2022 Philippine Elections

Lito Banayo says sorry to Grace Poe for ‘gaffe’ about FPJ

Lito Banayo says sorry to Grace Poe for ‘gaffe’ about FPJ

QUICK REACTION. Senator Grace Poe reacts to remarks made by Isko Moreno's campaign manager Lito Banayo. Photo by Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB

Photo by Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB

Isko Moreno's campaign manager is quick to apologize about remarks he made about Fernando Poe Jr.'s non-attendance in presidential debates in the 2004 elections

Isko Moreno’s campaign manager Lito Banayo was quick to correct a remark he made on Monday, January 31, that seemed to have annoyed Senator Grace Poe.

Banayo admitted that the “gaffe” was an aside about Poe’s late adopted father Fernando Poe Jr. and his non-participation in debates when he ran for president in 2004.

Person, Human, Hand

Banayo had been responding to a reporter’s question during a press conference about how Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon’s vote to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the presidential race would affect Moreno’s candidacy.

The campaign strategist began by explaining that Moreno and his running mate doctor Willie Ong decided on their bids without thinking of who their rivals would be. More than who the other candidates are, Banayo said, the more important factors would be what Moreno says and does during the campaign period.

It was at this point where he mentioned how presidential debates had proven to be an important “turning point” for how candidates would fare in surveys, and ultimately in the May ballot.

One example he used was Fernando Poe Jr.’s electoral fate.

Makikita ‘nyo na napakalaki ng agwat ni FPJ kay incumbent president GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) noong panahong ito, pero siguro dahil si FPJ hindi nag-a-attend ng debates at interviews, maaaring nakaapekto ‘yon, so medyo naggitgitan ang labanan at the end of the day,” said Banayo.

(FPJ had a wide lead over incumbent president GMA at the time, but maybe because FPJ did not attend debates and interviews, it may have had an effect, that’s why the race got tighter at the end of the day.)

Senator Poe not letting it pass

Before sundown, Senator Grace Poe, who has kept relatively quiet on 2022 election matters, had issued a rejoinder.

“For a campaign strategist as seasoned as Lito, I’m surprised he would largely attribute the results of the 2004 elections to a single aspect of the campaign. It’s almost as if he forgot about the ‘hello Garci scandal’ and other election-related issues of the past,” said Poe.

She was referring to the election controversy sparked by wiretapped phone conversations between then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then-Commission on Elections director Virgilio Garcillano about ensuring she would have a one-million lead in the 2004 presidential election. 

Arroyo won that year’s election with 12.9 million votes, closely followed by Poe with 11.8 million votes. The slim margin of victory, coupled with the “Hello Garci” scandal, fueled Poe’s belief that he was cheated. The actor-turned-politician died from a stroke months after the elections.

Poe didn’t deny that her father missed a good number of debates and interviews.

“While I don’t discount the merits of a debate, I also don’t believe that the 2004 debates alone influenced the majority of the public to shift their preference and support. I still believe that the Filipino people know their votes for FPJ were stolen,” she said.

Some 20 minutes after Poe emailed her statement to media, Banayo sent Rappler his apology to the senator.

“I apologize for that gaffe. I was juxtaposing the refusal to debate of one candidate in the past to a present candidate as one possible reason for ratings to go down,” said Banayo.

“I failed to take up the Hello Garci scandal that followed, and was referring only to the ratings of GMA and FPJ narrowing as the election neared,” he said, adding that he did not dispute that “manipulation happened” in the 2004 elections.

“I was part of the TWG (technical working group) that assisted the legislators during the impeachment case filed against GMA,” he said, for good measure.

He ended his message by apologizing for inadvertently opening “old wounds.”

It would not be surprising for Moreno’s campaign team to want to be on the good side of Senator Poe. Before the 2022 tandems were finalized, Poe had been Moreno’s top pick for running mate. The Manila mayor had been part of Poe’s senatorial slate back in the 2016 elections. If Poe were to appear with Moreno at his campaign sorties, it could be a boost to his candidacy, given her own popularity and that of her father, who, like Moreno, exuded a “man of the people” image.

Will Poe accept Banayo’s peace offering? – Rappler.com