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Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency

This comprehensive article by a crack team of reporters from GMA 7 captures well the people around and behind the rise of Noynoy Aquino to the presidency. And it correctly includes ANG LADLAD Party List as one of the groups that supported Noynoy. Let it be said that in its first political endorsement, ANG LADLAD correctly read the temper of the times, and endorsed Benigno Aquino III for President and Jejomar Binay for Vice-President. Both guys, as we know now, won. Watch us make our moves in the 2013 elections.


Who's who in Noynoy's rise to the presidency
06/23/2010 | 06:24 PM

A ragtag army of volunteers - many veterans from the glorious fights against Marcos, Erap and Arroyo, but perhaps millions more electrified by the emotional days of Cory Aquino's wake and funeral - delivered the presidency to Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III with their tireless campaigning.

Now with Noynoy at the cusp of assuming power, the action around the president-elect has become the game of the generals.

This was not how it was supposed to be. Aquino's running mate Mar Roxas was expected to be his clear second in command as vice president, waiting for his turn in 2016.

Instead, the feisty Jejomar Binay - nicknamed Rambotito in another era - emerged as the surprise vice president-elect, bringing along his own loyalists, people power credentials, and presidential ambitions.

Binay and Aquino share a light moment in August 2009. Both weren't candidates yet at the time. Less than a year later, they would win the two highest elective posts in the land.

Roxas and Binay's candidacies famously divided the Aquino camp during the campaign, with some of the president-elect's own relatives reportedly supporting Binay.

Since Aquino's and Binay's proclamations, the fissures have only occasionally bubbled to the surface, a sign perhaps of Aquino's growing command. Or simply the calm before the storm. Roxas after all still heads the Liberal Party, Aquino's party, which formulated his platform and will be represented in the new administration through some key appointees. Roxas is also expected to assume a key Cabinet post next year when the ban on appointments of 2010 candidates expires.

On the other hand, Binay may not bear being a spare tire for long without his own political fiefdom. He was reported to have declined several positions offered by Aquino that were presumably not to the vice president-elect's liking, or considered below Binay's stature.

How the rivalry between Binay and Roxas plays out in the months and years to come will be a main test of the new government's teamwork.

Yet their factions are not the only circles around Aquino, all of them angling for influence and key posts, and banking on their roles in the ragtag army's victory. Our infographic above displays the constellation of personalities around Noynoy. It was based on interviews with campaign volunteers and party members, and cross-checked with other insiders, none of whom agreed to speak on the record.

Some in his inner circle, like his sisters, the President-elect has known for most of his life. Others gained his trust only during the campaign. More than a few are remnants from the old Cory crowd that was politicized by the assassination of Aquino's father, Ninoy Aquino, in 1983.

The main nerve center of the Noy-Mar campaign was the "executive committee," or the exe-com, composed of insiders and trusted loyalists, or so the members thought. More than a few will occupy key posts in the incoming administration.

Among the exe-com members were Noynoy's sister Pinky Abellada, his cousin Rapa Lopa, long-time friend and adviser Jojo Ochoa, campaign manager Butch Abad and his daughter and Noynoy's Senate chief of staff Julia Abad, Hyatt 10 stalwarts Cesar Purisima and Dinky Soliman, Cory veterans Margie and Popoy Juico, and Liberal party leaders Jun Abaya, Erin Tañada, Chito Gascon, and Mar Roxas himself.

The group met on most Mondays in Parc House along EDSA in Quezon City.

Noynoy's first cousin Maria Montelibano replaced ad agency doyenne Yoly Ong as communications head and had already attended several exe-com meetings when the other members got wind of rumors that she was secretly supporting a Noy-Bi tandem, injecting political intrigue into the heart of Noynoy's campaign.

The Abads, Purisima, Soliman and Ochoa have all been assured official positions in the Aquino administration.

Like any political enterprise, the Aquino camp is not one big happy family. His own well-known clan on both sides have had bitter disagreements. Ninoy's sibling Lupita Kashiwahara, for instance, was a fixture in President Gloria Arroyo's Malacanang when both Noynoy and his mother Cory called for Arroyo to resign.

Noynoy and his mother's siblings Peping and Pedro apparently don't see eye to eye on what to do with Hacienda Luisita, the most contentious issue thrown at Aquino during his campaign..

If Noynoy learned anything from observing his mother in power, it should be the pitfalls of factionalism, which almost brought Cory Aquino's government down.

All in the Family

Viel Dee, Pinky Abellada, and Ballsy Cruz flash the "Laban" sign minutes before their brother, Benigno Aquino III, is proclaimed President. AP file photo
Aquino's sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Kris Aquino-Yap all actively campaigned for Aquino.

Ballsy — who was their late mother Cory's chief of staff — and Pinky, the two elder sisters, were more active in behind-the-scenes campaign organizing. They were in charge of finances, and screened individuals who expressed intentions to help Noynoy's campaign.

