CABANATUAN CITY, January 21, 2004 (STAR) By Manny Galvez - First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo brokered the much-ballyhooed tactical alliance between the Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (CMD) and the local opposition party Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (Balane) to avert a possible clash for the governorship between re-electionist Gov. Tomas Joson III and third district Rep. Aurelio Umali and muster bipartisan support for the presidential bid of his wife, President Arroyo.

This was revealed yesterday by sources privy to the negotiations, who said the alliance was not the initiative of either Joson or Umali nor their respective leaders from the Lakas-CMD and Balane.

"The forging of a tactical alliance between Lakas-CMD and Balane was the product of the horse-trading skills of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. It did not come from anybody, not from Gov. Joson nor from Rep. Umali," one of the sources told The STAR.

The sources made the disclosure to dispel the impression that Joson or Umali worked for the alliance to prevent a looming political showdown for the governorship.

"It was the work of First Gentleman Arroyo all the way," one of the sources said. "It was a master stroke which would surely reap dividends for President Arroyo in Nueva Ecija."

The alliance, which reportedly caught many by surprise, including those from the Lakas-CMD, averted a clash between Joson and Umali in the run-up to the May 10 polls.

Umali is best remembered for pulling off a giant upset when he won the congressional race in the third congressional district against Joson’s eldest son, Edward Thomas.

Umali’s feat disappointed the governor who had reportedly vowed to turn the tables on him in the upcoming elections.

Prior to the forging of the tactical alliance, Joson was reportedly planning to field Edward Thomas anew against Umali in the congressional race even when the latter was eyeing the governorship.

During the provincial directorate meeting of the Lakas-CMD last November, Umali, the provincial party chairman, dropped hints that he would seek the governorship.

He could not make a categorical declaration then because of pending negotiations for a Lakas-CMD-Balane tactical alliance aimed at ensuring the victory of Mrs. Arroyo in the province.

Under the tactical alliance, Joson would not field Edward Thomas against Umali in the congressional race, while Umali would not run for governor but would instead seek re-election. Both camps agreed to support Mrs. Arroyo who is seeking a full six-year presidential term.

As it turned out, Edward Thomas filed his candidacy for board member in the third district. Umali is running for Congress anew, challenged by perennial contender Philip Ordoņez, son of former Ambassador Sedfrey Ordoņez.

Joson will now only have to contend with former two-term fourth district Rep. Julita Lorenzo-Villareal who is running under the banner of the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (Kampi) chaired by former Rep. Emigdio Tanjuatco Jr.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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