He tried his best to be as inconspicuous as possible, quietly blending in with the crowd, mingling with other Cabinet officials. But it was close to impossible for Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr to avoid the media and the public’s attention during a Liberal Party (LP) campaign rally in Malolos, Bulacan on Wednesday, February 24.
Ochoa was among a handful of Cabinet officials who joined President Benigno Aquino III campaign for LP standard bearer Manuel Roxas II and running mate Leni Robredo. Also spotted were Interior Secretary Mel Sarmiento, Political Adviser Ronald Llamas, to name a few.
The Executive Secretary was greeted by Bulacan Governor Willhelmino Sy-Alvarado, his close friend, who even called him on stage. Roxas and Robredo would also acknowledge the “little president.” Ochoa is a Bulakeño whose father once served as mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan.
Ochoa’s father and Aquino’s father, the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr, were good friends.
The presence of Cabinet chiefs in LP political rallies is nothing new. Several Cabinet officials, after all, were once or are still part of the ruling party.
But Ochoa is associated with the so-called Samar faction of the Palace, or a group that supposedly supports Aquino but not necessarily the Liberal Party.
LP members and allies in the Palace are terms the “Balay” group, after the party’s headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.
The cliques can be traced back to the 2010 elections, when Aquino and Roxas vied for the top posts in the land. While the entire LP rooted for the tandem, the Samar faction was believed to have gone for “NoyBi,” referring to Jejomar Binay.
Roxas, then a clear front runner for the vice presidency, eventually lost by a hairline to Binay in 2010.
Those associated with the Samar faction include Senator Francis Escudero, who is running for vice president alongside independent presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe.
The last time Ochoa was seen in a major LP event was in July last year, when Aquino formally endorsed Roxas’ presidential bid. Since then, rumors have been rife that many in the Samar faction are not supporting Roxas, despite the President’s decision. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com
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