ALLIES of President Benigno Aquino 3rd who earlier left the ruling Liberal Party (LP) have shifted their support to the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
UNA Secretary General JV Bautista on Friday said administration allies from Southern Leyte led by Vice Governor Sheffered Tan and Provincial Board Member Albert Esclamado bolted the LP and joined the opposition.
Tan is contesting the gubernatorial post in the province with incumbent Rep. Damian Mercado while Esclamado is running for vice governor against councilor Coco Yap of Sogod town.
“We have taken the fight even at the doorstep of our primary adversarial camps from the Visayas,” Bautista said during a news conference in Cebu City.
He attributed the exodus of LP members to the increasing popularity of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Visayas.
“It’s harvest time for UNA,” Bautista said.
Tan said he transferred to UNA because the LP mishandled political arrangements with its members in Southern Leyte.
He explained that LP leaders did not endorse members seeking elective posts.
Instead, party stalwarts endorsed the candidates of current local officials even if they were not members of the administration party.
This set-up, Tan said, left original members of the LP feeling like outcasts.
He has been a member of LP since 2010.
But instead of supporting him, the LP threw its support behind the gubernatorial bid of Mercado, Tan said.
Damian’s brother, incumbent Gov. Roger Mercado of LP, is pitted against UNA’s Rico Rentuza for the province’s lone congressional seat.
Tan said the Mercado brothers, formerly with the National Unity Party, only became LP members in 2015.
“We are looking for a party that is also loyal to us,” the vice governor added.
In November last year, Tan submitted his irrevocable and unconditional withdrawal as the official LP nominee for vice governor of Southern Leyte.
He accused governor Mercado of abusing his authority by ignoring incumbent LP leaders and supporting those who have just joined the ruling party.
Bautista expressed belief that more candidates from different provinces will soon join UNA and endorse the candidacy of Binay.
The opposition has a complete slate in Maasin City and all the other 18 municipalities of Southern Leyte that include former mayors and incumbent vice mayors.
Also joining the Tan-Esclamado ticket is former Saint Bernard Mayor Rico Rentuza, LP’s Southern Leyte chairman since 2010.
Rentuza now serves as UNA provincial coordinator and candidate for congressman for the province’s lone district.
It was Rentuza who convinced his former LP colleagues to join the Binay camp.
Tan disclosed that in the latest survey for Southern Leyte, LP standard- bearer Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas 2nd stood had a score of 12 percent while Binay posted 54 percent.
He said a survey conducted by the Department of Interior and Local Governments last month yielded the same results.
UNA officials said the opposition party will make another announcement on political movements in Baguio City next week.
Sources of The Manila Times earlier said some LP stalwarts are considering shifting their support to the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero because of the poor showing of Roxas and his running mate, Rep. Leni Robredo, in surveys.
The sources said Poe and Escudero will be the administration’s “spare tire” if the survey ratings of Roxas and Robredo will not improve.
A lawyer involved in the campaign of Poe and Escudero said LP officials and administration bets are expected to bolt the ruling party.
The source said many local officials were disappointed because Roxas and his group replaced LP incumbents with their own selected candidates.
Roxas had downplayed such reports, saying LP officials are free to support the candidates that they choose.