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Bicol Bloc Vows Win for Noynoy-Mar

Lakas stalwarts in CamSur downplay Salceda defection

MANILA and Naga City (April 19)  -- Frontrunners Liberal Party presidential and vice presidential bets Senators Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas got the support of former and current local and national leaders from the Bikol region, virtually a sure win from one of the largest voting blocs in Luzon.

"Theirs is a message of hope and change that promises to put the country back on track. And theirs is a commitment to Bikol development that we, as former and current public officials of the national and local governments and civil society leaders in the region, will help realize under an Aquino-Roxas administration," states the two-page manifesto signed by Bikolano officials led by Albay Governor Joey Salceda, Rep. Salvador Escudero, former Sen. Victor Ziga, Albay Gov. Fernando Gonzalez, Rep. Liwayway Chato, Naga Mayor Jess Robredo and other Bikol executives and members of Civil Society.

The group signed the Manifesto of Support, which they presented to Aquino and Roxas in a press conference Monday morning at the LP headquarters at the Balay in Cubao, Quezon City.

The "Bicol Bloc for Noynoy and Mar" said the LP leaders are the only tandem with a clear platform of government on how to curb graft and corruption and a standing commitment to public trust as a cornerstone of transparent and accountable governance.

They added that the two candidates are "clearly the only viable choice we have," stressing that "the Filipino people deserve a clean and honest government, leaders worthy of public trust, leaders who could inspire Filipinos to dream again and leaders who will be fair and just."

"They come from a lineage of kin and political forebears (President Cory Aquino, President Manuel Roxas, Senators Ninoy Aquino and Gerry Roxas) who share a long-standing commitment to public trust as a cornerstone of transparent and accountable governance," they pointed out.

Aquino and Roxas have committed to the development of the Bikol region. "We are confident that an Aquino-Roxas administration will honor that commitment. By giving Bikol the wherewithal to accelerate economic growth and development under a fair and equitable system of regional governance, and working hand in hand with the progressive leaders and peoples of Bicolandia, we will have a fighting chance of attaining the Millennium Development Goal of halving the incidence of poverty in our region," the Bikol executives said.

"Ang Southern Luzon ay isang dagat ng dilaw or yellow sea," re-electionist Salceda said.

Furthermore, he noted Aquino will have a landslide victory in areas Cavite, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Naga and Camarines Norte on May 10.

"Ang suporta ng Albay kay Noy di lang sa eleksyon ("Albay's support for Aquino does not end in May 10). Albay will fully support the social democratic agenda of the Aquino presidency in terms of its national priorities and projects in the next 6 years," Salceda added.

CamSur Lakas intact

Meanwhile, major Lakas leaders in at least three districts of Camarines Sur province claimed they remained unperturbed by last week's defection of Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda to the Liberal Party, and vowed to carry-on their support for LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD presidential standard bearer Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro.

Bicol Presidential Assistant Tomasito Monzon said that "though it was true that Salceda's defection stunned Lakas leaders in Albay," neighboring Bikol province of Camarines Sur had its Lakas leaders intact. He added that his party's leaders remain dominant in the First, Second and lately in the 5th Districts of the province.

Monzon also said that although the 3rd and 4th districts in the newly apportioned Camarines Sur political districts are being contested by the Liberal Party, the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), influential Lakas bets such as DBM Sec. Rolando Andaya Jr. (1st District), presidential son and incumbent Second District Rep. Dato Arroyo, and gubernatorial bet and outgoing Fifth District Rep. Felix "Nancing" Alfelor have kept the Lakas leadership intact.

Villafuerte vs. Alfelor

In a related development, since last week the Camarines Sur gubernatorial race had turned more controversial, after incumbent Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (NP) had filed a nine-page complaint before the Ombudsman against Lakas-gubernatorial bet, Alfelor.

Gov. Villafuerte's complaint questioned Alfelor's P51 Million worth of scholarship programs under the latter's congressional development funds (CDF), which was reportedly given to the University of North Eastern Philippines (UNEP), the Alfelor-family owned university in the 5th district.

Villafuerte insinuated over public-broadcast that graft was involved in Alfelor's scholarship grant being given to UNEP.

Alfelor had reportedly filed a counter-affidavit with the Ombudsman, citing the number of scholars in the Rinconada district who have benefited from the program. It was reported that scholarship payments from CDF are often not accepted by private universities, since it takes at least five  months before the CDF-funded scholarships are paid to colleges or universities.

Lakas leaders here said that Villafuerte's case against Alfelor is "nothing but a political harassment of his gubernatorial opponent."

Meanwhile, Gov. Villafuerte and his vice-gubernatorial candidate, former budget officer Fortunato Peña, have snubbed the public political fora attended by Alfelor in Naga City.

Sponsored by the church-based PPCRV, the political forum would have occasioned a one-on-one debate between the two gubernatorial candidates. (PNA/Sonny Sales)