Danding prepares for 2010 elections

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE– Although the next presidential race is three years away, business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. has expressed his desire for the Nationalist People’s Coalition to gear up this early for the battle royale.

Cojuangco wants his party to put up a presidential and vice presidential tandem in the 2010 polls, according to a party stalwart.

The NPC chief is eyeing either Senator Loren Legarda or Francis Escudero as his party’s standard-bearer, said the source who asked not to be named.

“Boss Danding wants us [NPC members] to put up a president and VP candidate in the 2010 elections. He wants the next president to come from the NPC. And we were informed that he would soon ask for meetings for that purpose. We think it would be a choice between Senators Legarda and Escudero,” the NPC party stalwart said.

Danding, who ran and lost against Fidel Ramos in the 1992 presidential race, is the party’s founder and chairman emeritus. He is chairman of the San Miguel Corp., the Manila-based global food-beverage conglomerate.

This early, several senators have expressed interest in running for the presidency in the 2010 race, and they include Senate President Manuel Villar, Legarda, Manuel Roxas, Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson.

The biggest political group in the country and at the House, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, which is led by Speaker Jose de Venecia, has no known presidential wannabe in the 2010 race.

The source said that to enable the NPC to “iron out” its plans for 2010, they should be able to settle the differences between Escudero and Legarda who were rivals for the no. 1 spot in the May 14 senatorial race.

“Danding is aware of the existing rivalry between Chiz and Loren,” the source explained, adding that Legarda could also not believe that Chiz almost beat him to the no. 1 spot despite spending about P100 million for the exercise.

The pro-Escudero faction within the NPC, the source said, gives weight to the loyalty of Escudero to Danding and the NPC party. Not a few NPC stalwarts are wary of Legarda whom they liken to a “political butterfly,” who changes side at the drop of a hat, the source said.

Legarda, the source said, was elected in 1998 as senator under the Lakas-CMD party. She ran for vice president but lost to Noli de Castro even with Fernando Poe Jr. as his running mate in the 2004 presidential race. Legarda recently joined the NPC under whose aegis she ran again for senator in the 2007 senatorial race.