LAPU-LAPU CITY, Philippines – After cutting ties with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday, March 21, the One Cebu Party was immediately reported to be talking to the camp of presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe.
The claim was made by no less than the campaign manager of Poe's slate, Cebu Representative Ace Durano.
"That's a complete lie," One Cebu chairman and gubernatorial candidate Winston Garcia quickly told Rappler. "I hope Congressman Durano will be very circumspect and truthful in his statement because that will not do good to his candidate."
After Garcia held a press conference on Monday morning, ABS-CBN reported that the local party was in talks with Poe's campaign.
Durano told Rappler in response to Garcia's statement, "I had informal discussions with congressman Benhur Salimbangon about the possibility of One Cebu supporting Senator Grace and Senator Chiz."
He added: "Some One Cebu local officials also approached us on the same matter. I don't know if they informed Winston about this."
One Cebu's withdrawal of support from Binay came a day after the heated second presidential debate which took place in Cebu City on Sunday, March 20.
Garcia said his party was withdrawing support from the Vice President due to miscommunication, citing UNA's failure to invite or coordinate with One Cebu during UNA's rallies and activities in Cebu.
On March 18, Poe and her running mate Francis Escudero secured the endorsement of the Bakud party, led by the Durano clan, whose power base is located in Cebu's 5th district, which includes Danao City and surrounding towns.
An alliance with the Garcia clan could give Poe's campaign a significant boost in the province that has 2.7 million voters. Poe has consistently led in the surveys.
But Garcia said his party would not support Poe's or anyone else's campaign at the moment.
Poe's strategy has been consistent when she visits Cebu. When engaging in dialogues with various sectors in the province, she focuses on local issues instead of talking about national or Manila-centric issues. She then courts the support of the province's powerful political families and alliances.
Before the second presidential debate in Cebu on March 20, Escudero paid a courtesy call on former Cebu City mayor, congressman, and current mayoral candidate Tomas Osmeña, although the mayor had already pledged to support the tandem of Manuel Roxas II and Leni Robredo.
"Kasi si Congressman Ace [Durano] ang nakikipag-usap kung saka-sakali. Sa akin wala pa naman," Grace said when asked if an alliance with One Cebu was in the works. (Congressman Ace Durano is the one communicating with them. I haven't spoken with them yet.)
"Basta kung sino p'wede maging kaalyado natin na naaayon sa mga adbokasiya, bakit naman hindi?" she added. (Whoever can align with our advocacies, why wouldn't we be allies?) – with reports from Mara Cepeda and Camille Elemia/Rappler.com