Palace to Mar, Noynoy: Include Gibo in debate

By DateLine Philippines

Malacañang on Wednesday dared Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar to include administration presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in any showdown the two frontrunners may hold.

Aquino, the Liberal Party bet who has consistently topped opinion surveys, has challenged Villar of the Nacionalista Party to a debate to let the public see which of them has a better platform for leading the country.

Villar, who the surveys show has been closing in on Aquino recently, has accepted the challenge.

Taking a swipe at Aquino and Villar’s poll standings, deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo questioned why only the “number 2 and number 2” are discussing a debate.

“Kung gusto mo malaman kung sino ang champion, hindi mo paglalabanin ang number 2 and 3, paglalabanin mo 1, 2 and 3 para makita ng taumbayan, ng botante kung sino ang dapat manguna at dapat na kilalaning pinakamagaling (If you want to know who is the champion, you will not pit the number 2 and 3 against each other, you will pit 1, 2 and 3 against each other so the people, the voters, can see who is leading and should be recognized as the best,” he said at the weekly Palace press conference of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

Ermita and Saludo noted that Teodoro, standard-bearer of the Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats, always stood out in the field of the presidential aspirants during debates.

Ermita also said Teodoro usually tops the mock polls conducted in various forums, such as the one organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI).

“Natutuwa naman kami na tuwi magkakameron ng political debate ng lahat ng presidentiables at ang kahuli-hulihan ay sa PCCI, ang aming balita ang aming kandidato si Gibo ay laging nangunguna sa mock election (We are glad that whenever there are political debates of all the persidentiables, and the most recent was the PCCI, the information we get is that our candidate Gibo always tops the mock elections),” he said.

Both Ermita and Saludo acknowledged that a lack of exposure has kept Teodoro in fourth place in the surveys.

But Ermita said a survey firm will soon release its latest result showing Teodoro with double digits.

“We are heartened by the fact that those who are able to see him and listen to him during debates are convinced, this means, he really just needs more exposure,” Ermita said.

Taking a swipe at Teodoro’s rivals, he said some candidates begun campaigning 18 months ago when Teodoro was still defense secretary.

“Sa kabila na ang batas ay nagsasabi na ang campaign period lamang starts 90 days (before the elections) for national candidates, ang alam natin yung ibang kandidato dyan, na sabing hindi nangangampanya pero since 18 months ago have been in the field (Despite the law that says the campaign period starts 90 days for national candidates, what we know is that some candidates who claim not to have been campaigning since 18 months ago have been in the field),” he said.

Unlike them, Ermita said Teodoro “was so decent not to use his position for political purpose.”

He added the administration party is confident Teodoro will soon catch up with his rivals.

“Meron pang ibubuga, yun ang totoo (There’s still a lot of steam left, that’s the truth), we’re just getting started. Kung sa pagmamaneho eh (In driving) there’s such thing as getting the car started, primera then segunda (going into first gear then second). You’ll find out in the proper time. It will move us forward to victory,” Ermita said.

He also said the reason President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has not joined Teodoro in his sorties is because she has entrusted the campaigning to the party.

“She believes Gibo can stand on his two feet and the machinery being run by the party can support his activities,” he said.

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