MANILA, April 15, 2004
THE SOUTHERN BEAT By Rolly Espina - When Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon and his brother, Rep. Alfredo Marañon (second district), announced their shift of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to presidential bet Fernando Poe Jr. last March 28, there was an instant furor.

Later, they were joined by four Negros congressmen and 15 mayors of the province.

Worse, Lakas lost its provincial chairman, Vice Gov. Isidro Zayco, who had complained of having been treated as a fourth-class member of the party.

The coalition breakup between the NPC and Lakas forces in the province threatened, for a while, to undercut GMA’s hold on her bailiwick which could become FPJ country.

When the dust of that startling event settled, it turned out that the impact was not as disastrous as originally anticipated by political analysts.

Later, former Gov. Rafael "Lito" Coscolluela, presidential adviser on cooperatives, filed a leave of absence when he accepted his designation as presidential campaign manager. Although he did not run in the last elections, having reached the term limit, Coscolluela still retained his following.

It turned out that the mayoralty bets in the fifth district remained firm in their support for GMA. More mayoralty candidates signed a manifesto reaffirming their commitment to back GMA.

Rep. Jose Carlos Lacson (third district) later also joined the Marañon team. But he agreed that the one he is backing for mayor of Talisay City, Ramon Lacson, has decided to remain firm for GMA.

Later, Coscolluela announced that Rep. Jules Ledesma of Negros Occidental’s first district reassured him that he will maintain his support for the President. And more provincial board members – Mardi Mapa Sulido, Corazon Diploma, Reynaldo Dapasucat and Angelito Colmenares – announced that while they are running under the governor’s ticket, they are still supporting Mrs. Arroyo.

Bacolod City Mayor Joy Valdez and her entire development ticket remain firm in their commitment. Rep. Carlos Cojuangco of the fourth district could not be reached for his comment on the Marañons’ defection. But before he left for abroad, the Negros solon told local reporters that he was still for GMA.

Although former Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco was tagged as the brains behind the defection, the camp of Mrs. Arroyo later announced that the businessman was still supporting GMA, with his two sons, Charlie and Mark, and Rep. Gilbert Teodoro still behind her.

Initially, a spate of political text messages filled the air. And since it was just before the Holy Week, most of them concentrated on betrayal and Judas’ sellout of the Christ. Later, it worked both ways. Coscolluela himself also complained about messages claiming that he had received P70 million, later reduced to P17 million, in campaign funds.

The Stunning Survey

The Bombo Radyo network made a decision after the March 28 incident. It commissioned a survey by the Random Access Consultancy Corp. headed by University of the Philippines-Iloilo Prof. Vicente Balinas.

This writer received yesterday a copy of the summary of results. The findings showed that the mass defection has not drastically changed the political perceptions of the 1,400 respondents in Bacolod City.

What was surprising was that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo retained her lead with 42.5 percent over her closest rival, Fernando Poe Jr., who got 25.9 percent. They were followed by former Sen. Raul Roco, 14.5 percent; Sen. Panfilo Lacson, 5.7 percent; and Bro. Eddie Villanueva, 2.5 percent.

But there was the worrisome eight percent who remained undecided.

In the vice presidential contest, Sen. Noli de Castro was way ahead of Sen. Loren Legarda (herself from Western Visayas’ Antique province) with 27.8 percent. Hermie Aquino remained in third place with only 3.3 percent. Aquino is married to a daughter of the late Rep. Romeo Guanzon of Bacolod City.

Only 5.8 percent remained undecided on their choice for vice president.


The survey showed Mar Roxas ahead of the senatorial pack with 59.3 percent of the votes. He was followed by Bong Revilla with 48.8 percent. Sen. John Osmeña was in third with 44.9 percent, while Pilar (Pia) Cayetano tied with Negrense Frank Chavez for fourth and fifth with identical 41.5 percent.

Former Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon was in sixth place with 37.5 percent. Miriam Defensor-Santiago got 36.6 percent, followed by Lito Lapid with 35.3 percent. Jamby Madrigal was in ninth place with 33.3 percent, while former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim landed No. 10 with 33 percent.

The 11th and 12th places went to re-electionist Senators Robert Barbers and Aquilino Pimentel, with 32.8 percent and 31.2 percent, respectively.

The two others within the three-percent margin of error from the 12th placer were Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, with 28.3 percent, and Juan Ponce Enrile. with 28 percent.

Lower Classes

The most revealing about GMA’s continued hold on Negrense voters was evident in the results turned in by Class E respondents. Here, those for GMA was 38.3 percent, Poe garnered 34.6 percent, while Roco received only 12.1 percent. Ping Lacson got 5.4 percent, while Bro. Eddie landed in fifth place by grabbing only 2.1 percent of the respondents.

Even in the Class CD, GMA still received 43 percent of the respondents’ votes. Poe got only 22.3 percent, while Roco grabbed 16.5 percent; Lacson, 5.8 percent, and Bro. Eddie, 3.1 percent.

In both the E and CD classes, the number of undecided was 7.5 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.

It was in the Class AB that GMA garnered her widest margin – 46.9 percent as against Poe’s 20.6 percent. Roco got 11.9 percent, while Lacson received only 5.6 percent. Bro. Eddie, however, inched a bit with 3.1 percent.

It’s still a long way to go, even if there are only 27 days ahead. But then, politics can always be full of surprises.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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