|NPC-Pangasinan big boss Cojuangco (Extreme Left) with|
Pangasinan Governor Espino
BY ANGELA CASAUAY
MANILA, Philippines -- What coalition?
As far as the province of Pangasinan is concerned, there is no partnership between President Benigno Aquino III's Liberal Party (LP) and his uncle Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr's Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).
This is the sentiment of former congressman Mark Cojuangco -- the President's cousin and the NPC founder's son -- who believes that it is not the President but his "underlings" in the LP who are involved in the machinations against NPC's local candidates. He is chair of NPC in Pangasinan. "As far as the local LP is concerned, we are the enemy," he told Rappler in an interview on Wednesday, February 20. Cojuangco made headlines when he said Tuesday that the NPC would naturally be supporting its members and honorary members who are running for senator regardless of the slate they belong to.
He said that since there are already 5 of them -- Team PNoy's Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero, UNA's Jack Enrile and Ernesto Maceda, and independent Ed Hagedorn -- and there are only 7 remaining slots, some of the administration's candidates will inevitably be excluded from the NPC sample ballots. He went on to discuss the rivalry between LP and NPC in Pangasinan.
He said these comments were "hyped" and "taken out of context" in news reports as the NPC supposedly breaking off from the ruling coalition. Cojuangco maintained that the coalition at the national level, which the NPC national leadership decides, is intact. "I'm only speaking about Pangasinan, where I'm the party chair, my area of responsibility."
But he also stressed that the President should be differentiated from the LP, that it is the President that the NPC is supportive of. Dirty tricks Refusing to give names, Cojuangco said the LP and the President's "underlings" are doing the machinations. "There are underlings of the government who are using government power for their own personal advantage.
They are picking on Pangasinan." NPC is fielding re-electionist Amado Espino for governo of Pangasinan. The LP, on the other hand, is fielding former Alaminos mayor Hernani Braganza, whom Rappler's local sources believe is feeding the LP national leadership with the idea to play dirty tricks on Espino. A Rappler source privy to the gubernatorial race in Pangasinan earlier said, "Napaniwala ni Nani ang LP na kaya niyang talunin si Gov, kahit kakaunti ang mayors nya, at maliit lang ang boto ng Alaminos." (Nani has convinced the LP that he can defeat the governor even if only a handful of mayors are supporting him and he comes from Alaminos with a small voters' population.) Bragranza is a close friend of President Aquino and LP president Mar Roxas, who is also secretary of interior and local government. Shortly after Braganza was drafted as LP's gubernatorial bet, Roxas tagged Pangasinan as one of the poll hotspots in the May elections, an announcement that surprised Cojuangco. A month after Pangasinan was declared as a hotspot, Roxas presented a former mayor who accused Espino of receiving jueteng bribe money. Recently, the administration presented another witness to implicate Espino, NPC congressman Jesus Celeste, and the governor of Zambales (another non-LP) in the murder of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez. How coalition was formed Spokespersons of both parties denied the reports, with NPC spokesperson Valenzuela Rep Rex Gatchalian saying there are just "operational issues" in the local level that needed to be ironed out. The President himself has dismissed reports over the LP-NPC issue. "I had the chance to talk to my uncle Henry Cojuangco (brother of NPC founder Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr), the head of the coalition in the House. He reassures me that there is no change in the relationship," Aquino said. Cojuangco said that while he doesn't speak for the party, he will make his sentiments known to the NPC leadership, as well as the President.