GMA brokers Chavit, Defensor patchup

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Two Team Unity senatorial candidates patched up their differences yesterday during a reconciliation talk in Malacañang that was brokered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and former presidential chief-of-staff Michael Defensor agreed to bury the hatchet as they heeded the President’s appeal to keep the 12-member team intact and work together to achieve victory in the senatorial election just a week away.

The rift between the two was triggered by Defensor’s alleged remark that independent senatorial bet Gregorio Honasan was supposedly being eyed to replace one of the weakest candidates of Team Unity.

Defensor allegedly made the remark shortly after Honasan was freed on bail more than a week ago. Honasan, who is facing rebellion charges, is considered a winnable candidate, having made it to the magic 12 in surveys.

Singson was incensed by reports identifying him as one of the administration senatorial bets likely to be jettisoned in favor of Honasan. The others were Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay and Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu.

The Ilocos Sur governor lashed back at Defensor and threatened to stop endorsing his candidacy. He also berated the former Cabinet member for allegedly intruding into matters that are not his business.

But Defensor categorically denied that he was the source of the media story that Honasan will substitute for one of the Team Unity candidates. He grumbled that a radio reporter had put words into his mouth which had caused his trouble.

Unappeased by Defensor’s explanation, Singson decided to go solo and to boycott the remaining campaign sorties of Team Unity.

Appearing before newsmen after the Palace reconciliation meeting, Singson said he was not really serious in his threat to junk Defensor.

“Even if I went solo in some of my provincial sorties, I was really campaigning for everybody in the Team Unity ticket. We are still helping each other,” he said.

Defensor profusely thanked Singson for agreeing to end their misunderstanding.

He narrated to newsmen that the first thing he did upon seeing Singson at the Palace was to kiss his hand. He said they instantly broke into laughter.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, Team Unity media director, who also showed up at the Palace, said the President’s guidance to Team Unity candidates was to “continue to consolidate and mobilize our forces for the final push.”

“There is no truth to the loose talk that Team Unity is being hounded by discord. In fact we are very much solid,” Evardone said.

Magsaysay, who was also around, said he has forgiven Defensor for his alleged reckless remark about Honasan taking the place of one of the tail-enders in the Team Unity candidates.

Evardone said the truth of the matter is that it is the Genuine Opposition that has been rocked by disunity due to complaints of junking leveled against certain frontrunning senatorial contenders.