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MANILA, Philippines–President Benigno Aquino III will endorse the gubernatorial candidacy of Fr. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, who lost in his reelection bid in 2010 in Pampanga, should he decide to join anew the local political derby.
“Yes,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the Liberal Party president-on-leave, when asked by the Philippine Daily Inquirer whether the ruling party would support the candidacy of the priest.
Another LP stalwart, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, confirmed in a separate phone interview talks for the official endorsement of Panlilio’s candidacy by the President himself.
“It’s still being discussed,” Abad said, refusing to reveal details of the arrangement for now.
Panlilio will face Gov. Lilia Pineda. In 2010, Panlilio ran under the LP, while Pineda ran under the administration party, Lakas-Kampi-CMD.
Pineda is a close ally of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Could Panlilio win this time against an incumbent and well-moneyed governor?
“Let’s answer that at the appropriate time–when there is finality in the candidacy,” Abad said.
Pampanga is abuzz with talk of Panlilio’s entry into the gubernatorial race again.
Panlilio won the 2007 race against Pineda but he was unseated by the Commission on Elections after a recount of votes.
On Saturday, Panlilio, chair emeritus of LP in Pampanga, led the swearing in of more than 100 party members in the province.
Pineda is seeking reelection with her son, Dennis Pineda, as her running mate.
Reports said the LP is likely to field Panlilio and lawyer Amalia Tiglao-Cayanan in the gubernatorial and vice gubernatorial races. Panlilio declined to comment.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also tried to reach City of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, LP provincial chair, but his mobile phone was unattended on Tuesday afternoon. Rodriguez also did not respond to text messages.
But Pineda said she welcomes any challenger. “This is a democratic exercise,” Pineda said in a text message sent through her aide, former Board Member Rosve Henson.
In September, San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said he was banking on the promise of Panlilio not to enter politics again.
“Perhaps he has to, I think, out of solidarity because he is still a member of the clergy, he should inform me,” said the bishop.
When Panlilio defeated Pineda and reelectionist Gov. Mark Lapid in 2007, Aniceto suspended Panlilio’s priestly duties.
On Monday, Dr. Jose Montemayor, a doctor and lawyer, filed his certificate of candidacy for governor to challenge Pineda.
Montemayor filed his COC without supporters in tow. No party nomination was attached to his certificate, Comelec records showed.
Asked on Tuesday why he decided to challenge Pineda, Montemayor said: “Until now, people are afraid of the powers that control illegal gambling, injustices and criminality.”
The governor’s husband, Rodolfo, known more as “Bong,” has been suspected of financing the illegal numbers game “jueteng” in several parts of Luzon. Bong Pineda, in a previous appearance at the Senate, had denied involvement in jueteng operations. With reports from Jun Malig and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon