Manila Standard : Razon-backed NUP now supports UniTeam tandem

26 March 2022

By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard

The camp of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Friday said it considered the National Unity Party’s endorsement as “a big addition” to the UniTeam of the presidential candidate and his running mate Inday Sara Duterte ahead of the May 9 general elections.

The NUP endorsement of Marcos, which its Deputy Secretary General and spokesman Reggie Velasco announced Thursday, is also believed to come with the support of billionaire tycoon Enrique K. Razon.

Razon has been known to have supported the candidacies of NUP members in previous elections.

Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, spokesman and chief of staff of Marcos, admitted the NUP endorsement would be a “substantive contribution” to the overall campaign strategy of the UniTeam.

He noted the NUP is also a highly-organized political party with candidates from the national down to the local levels in the forthcoming elections.

The move, observers said, also weakens the positions of two of Marcos’ presidential rivals who had links to the NUP—Senator Panfilo Lacson and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso—with 45 days left before Election Day.

Domagoso left NUP last August to become the standard bearer of Aksyon Demokratiko, but still reportedly enjoyed the support of Razon— once the country’s richest man—until this development.

NUP chairman Ronaldo Puno, meanwhile, is the campaign manager of Lacson, who himself abruptly resigned as chairman of Partido Reporma on Wednesday after party president Pantaleon Alvarez announced they were supporting Vice President Leni Robredo instead.

At press time, it was unclear if Puno signed off on the announcement of Velasco, who posted his party’s support of Marcos on Facebook.

The Lacson camp told the Standard they were still checking with Puno, the former Interior Secretary who had ran successful campaigns for three previous Presidents.

“That is a big addition to any political force whether national or local because we know that there are so many members and the leadership of the NUP are also good and their members are also good at various levels,” Rodriguez said in interview with SMNI television.

“There is a mayor, a governor, and a congressman (in NUP’s ranks). I will also take this opportunity to thank the leadership NUP for their endorsement of the presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos, Jr,” the spokesman said when asked about the NUP endorsement carrying the support of Razon.

Rodriguez earlier said that the endorsement of the NUP “confirms that our movement for national unity and nation-building which started as a mere whisper, is now a crescendoing national chorus.”

“With deep sense of humility and gratitude, we extend our appreciation to the leadership and members of the NUP for placing their trust on presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos to fulfill the common vision—one nation, one future,” the Marcos spokesperson stressed.

“Indeed together, as one, we are bound to make the dreams and aspirations of our people a tangible reality. When we are united, our aspirations for every Filipino and for the country will come true,” he said.

Apart from Puno, NUP is led by party president and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. The group was founded in 2010 by former members of Lakas-Kampi CMD.

Since 2016, the NUP is also part of the PDP-Laban-led coalition in the House of Representatives, the so-called Coalition for Change supporting President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Wednesday evening, Marcos joined members of the NUP in a meeting. Present in the meeting, based on a post by Cebu 5th District Rep. Duke Frasco, included Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, Marcos Jr.’s cousin and president of Lakas-CMD.

Romualdez is also the campaign manager of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte- Carpio, the current Lakas-CMD chair.

NUP counts as its members 40 incumbent legislators and 10 governors. In the May 9 elections, the party is fielding 59 congressional bets, 12 candidates for governor, and “over a thousand” candidates in different local government units.

“Marcos’ call for unity as the basic strategy for economic recovery, amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and global uncertainties, is consistent and supportive of the NUP’s primary vision of ‘one nation, one future’ as enshrined in the Party constitution,” the party said in a statement issued by Velasco.

“We call upon all our Party members to join hands with former Senator Marcos in bringing our country and people to continued prosperity and progress,” the party added.

Earlier this week, one faction of the PDP-Laban led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi also endorsed Marcos’ presidential bid.

At the BBM Headquarters in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) secretary general Thompson Lantion and Reform Party president James Layug also signed an agreement to be an ally in advancing the UniTeam of Marcos and Duterte.

With the start of the 45-day campaign for local elective positions on Friday, Rodriguez said they expect the influx of endorsements and supports from local political parties and leaders, responding to the call of Marcos for national unity.

“Many responded and we hope that many more will respond in the coming days to presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos’ call and message of unity,” Rodriguez said.

“In recent days, you have witnessed the consecutive endorsements received by Bongbong Marcos and his running mate Inday Sara Duterte including FPJPM, Reform Party, PDP-laban and, of course, NUP’s endorsement yesterday.”

“Next, we expect the endorsement of local political parties in conjunction with the start of the local campaign of presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the chief data scientist of Publicus Asia Inc. has shattered the illusions of some political camps who were resorting to fetching and paying people just to attend their rallies and make it appear that huge crowds were actually supporting them.

Dr. David Yap Jr., chief data scientist of Publicus Asia Inc. stressed that huge attendance during rallies is not in any way an indication that certain candidates have support from the voters, but that the real barometer of people’s sentiments is based on the results of scientific surveys and not the number of attendees in a candidate’s political rally or social media engagements.

Yap made the statement following the release of results of March 9-14 survey of Publicus Asia when Marcos posted 55.1 percent voter preference, an increase of nearly three percent over his 52.3 percent preference share last February.

At second is Robredo with 21 percent, followed by Domagoso with 8.2 percent, Lacson with 4.2 percent, and Senator Manny Pacquiao with 1.8
percent.

Yap pointed out that the results of the survey could not be seen in the major political rallies of candidates as most of them were able to
generate huge crowds in their campaign sorties mainly because of celebrities and music performers who join them in their rallies.

In their campaign rallies in Metro Manila, Marcos filled several streets in Mandaluyong City and the Riverbanks in Marikina while Robredo’s camp also recently filled the Emerald Avenue in Pasig City.

Data analysts like Pulse Asia executive director Anna Maria Tabunda and Yap have already previously explained in interviews that the number of rally attendees is only part of the actual preference rating numbers of candidates.

In the case of Marcos, the hundreds of thousands who attended in his recent rallies in Marikina and in Mandaluyong were part of his 55-60 percent voter preference rating, while the reported 80,000 attendees of Robredo’s recent rally in Pasig was also just a representation of
her 15-20 percent preference rating.

“When you look at rallies, whatever the color, it is mostly populated. The vast majority of people who attend rallies are already supporters of that particular candidate,” Yap said.

“And if you consider this very important point, you realize that this isn’t for conversion primarily. It is to reinforce the base that we have a lot of people,” he added.

The crowd also does not quantify the real sentiments of the people, Yap stressed.