Villar tried to buy me out of presidential race - Gordon

- Katherine Adraneda -

MANILA, Philippines - Bagumbayan presidential bet Sen. Richard Gordon revealed yesterday that Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. tried to buy him out of the presidential race and promised to give him a Cabinet position of his choice if the latter is elected president.

In a one-on-one interview with broadcaster Mike Enriquez over radio dzBB, Gordon continued his tirade against Villar, saying the NP bet’s attempt at buying him, which occurred a week before Feb. 9 or during the time when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile presented his report on the C-5 road controversy and was facing an attempt to oust him from the Senate presidency, was witnessed by his son.

But Villar immediately downplayed all of Gordon’s accusations, telling his audience in Surigao that people are out to destroy him. He said he and his entire NP team are geared for victory on May 10, and that he has no time for “negotiating” for the withdrawal of fellow presidential candidates. 

Gordon, in the same radio interview, said that Villar’s camp wanted him to back out from the race and support the NP standard-bearer.

“They asked me not to attend the (Senate) session and in return they will pay me and reimburse the expenses in my preparation for the presidency, and promised to give me a Cabinet position of my choice,” Gordon said in Filipino.

Gordon’s disclosure surprised Enriquez, as it came near the end of the one-hour interview designed for presidential candidates.

Enriquez asked Gordon to identify Villar’s emissary but he declined. He, however, insinuated that he would drop another bombshell soon.

He said he was irked by the buy out attempt because it only showed the arrogance of the moneyed candidate.

But Gordon said he is unfazed and vowed to fight on.

During the interview, he also assailed other candidates’ attempt to condition the minds of voters through surveys.

The NP kicked off the Mindanao-leg of their campaign yesterday, promising economic development and improving the human development index in the entire region.

“I am running clean and I have no other intention. I respect the other candidates even if I hear comments like that. Some people probably want to besmirch my reputation. Please don’t believe in those things,” Villar said in an interview.

He noted that it is just two months before elections, and he expects that no presidential candidate would back out at this point.  

He also belittled claims that he tapped Mike Velarde to ask Estrada to withdraw from the race.

The NP bet reiterated that he did not talk with any presidential candidate to offer them reimbursement of their poll expenses and promise a good Cabinet position.  

Asked why all sorts of criticisms are thrown his way, Villar said it is “good news” because he is being hit since he has become number one in the surveys.

Students from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication (CMC) have “surprisingly and unexpectedly” picked Sen. Richard Gordon in their recent open-source mock polls.

This, even as Gordon had reportedly lambasted journalists covering his sorties.

A survey result conducted by the Department of Journalism, which was released yesterday, showed Gordon garnering a total of 139 votes, representing 37.57 percent of the 370 enrolled students of the CMC, who participated in the mock presidential polls. 

The UP-CMC has 1,086 enrolled students.

Administration presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro came in second in the survey with 107 votes (28.92 percent), Benigno Aquino III was third with 48 votes (12.97 percent), and Manuel Villar Jr. placed fourth with 37 votes (10 percent). 

Observers were surprised with the result of the Feb. 24 mock polls of students of the premier State University, which has always been known as a bastion of activism. 

But former CMC dean Prof. Luis Teodoro believes that the changing population of the CMC could have been a factor, although the way presidential aspirants appear and answer questions in various presidential debates could have also been a significant influence to the decision of the students.

He said that while UP students consider themselves as reform-minded and pro-poor, the results of the presidential mock polls could be an “expression of protest over what is perceived to be popular.”

“The results of the mock polls showed a disconnection between the perceived perception of the students and the perceived perception of the general Filipino voters as shown in the surveys,” he said.

However, Teodoro said that the result could be a signal that candidates would have to take a different approach to convince students, as compared to, for instance, the urban poor voters.

He said students might have chosen Gordon and Teodoro for being “fluently persuasive” or “smooth, smooth talker.” 

A lot of student-participants in the mock polls cited the ability of Gordon and Teodoro to articulate their respective specific platform well.

Teodoro added that Aquino’s image may have been stained by the Hacienda Luisita massacre while Villar has to work on his claims of innocence after being implicated in the C5-road extension mess.

