MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Akbayan Representative Walden Bello did not back down on President Benigno Aquino III's "dare" for him to just run for president in 2016 since he has "so many complaints" about his administration.
The party-list congressman said, sarcastically, he'd run if Aquino would endorse him – "because I can't let him down, can I?"
In this word war, however, Bello's party Akbayan – whose key leaders hold positions in the Aquino Cabinet – says the congressman is on his own.
A former member of the Akbayan executive committee said it was a "sad day for Leftist politics in the country" that the party could not stand behind Bello.
Bello earned the President's ire after airing anew his concerns over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and once again calling for the sacking of Cabinet members, including Vice President Jejomar Binay, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima, and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
"That was the farthest thing from my mind, since there are so many better people than me. And besides, I'm hitting 70, and really, you have to give way to younger people," said Bello when sought for a comment.
"But then, I never was one to walk away from a challenge and a dare, especially from someone I respect. If what he's saying is he'll support me, then I'll have to think about it seriously, because I can't let him down, can I?" he added.
Bello is a known close ally of the President, so much so that was even described as Aquino's "textmate," but the party-list representative's latest position on controversial issues involving the administration has irked Aquino.
In August, Bello wrote Aquino a letter calling for the resignation of Abad, Aquino's party mate in the Liberal Party (LP), for his role in the controversial DAP scheme, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The letter fueled speculations that all is not well between the President and Akbayan, a political party that coalesced with the LP in 2010 to support Aquino's candidacy.
Akbayan, back then, stressed that the party did not share Bello's "personal opinions" but denied any conflict within the group.
Palace sources said Bello had wanted the party to take a stand against DAP, but he was outvoted.
Akbayan differs from Bello
In a statement Monday, Akbayan reiterated that it does not share Bello's opinion on the issue, stressing that the party continues to support the Aquino administration.
"For the record, Akbayan has a different position from that of Representative Bello, which, as he took pains to emphasize in the same article, is solely reflective of his personal opinion and not that of the party," Akbayan said.
"While we maintain full confidence that Rep. Bello’s statements spring from an honest desire to promote the highest standards of accountability in government, as we have made clear before, his proposals differ from the existing consensus within Akbayan."
Akbayan called Aquino's "equally strong statements" on Bello's remarks as "unfortunate."
"We hope that this clarification on Akbayan’s official position puts an end to this exchange, and allows us all to focus on the work that remains to be done together," the party list said.
'Sad day for Leftist politics'
Akbayan's founding secretery general Carmel Abao, who is no longer involved in party or electoral politics, lamented that the party leadership did not side with Bello in his criticism of the President.
"So, Bello's claims do not hold water? Defending a Liberal president whose claims are so indefensible – juvenile, even – while negating a party leader's justifiable claims is something that I never thought this Leftist party would do. But they just did, with this statement. Sad day for Leftist politics in the country," she said. – Rappler.com