Party not bothered

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD is unfazed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno’s withdrawal yesterday from the vice presidential race which left its “preferred” presidential bet, Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro, without a running mate in the 2010 elections.

Rey Roquero, a top party official, said Puno’s decision “will not leave a void,” because Lakas-Kampi-CMD has a “deep bench” of other possible vice presidential candidates.

Roquero said Puno, whose announcement reportedly caught many party members by surprise, will focus on campaigning for the administration ticket in next year’s polls.

“He is dependable. He has the experience,” Roquero said, citing Puno’s vast experience as a “tactician” during past elections.

Puno once served as campaign manager of former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Roquero said the leaders of the merger want to “infuse young blood” into the party, preparing a list of possible successors to Puno, who could include Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, former Optical Media Board Chairman Edu Manzano, Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos.

“There are negotiations,” he said, although noting that Manzano is eyeing the senatorial race while Dominguez is “seeking reelection unopposed.”

But he said getting a running mate for Teodoro from the Visayas or Mindanao will “balance the equation.” Durano, a former three-term congressman from Cebu, is from Central Visayas while Dominguez is from Mindanao.

Spokesmen of the party could not be immediately reached for comment.