage to Poe's supposed clean image, Poe went on with her decision and even introduced her running mate to the public. (READ: Is Chiz Escudero weighing down Grace Poe's chances?)
Poe earlier said she would be more comfortable to run with her ally Escudero. True enough, those words turned into reality a few months after.
It was Poe, the presidential polls front runner, that endorsed Escudero as the next "vice president” of the Philippines.
“So ngayong araw, ikinagagalak ko na sabihin sa inyo na hinihingi ko ang inyong suporta para sa ating maasahan na manilbihan sa atin, ang ating pangalawang pangulo Sen.Chiz Escudero,” Poe said.
(Today, I am happy to tell you that I am asking for your support for someone we can depend on to serve us, our vice president Sen. Chiz Escudero.)
Poe recalled that her family’s ties with Escudero started in 2003 and admired her running mate for standing by them even when, she said, others left or kept quiet.
Escudero was the spokesman of Fernando Poe Jr's campaign when he ran and lost in the 2004 presidential elections.
Escudero also helped a then practically unknown Poe in the 2013 senatorial race, which she eventually topped.
But Poe was quick to point out that their friendship is not the sole reason she chose Escudero as partner.
“Alam niyo po may mga nagsasabi na dahil kaibigan si Sen. Chiz, kaya ko kasama. Totoo kaibigan ko si Sen. Chiz, pero pagdating sa bayan, ang ating dapat gawing batayan ng mga makakasama ay isang taong mapagkakatiwalaan natin, isang taong may kakayanan at isang taong may nagawa na,” Poe said.
(You know there are some that say I only chose Sen. Chiz because he is my friend. That's true, Sen. Chiz is my friend. But when it comes to our country, our basis for our running mate is someone who could be trusted, capable, and has already done something.)
But this hardly stopped Aquino and the ruling party from publicly courting Poe to be the running mate of Roxas. The wooing, however, ended on Wednesday, September 16, as Poe declared to run against Roxas in 2016. (READ: Grace Poe: I offer myself as your president)
Just like Escudero’s wedding to celebrity Heart Evangelista, Thursday’s event also became a wedding of sorts of showbiz and politics.
In an unprecedented move, Heart’s mother Cecille Ongpauco attended the event with daughters Heart, Camille and Mich Ongapuco. The matriarch earlier went public against Escudero, who she accused of “manipulating” her daughter.
But during the event, she was seen seated next to Escudero’s mother and Sorsogon 1st District Representative Evelina Escudero.
Heart said all is well with her parents and husband now.
“Kanina kinalabit n'ya ako, she told me, ‘I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of your husband.’ 'Yung daddy ko, tinawagan si Chiz kanina kasi may sakit s'ya kaya hindi sya makakapunta, but he was very supportive,” the celebrity said.
(A while ago, she told me "I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of your husband." My dad called Chiz to say he could not attend because he is sick. But he was very supportive.)
Poe’s mother Susan Roces also graced the event, together with FPJ’s daughter Lovi Poe and boyfriend Roco Nacino.
Some members of the NPC were present, including representatives Giorgidi Aggabao and Rex Gatchalian, who were also at Poe’s declaration. Their attendance in the two events bolstered beliefs NPC is indeed endorsing the two in 2016.
Escudero’s mother said the tandem so far has 8 senatorial candidates, but she refused to give details.
Also present was former Zamboanga del Norte Representative Romeo Jalosjos. While the Supreme Court barred Jalosjos from running for public office due to conviction, he said his whole family is supporting the tandem. After all, he said, they supported the two in 2013 and he is close to Poe's parents.
“Isa lang ang dadalhin namin, 'yung bloc ko we only carry the tandem of Grace and Chiz,” Jalosjos said. (We will only carry one, my bloc will only carry the tandem of Grace and Chiz.)
While he is a friend of the Vice President, Jalosjos said he told Binay that he “could not support” him. “I’m not with UNA now. I’m waiting for the party of Chiz and Grace,” he added. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org