Erap: I will divide opposition

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — DEPOSED President Joseph “Erap” Estrada has admitted that his entry to the presidential race would divide the votes of the opposition, but stressed that this would not make the administration’s standard-bearer a winner.

Even if the majority of the people are split among the opposition presidential bets, Estrada assured the public that Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro is no match with any other candidates from their ranks.

“Maghahati-hati nga sigurado sa apat na oposisyon ang boto pero doon pipili ang taumbayan. Kita ko ang pagmamahal ng taumbayan sa oposisyon,” said Estrada.

Other opposition presidential candidates include Senators Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP) and probably Francis Escudero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

But Speaker Prospero “Boy” Nograles Jr., vice chairman of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, expressed firm belief that Estrada’s declaration would help the chances of administration’s presidential candidate.

“As far as the administration is concerned, that division in the opposition is good for Lakas-Kampi-CMD party,” said Nograles.

Nograles recalled the victory of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004 after opposition votes were shared by the late Fernando Poe Jr. and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

In a related development, former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian and Quezon Rep. Wigberto Tañada welcomed the entry of Estrada in the presidential race.

“May the best man win and we believe that the more candidates, the better to the people as this will give more choices. This is the essence of democracy, his entry is welcome,” said Remulla, spokesman of NP.

Gatchalian, spokesman of NPC, said “We welcome their announcement as more candidates running means more platforms of governance to choose from and ultimately the people will decide which one is best for them.”

For his part, Tañada, spokesman of LP, said “We welcome Erap’s entry and we consider everyone a formidable opponent.”

Meanwhile, a former high-ranking official of the Estrada administration yesterday expressed belief that the presidential bid of Estrada would be rejected either by the Supreme Court (SC) or by the people themselves during the election.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson, Estrada’s former National Food Authority (NFA) administrator, said that the verdict against Estrada’s “final performance” could be harsher.

“He will be disqualified by the Supreme Court, if not by our people themselves and it will be a harsher judgment and repudiation,” said Joson, an independent lawmaker, in an interview.

Amid legal questions and further split of the opposition, Estrada the other night declared before a crowd of cheering supporters at Plaza Amado Hernandez in Tondo that he would seek the presidency once again with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate.

In a text message, Nograles , who is also the vice chairman of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said Estrada is facing serious risk of being disqualified.

“Erap running, I still think it’s very risky because of legal disqualification,” said Nograles.

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, spokesman of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said the public should just let the SC decide on the constitutionality of Estrada’s another bid for presidency.

“Hayaan na lang natin ang Supreme Court na mag-decide on that. Mahirap mag-speculate,” said Alvarez in a separate text message.

During his speech at Plaza Amado Hernandez, Estrada reiterated his plan to crush communist and Muslim rebel groups, adding that he would not allow moves to divide the Philippines.