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Teodoro seen to bolt NPC as political forces realign in 2009

The start of the new year will most likely see a realignment of political forces in preparation for the combined presidential-congressional-local elections in May 2010.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. will most likely leave the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and join the administration Lakas party together with his wife, Tarlac Rep. Nikki Prieto Teodoro.

Teodoro, who is eyeing the presidency, reportedly had a falling out with his uncle, billionaire businessman and NPC founder and principal financier Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

He resents the fact that his uncle is leaning more towards NPC Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda than to him when it comes to 2010 presidential politics.

Cojuangco is eyeing either Escudero or Legarda as NPC standard-bearer in the coming elections.

Teodoro was a no-show at the NPC annual Christmas party last Dec. 15. It was not clear if he was invited. His uncle personally welcomed party leaders, members and guests.

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The defense chief was Tarlac congressman for more than two terms before joining President Arroyo’s Cabinet. He used to head the NPC bloc in the House.

Lakas sources told The STAR yesterday that they expected Teodoro to join the administration party two or three weeks ago but that he apparently postponed his decision.

The ruling party is still in search of a presidential standard-bearer in 2010.

In fact, House Speaker and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) president Prospero Nograles said the ruling party will not field weak candidates in the 2010 elections.

“If Lakas will have no bench, we will have to adopt a candidate in 2010. We will get somebody who is winnable,” Nograles told reporters during a Christmas party he hosted Saturday night.         

This early, the Speaker admitted that they are in serious talks with other political groups such as the NPC in an effort to strengthen its ranks in the 2010 elections.

However, the team to beat, according to Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, a former Tarlac congressman and an NPC member, is the Escudero-Legarda tandem.

Lapus said it’s not yet clear whether it would be an Escudero-Legarda or Legarda-Escudero ticket.

“The surveys shortly before the 2010 elections will greatly influence the decision on who will be the presidential candidate,” he said.

Legarda, who lost to Vice President Noli de Castro in 2004, has made it clear that she won’t seek the vice presidency again.

“Been there, done that,” she said, adding that she would aspire for the top post, and not be De Castro’s supporting cast.

During the NPC Christmas party, Cojuangco expressed hope that Escudero and Legarda would stick together.

“If they stay together, we will perhaps field a full senatorial ticket,” he said.

The two NPC senators are doing well in the surveys. Escudero, a neophyte senator unlike Legarda, has apparently set his sights on the presidency.

With Legarda’s declaration that she won’t run for vice president again, Escudero is reportedly exploring the possibility of having Sen. Mar Roxas as his running mate.

Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, is also eyeing the presidency. But he is not doing as well as Escudero and Legarda in the surveys.

Rep. Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur, another NPC stalwart, said an Escudero-Roxas ticket, “like an Escudero-Legarda slate, would be exciting.”

“Both Chiz and Mar are young. They will complement each other. Chiz is a brilliant lawyer. Mar is a bright Wharton-educated economist and finance man. Chiz is from Luzon, while Mar is from the Visayas,” he said.

Plaza was among the NPC leaders from Mindanao who attended the Dec. 15 Christmas party.

Cojuangco founded NPC in 1992 when he unsuccessfully ran for the presidency. He lost to Fidel Ramos. His running mate, Joseph Estrada, won the vice presidency and then the presidency six years later.

Among Cojuangco’s special guests was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who attended the party with his chief of staff, Gigi Reyes. – With Edith Regalado

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