He surmised that perhaps the students “are not buying that Villar is the only salvation of the poor or that Aquino is the last hope for reform.”

And despite the seeming bias of UP students on President Arroyo, the journalism professor thinks the students might be seeing “something else” in Teodoro other than his alliance with President Arroyo.

“Or maybe his (Teodoro) looks have something to do with it,” he said, drawing out laugher from the audience.

Nicanor Perlas came in 5th place with 15 votes, representing 4.05 percent of the voter turnout; evangelist Eduardo Villanueva, 6th place with five votes (1.35 percent); Jamby Madrigal with three votes (.81 percent); and former President Joseph Estrada with one vote (.27 percent).

Ang Kapatiran Party standard-bearer, Olongapo City Councilor JC delos Reyes, and Kilusang Bagong Lipunan presidential bet Vetellano Acosta, got zero votes in the mock polls.

Fifteen students, representing 4.05 percent of the total voter turnout, abstained in the presidential survey. 

Gordon: Mediamen  are useless

Good showing or not, Gordon, who usually bash Senator Villar in his sorties, has trained his guns on mediamen covering his campaign.

In a forum hosted by the students and faculty of the Union Christian College in San Fernando, La Union, Gordon started by hitting the NP standard-bearer then threw cheap shots on “embedded” journalists covering him.

Gordon was ranting on his almost “invisible” presence in the media and was apparently blaming the journalists trailing him in his sorties.

“Kunwari lang na kino-cover kami pero tinitwist nila ang istorya at hindi nila inilalabas ang totoo (They pretend to be covering us but they twist the story and does not come out with the truth),” he said.

The journalists covering him at the school’s covered gym walked out in disgust after Gordon pointed them out to the crowd of students and teachers present.

“May kasama nga akong media pero kunwari lang akong kino-cover (I have mediamen with me but they are just pretending to cover me),” he said.

It was at this point that the reporters, including Mike Frialde of The STAR, stood up and walked out.

“Ayun, iniwan na ako ng media (Now they have left me),” Gordon blurted out.

He had earlier complained about his poor showing in the media and was even quick to refer to members of the press as “Mickey Mouse mediamen” in several forums.

Prior to the incident yesterday, a member of Gordon’s staff revealed that the senator was complaining why even the most trivial of statements made by his opponents are picked-up by media networks while his statements were never picked-up.

A source close to Gordon also revealed the senator had also remarked that, “Walang silbi naman ang mga media na kasama natin, (Mediamen covering him were useless)” prior to his talk at the Union Christian College.

LP hits Villar anew

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party said the allegations of bribery and vote buying against Villar were alarming and should serve as a warning to the people about the kind of administration the NP bet would have if elected president in May.

LP spokesperson and senatorial candidate Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said the bigger issue involving Villar was not just the handing out of scholarships and P20 but the “pattern of bribery on his part that is large scale.”

Being a senator and former Senate president, Hontiveros said it was disgusting to hear that Villar was on a “bribery spree,” given the revelations of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and presidential candidates former President Estrada (of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) and Gordon.

“So our question is, if as a senator and as a former Senate president, he is showing a pattern of bribery that involves big (amounts) and high-ranking (officials), what can you expect but large scale corruption under the Villaroyo administration,” Hontiveros said, referring to the alleged conspiracy and alliance between Villar and the Arroyo administration.

“We have to look at the way he (Villar) has also been trying to buy this whole campaign with the amounts of money being expended for advertising, which according to the PCIJ (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism) has breached the P1-billion mark,” said LP campaign manager Florencio “Butch” Abad.

He said the funds Villar was utilizing for the campaign could be a product of this conflict of interest and his impunity in the abuse of government authority to make good money out of his businesses.

“Bribery is corruption. There is no doubt that Senator Villar is the richest presidential candidate but for him to assume that he can buy his way to Malacañang and get away with it is severely insulting,” Hontiveros said.

“Exercising transactional politics would lead to transactional governance. As we have witnessed during the Arroyo administration, this would mean that the powers of Malacañang would be used for personal gains and not for the interest of the people,” Hontiveros said. – With Mike Frialde, Dino Balabo, Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica

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