Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Villar, Legarda Team Up For 2010 Elections

MANILA, Philippines -- Sen. Loren Legarda called it a victorious day for two Mannys.

On the day Manny Pacquiao made history as the only fighter to dominate seven weight divisions, Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar Jr. quietly captured the heart of his much-coveted vice presidential running mate.

At a private dinner in Makati City Sunday, Sen. Loren Legarda said yes to the standard-bearer of the Nacionalista Party, who showed up with his spouse Cynthia, the representative of Las Piñas.

Villar will personally make the announcement on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Laurel House on Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong.

Legarda confirmed this to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview shortly after the dinner, which lasted three hours.

In explaining her decision to coalesce with Villar, Legarda spoke out on charges that Villar's real estate empire benefited from the C-5 road extension project

Reminded that she once criticized Villar's decision not to participate in the ethics investigation by the Senate, Legarda said: "I don’t even call that criticism. In a democracy, you allow all views to come out. I wanted it to come out so that we can listen to all views," she said, adding that she would not prejudge the results of the investigation being conducted by the Senate committee of the whole.

"A committee report is coming out. All I can say is let the people decide in next year's elections. I will not prejudge him and the issue," said Legarda.

Legarda said her decision was based on the fact that their platforms clicked.

"He told me, 'I believe in your platform on environment, agriculture and climate change, and then I said, 'I believe in your platform on helping migrant workers and pushing for their rights.' In that respect, we clicked right away," she told this reporter.

She made it clear to Villar that the next administration should focus on the environment as the cornerstone of the overarching goal to defeat abject poverty in the land.

"I want the country to be great again, green again, and what I bring to the vice presidency is green economy, investments and jobs, and green sustainable development," said Legarda, who has championed environmental causes for over two decades.

The one-on-one meeting between Legarda and Villar followed several weeks of talks, but finally materialized on the auspicious and victorious day of Pacquaio.

"It was a day of two Mannys," quipped Legarda, pointing out that Pacquiao's victory had largely brought glory, inspiration and hope to a storm-devastated nation.

"His victory gave us hope that the Filipino can," she said.

There was no fanfare in finally sealing an election union, which was largely expected by political observers following the decision of Sen. Francis Escudero to bolt the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC).

That decision stunned the nation, leaving Legarda suddenly without a presidential running mate.

Legarda refused to comment on rumors reaching NPC that its erstwhile standard-bearer has been his own run for vice president.

"No comment, for now," she said.

Legarda said that once elected vice president, she would ensure the strict implementation of environmental laws she had authored, and make the national budget "anchored on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction."

This will benefit agriculture, fisheries and rural livelihood.

"There is hope if we only give priority to the countryside," she said, pointing to empowerment of local government units as critical to effective governance.

"If we bring government closer to the people, then we bring peace and prosperity to the countryside," she said, explaining that environment was a cross-cutting issue.

Asked how would giving premium on the environment address widespread hunger among Filipinos, she said:
"Going green is an antidote to poverty because climate change directly affects our right to food, potable water and access to jobs and livelihood as what storms Ondoy and Pepeng have shown," said Legarda.

Asked why she chose Villar over other presidential aspirants who also courted her to be their running mate, she said: "I woke up one day realizing that our platform and aspirations for this country, especially uplifting the poor's lot in life, converged. We want to bring back dignity to the common folk and make us all proud that we are Filipinos."

She pointed to the "meeting of the minds" of two national candidates who built their alliance on a "pro-people-country-and-environment platform, and "not based on personalities."

"We both realized that we came from our humble beginnings--he was born in Tondo and I was born in the flood-prone Malabon. We both scaled the political ladder through sheer hardwork and patience. We are both self-made in our own respective fields before we ventured into politics--he in business and I in media."

The lady host served sushi and sashimi during the dinner arranged by a "private person."

Legarda observed that Villar was "very relaxed, very open."

"When I asked about Cynthia, he told me that she was attending a wedding. So I said, 'why don't you bring Cynthia here? Please ask the real boss to come," Legarda teased Villar.

And so Villar's better half came.

Asked about the fineprint of the political merger of the NP and NPC, Legarda said operational matters had not been discussed.

"It was a very light meeting focusing on the platform and alliance but operational details of the campaign were not yet discussed. There would be a formal press conference within the week to formally announce the alliance," she said.

Legarda was optimistic that the Villar-Legarda tandem would capture the imagination of the electorate.

"It's not only me winning, both of us must win. You must believe--do you have any doubt?--that I really want you to be my vice (president)," said Legarda, quoting Villar's exact words.

She said their "point of convergence" was the desire to "help heal our divided nation."
"We just want to focus on a positive campaign," said Legarda.

Source: Pinoytambay.com

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