Only 2 governors not with Team Unity

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ALL governors save two have thrown their support for the senatorial candidates of the administration’s Team Unity, a resolution signed by the League of Provinces yesterday showed.

Despite the poor showing in a number of public opinion polls, Team Unity candidates will defeat their counterparts in the Genuine Opposition with the support from local leaders, Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said yesterday.

Evardone, Team Unity’s strategist, said his fellow governors had committed to carry candidates of the administration once the local campaign period started, citing their desire to sustain the economic gains achieved by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“We will spell the difference because we are the ones who will carry the candidates. Local leaders are the core of the political machinery of government, and this resolution is a concrete manifestation of our desire to see a 12-0 win for the Team Unity candidates,” Evardone said in a phone interview.

The resolution came hours after the President met all the candidates and the governors Wednesday night in Malacañang, where she made a fresh pitch for the members of the administration lineup.

The League of Provinces is composed of 81 governors, and two of them are identified with the opposition: Iloilo Gov. Neil Tupas and South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes.

Sulu Gov. Benjamin Loong said the league believed that the administration candidates would be better able to craft a legislative plan that would help fulfill the President’s “8 by 08” agenda of job creation, a strong peso, lower living costs, pro-poor programs on education, health care and housing, more investments, hunger mitigation, a strong anti-terror drive and a green Philippines.

The league’s resolution also rejected GO’s “politics of hate and obstructionism and a campaign focused on muckraking and sensationalism.”

Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado, who heads the league, added that their resolution explicitly states that “Congress will play a key role in ensuring the success of this pro-poor, pro-modernization and pro-growth agenda.”

Aumentado said the support of the local officials for the candidates of Team Unity stemmed from their desire to end the usual gridlock that had characterized the previous congresses.

In Tarlac, Team Unity candidates shrugged off the results of the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys that gave the opposition bets a 7-3 advantage.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay said the survey showing could be likened to the race between the turtle and the hare, in which the slow-moving but persistent turtle managed to outrace the faster animal.

“It’s too early to tell, but one thing is for sure: the trend for Team Unity candidates is going up, unlike them [GO bets] who are sliding down the survey. Sure, they started out hot and on top because the first three weeks of the campaign period is usually based on popularity, but just as the turtle eventually managed to defeat the hare, so shall we win in these elections,” Pichay said.

Re-electionist Senator Joker Arroyo also admitted that the opposition candidates were winning the popularity surveys but said this would not necessarily translate into votes on May 14.

Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the popularity curve of the administration candidates was going up, whereas the GO bets who started on top of the ratings game were sure to fall behind as the campaign period entered its fourth week.

Zubiri cited his case as an example, saying he started at the 37th spot in December, inching up to the 26th position in January, and finally moving nine more points up during the latest surveys.

Evardone said the opposition bets had nothing to crow about since former Senator Loren Legarda, re-electionist Senator Panfilo Lacson, and Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano all went a notch lower.

“Popularity is just one component of the campaign. While it is one of the many determinants of an election, we are confident that a good program of government, plus the fact that we have the better candidates, will spell victory for us in the end,” Evardone said.

In Tarlac City, Team Unity candidate and former Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta said she would not contest votes cast for Aquino, ceding them in favor of her nephew, Benigno Aquino III, an opposition bet.

“He can have the Aquino stand-alone vote,” she said. “The Aquino vote should never become a stray vote.”

In 1998, under deposed President Joseph Estrada’s ticket, Oreta claimed votes cast for Oreta or Aquino because there was no other Aquino running for the Senate at the time.

In Bohol, Zubiri and former presidential chief-of-staff Michael Defensor prepared for a bungee-jumping session over the weekend.

Not to be outdone, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Singson said he would bring his Bengal tigers to Bohol.

Actor Cesar Montano expressed regret that the Team Unity caravan would not go to his hometown of Loboc because it was too far.

Before Bohol, Team Unity candidates were to go to Cebu on March 10.

Cebu, which gave the President 1 million votes in the 2004 elections, is considered an administration bailiwick.