Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Emily Lopez is Now Villar Point Person in Iloilo City

Apropos to my column last week entitled “No More Villar Funds for Team Uswag,” my highly placed source in Manila called me up to issue a clarification that while it is true that Senator Manny Villar will no longer give funds directly to Mayor Jerry Treñas, this does not mean that he is abandoning Iloilo City for Noynoy Aquino or Gibo Teodoro all together. The source explained that the Nacionalista election budget for Iloilo City will now be entrusted to former Guimaras Congresswoman Emily Lopez and that she will be the one to determine the most politically-effective way of distributing the funds. So what I wrote earlier that Team Uswag will not be receiving any funds from Villar is not entirely correct. Strictly speaking, Mayor Treñas’s “Team Uswag” may still be able to receive some campaign funds from the Nacionalista Party provided that they can convince Inday Emily that Villar will be getting “his money’s worth.”

It is said that Congresswoman Cynthia Villar, the wife of the Nacionalista standard bearer Manny Villar, is “more comfortable” with Inday Emily because they are very close friends (which they developed during their stints in Congress). At one time, their children Camille Villar (a Jaro Fiesta queen) and Tito Lopez (her consort) were even romantically linked. Besides, as my source pointed out, the Lopezes are not running for any electoral post. This means that, unlike Mayor Treñas (who is running for congressman), the Villars could trust the Lopezes not to use their money to promote their own personal candidacies at their expense. It is a fact that local politicians tend to put themselves first before the national. That is just the nature of Philippine politics. To better illustrate, I attended a Team Uswag “pulong pulong” in one of the barangays in Arevalo and I noted that the main focus of both the candidates and the audience are local, not national, politics. The name of Senator Villar was hardly ever mentioned by Mayor Treñas. His running-mate Joe III Espinosa and the rest of his slate likewise did not really push for their standard bearer or the senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party (and I doubt it very much if they memorize all the senatoriables in their party). Mostly, the Team Uswag candidates talked about themselves. Some took the opportunity to “clarify” issues and answer the various “black propaganda” being hurled against them while others took potshots at the Gonzalezes (i.e calling them “Ampatuans” and calling Dra. Pacita “the white lady”). They call it, in local parlance, "salbaranay lawas" (roughly means; "each man for himself").

If they hope to see the color of Villar’s money, Team Uswag has to reformat its “pulong pulongs” to make it more “Villar-centric.” In other words, each candidate must “push” harder for Villar i.e. mentioning him in all their speeches, distributing his flyers during house-to-house sorties, defend him against all the black propaganda, etc. Team Treñas cannot continue adopting their present “lackadaisical” attitude towards Villar and expect to receive something from him come election day. As they say, “No work, No Pay.” In fact, Inday Emily might just decide to give the money direct to the barangay captains because, since they are not running for office, can be relied upon to really focus on Villar and campaign hard for his victory here in Iloilo City. Moreover, Emily Lopez can probably attract more barangay captains into the Villar fold by adopting a “pang ‘national’ lang ni, wala ni ya labot ang “local”strategy. In truth, Senator Villar could have gotten more political support in Iloilo City if he just remained neutral and did not take sides in the local Treñas versus Gonzalez fight. It is now very apparent that Villar took the “wrong” side, as last Tuesday’s “Mother of All Rallies” at Freedom Grandstand organized by the Gonzalezes for Gibo Teodoro bears out. Local newspapers estimated the crowd to have reached 20,000 at its peak.

Not to be outdone, a day after the mammoth Gibo rally Team Uswag announced that they will also be organizing a “grand rally” for Villar and his senatorial candidates at the Jaro Plaza gym on Friday. Brimming with bravado, they bragged that they will equal or even surpass the 20,000 crowd turn-out at the Gibo rally. But on Thursday news came out that Senator Villar is no longer coming and that his wife Cynthia and his senatorial candidates will be the only ones arriving to grace the rally. When Friday finally came, the purported “grand rally” has been downgraded to only a “leader’s meeting.” Only about 5,000 warmbodies came. None of the Nacionalista Party stalwarts arrived and, aside from Team Uswag candidates, the only other “notable” or “important personality” who graced the affair was Emily Lopez. So in a span of just three days the activity they so grandiosely billed as the “Grand Rally of the Nacionalista Party” was downgraded into a mere “Leaders’ Meeting with Emily Lopez.”

In the aftermath of the flop, the local coffeeshops are abuzz with questions as to why the Villars snubbed the Team Uswag rally in last Friday. Team Uswag supporters (and opponents alike) are wondering why the Villars are seemingly upset and distrustful of Mayor Treñas that they appointed Emily Lopez as their point person in Iloilo City. Is it because Mayor Treñas reportedly requested one million pesos from the Villar couple to defray the cost of last Friday’s aborted “grand rally?”

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