By Rio N. ArajaandMacon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard
Stalwarts from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in Tarlac have endorsed the UniTeam tandem of ex-senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for president and vice president, respectively, in the 2022 elections.
But news of the endorsement drew a denial from NPC chairman and vice presidential candidate Vicente Sotto III that his party had endorsed any candidate for president.
“Let me make this clear. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) has not endorsed any presidential candidate,” Sotto said. “I chair the NPC, [this] is an unacceptable and desperate move to optimize lies and exaggerated optics.”
Sotto, who is the running mate of Senator Panfilo La son, said the NPC—with only a little more than a month before Election Day—has yet to reach a consensus on whether or not to support Lacson’s presidential bid.
While regional and provincial chapters may have their preferred list of candidates, Sotto said these choices do not reflect the NPC as a national coalition of political allies and people’s groups.
Earlier, Tarlac Gov. Susan Yap and her brother Rep. Victor Yap organized a meet-and-greet between local and sectoral leaders, and the UniTeam candidates at the Diwa multi-purpose center.
Tarlac is a known stronghold of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP), being the home province of the Aquino clan.
But congressman Yap said his sister gave them the freedom to choose who to support among the presidential and vice presidential aspirants.
“I was tasked to speak on behalf of the commitment of the party, the NPC in our province. The governor has talked to all members in Tarlac, including influential families, such as the Cojuangcos. She has also talked to the other party leaders to give them the freedom to choose the path of the tandem,” he said.
He said the NPC-Tarlac chapter and its political allies have decided to back the UniTeam candidates, then introduced Marcos during the program as the “best candidate” for president.
“I saw how simple he is. We saw his capacity as a candidate with his programs in the fields of investments, infrastructure, agriculture, social services, (and) digital infrastructure. I have so much belief in his models,” he said.
The governor thanked the Davao City mayor and her father for not neglecting the needs of Tarlac.
“They have not taken us for granted. We had many building projects under the Build Build Build (program). I feel the warmth of this administration and it is my responsibility to really campaign hard for her, no other than my beloved Mayor Sara Duterte.”
In endorsing Duterte, the Tarlac NPC members effectively junked the vice presidential candidate of their own party, Sotto.
Meanwhile, the UniTeam said they have secured the endorsement of 20 mayors from Bulacan, the fifth vote-rich province.
Members of the Mayor’s League Bulacan Chapter issued a manifesto of support to push for the candidacy of the UniTeam bets.
In a previous statement, incumbent Bulacan Vice Governor Wilhelmino Sy Alvarado expressed confidence that Marcos would win again in the province, which based on Comelec records is home to 2,007,523 registered voters.
UniTeam senatorial candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Saturday predicted a victory for Marcos and Duterte, based on the size of their rallies.
Teodoro also dismissed comments that the UniTeam disrespected the memory of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. when his monument was partially covered during the UniTeam rally in Tarlac City, saying this was unintended.
“We gave respect with our words to everybody. The UniTeam is not here to disparage anybody and I’m sure if there was such an incident, this would be inadvertent,” Teodoro said.