Saturday, September 26, 2009

Palace puzzled at Ebdane's bid for president

By Christine Avendaño, TJ Burgonio - Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines--Why only now?

The ruling coalition’s choice of its presidential standard-bearer has yet to be finalized and President Macapagal-Arroyo herself has told him the post is open to everybody.

So said Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane who acknowledged on Friday that he is indeed interested in running for president in 2010.

“I have become interested,” said Ebdane, a former national police chief, speaking to reporters at a Senate hearing yesterday into the use of the road user’s tax.

“I think under the circumstances, I can join the fight,” he said.

Officials of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD are baffled by Ebdane’s sudden interest in running for president, saying they had no hint that the secretary was harboring any political ambitions.

“Why only now?” said Gabriel Claudio, the party secretary general and presidential political adviser. “If he can tell us formally what his plans are, then we’ll see how the party can help.”

He said Ebdane, who is not a party member, has not formally informed the Lakas-Kampi-CMD about his plans nor made any move to join the administration party.

“Party members are perplexed by his timing,” Claudio said, adding that Ebdane had not tried to sound off either Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the Lakas-Kampi-CMD president, or himself about his plans.

Print advertisements praising Ebdane’s qualities and proclaiming him to be a good alternative to professional politicians have appeared in several broadsheets in the past few days.

The ads ask: “Di kaya si Jun Ebdane ang Tamang Daan sa 2010?” (Could Jun Ebdane be the right way in 2010?)

Last Thursday, Surigao del Sur Gov. Vicente Pimentel Jr. announced that about 15 governors from Mindanao were pushing for Ebdane’s selection as the ruling party’s presidential standard-bearer.

The governors are said to favor him because of the infrastructure and development projects that he has brought to the region which supposedly shows his concern for Mindanao.

Request rejected

It was learned from reliable source, however, that Ebdane had made a last-minute attempt to have the Sept. 16 meeting of the ruling party’s national executive committee postponed. But his request was rejected.

In that meeting, the committee members endorsed Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as the administration presidential standard-bearer in 2010.

Asked what party he would align himself with, Ebdane said that would depend on “developments,” adding that he had other “alternatives.”

Ebdane said that even as early as a year ago, people and groups “from several sectors, in the national and barangay levels” had been asking him to enter the race for Malacañang.

The public works secretary said he told the groups urging him to seek the presidency that running for president was no walk in the park and that they should truly support him and not abandon him in the end.

Asked whether he had informed the President about his interest in the presidency, he said: “I insinuated to her that there were people convincing me to run and she said that the position was open … for everybody.”

'Presidency or nothing’

He evaded a question about being pitted against Teodoro, saying that the administration coalition has not finalized its choice of presidential standard-bearer.

Ebdane also would not say who his choice of running mate would be, repeatedly saying that many things were still bound to happen since the filing of candidacy papers was not till November.

He also refused to answer questions on whether he thought Teodoro would make a good presidential candidate.

“Let’s respect everybody. I respect Gibo. He’s a good man,” he said.

Asked whether he was optimistic about getting Ms Arroyo’s support, he said the question was too “personal” and declined to answer.

Asked to comment on the tendency of some politicians to float the idea that they are running for president when what they actually want is to seek a Senate seat, Ebdane said that for him “it (was the presidency) or nothing.” He added that he was not a politician.

But should he decide not to run for public office in 2010, Ebdane said he could always return to his Zambales home province and engage in farming as well as “help whoever may be there.”

Claudio, however, indicated it might be too late for Ebdane to seek the party’s endorsement as presidential standard-bearer.

He pointed out that the party’s endorsement of Teodoro, while it has yet to be ratified, was the consensus of the national executive committee, the party’s highest governing body.

“The committee is the highest ruling body of the party. A consensus has been reached. A clear preference has been expressed. Gibo has the formal endorsement of the national executive committee,” he said.

If Ebdane were to suddenly express a desire to join the party and seek its endorsement, this would be “tossed” to the national executive committee for deliberation, according to Claudio.

But he noted that the deadline for non-party members to join the party and submit to the selection process for standard-bearer was Sept. 15.

“The deadline did not apply only to Vice President Noli de Castro but to all aspirants who were seeking the party’s endorsement. Everyone was aware of the deadline,” he said.

‘Outstanding contributions’

Claudio doubted Ebdane’s bid, if it pushes through, would cause cracks in the party, pointing out that officials endorsing Ebdane have vowed to abide by the party’s choice of standard-bearer.

“Even those endorsing or giving recognition of his qualifications are declaring that they will abide by the final decision,” he said.

Claudio said he and Ermita would talk to Ebdane, whom he described as a “valued Cabinet member” with “outstanding contributions,” about his political plans.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Works and Highways yesterday said Ebdane’s campaign for president was gaining ground.

More ads coming

Undersecretary Romeo Momo said Ebdane had the support of local officials who he said had paid for the advertisements that appeared in newspapers endorsing Ebdane’s candidacy. He said more ads are expected to come out in the next few days.

Momo said the ads, which appeared in several national dailies, were “voluntarily done by the local leaders because they wanted to encourage the secretary to run following the greater demand to lead the country within.”

There have also been radio commercials featuring Ebdane. Some DPWH employees have also started wearing orange shirts, with the message, “We want a new face in 2010!” With a report from Kristine L. Alave

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