Kris, the celebrity sister, has been helping spruce up Noynoy's sartorial image with the help of stylist Liz Uy, and giving her brother the ill-advised idea to float talk-show pal Boy Abunda's name for a key position.

Noynoy cannot appoint any of his sisters to any government post because of the constitutional ban on appointing relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity. But he continues to consult them, particularly Ballsy and Pinky, regarding his official decisions. The four sisters are also increasingly visible in public through their charity work.

Some of Noynoy's cousins were also active in the campaign. His second cousin Tony Boy Cojuangco was listed as having donated a whopping 100 million pesos to the campaign kitty.

Even though business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. did not openly express his support for any candidate during the May polls (his supposed favorite nephew, Noynoy's cousin Gilberto Teodoro Jr., also ran for president), his daughter Lisa Cojuangco-Cruz joined campaign sorties for the Noynoy-Mar tandem.

Former actress Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, daughter of Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. and Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, hosted some of the bigger events like the Liberal Party miting de avance in Quezon City. Another cousin, Maria Montelibano — who headed Radio-TV Malacañang when Cory Aquino was president — was one of the leading figures in the media affairs bureau of Noynoy's campaign; she is now co-chair of the inaugural committee.

Both Mikee and Maria, however, were reportedly among those who supported Binay instead of Mar.

To counter rumors that he secretly supported Binay, Peping has insisted in various media interviews that he campaigned for Mar. But he also said some of the people who helped Aquino in the campaign, whom he refused to name, are just jockeying for government posts.

Balay vs Samar

Some members of the Hyatt 10, former government officials under the Arroyo administration who quit at the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal in June 2005, played active roles in Aquino's campaign. A few are set to return to the Cabinet.

Former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad was overall campaign manager; he is reported to be on the verge of being named budget chief. Abad is also a Liberal Party stalwart. With wife Dina a newly elected congresswoman from Batanes and daughter Julia the rumored incoming head of the Presidential Management Staff, the Abads have become one of the more formidable families in the new administration.

Former trade and finance secretary Cesar Purisima, who contributed P10 million to Aquino's campaign kitty, is part of the transition team that is paving the way for the turnover of Cabinet portfolio positions. He is said to be returning to his finance post.

The first two future appointees that Aquino confirmed were former social welfare secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and former peace adviser Teresita Deles, both members of the Hyatt 10 and the civil society group Black and White Movement. Both will be returning to their old positions.

Former Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Guillermo Parayno Jr. is rumored to have been appointed chief of the Bureau of Customs, a post he once held during the Ramos administration.

Liberal Party bets Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas join Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte and Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada at an LP caucus.
Roxas himself is almost certain to get a Cabinet post after the one-year ban on the appointment of defeated candidates. No less than Noynoy gave that assurance.

Roxas, members of the Hyatt 10, and groups like the Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota group hold office at a Roxas-owned property in Cubao called Balay, giving rise to the tagging of their faction as the "Balay group."

Meanwhile, the supposedly pro-Binay group composed of Montelibano and PiNoy Lawyers — a group of lawyers who volunteered to be Aquino's legal watchdog — hold office at an old house on Samar Avenue in Quezon City, which is why they've been tagged the "Samar group."

Sen. Chiz Escudero and incoming Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa face the media after meeting with President-elect Noynoy Aquino in his Times Street home.

Senator Francis Escudero, the only prominent politician to have openly campaigned for Noynoy and Binay, is considered part of the Samar group.

Escudero's involvement in the Aquino campaign caused a breakout of tension in the Aquino camp. Escudero initially intended to run for president, but he backed out of the race reportedly due to insufficient support from his political financiers. After he withdrew, Escudero lent his Senate staff to his friend Noynoy; they had served together in the House of Representatives and both won in the May 2007 senatorial elections.

Escudero's staff was in charge of handling the media, which did not sit well with the camp of Roxas, especially when Binay started to catch up with Roxas's ratings. Roxas and Escudero are also prospective rivals in the 2016 presidential elections. In the middle of the campaign, Escudero's staff were removed from the media bureau, but negative reactions from reporters prompted the campaign handlers to bring them back the next day.

The Noynoy Aquino for President Movement, the Council on Philippine Affairs headed by Pastor Boy Saycon, and gay rights group "Ang Ladlad" also reportedly campaigned for "NoyBi."

Behind the Scenes

Members of both camps continue to be involved in the planning of Noynoy's incoming administration, although pro-Roxas forces appear to be more active in transition preparations.

Another person in charge is lawyer Pacquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr., who is being groomed to be Noynoy's executive secretary. He has said in an interview that he is presenting Noynoy with the road map to the presidency, which includes inauguration details and possible Cabinet appointees (at least three for each post).

Noynoy appears to have complete trust in Ochoa — the son of a former Pulilan, Bulacan mayor who was a friend of Ninoy — as Ochoa had served as Noynoy's legal counsel since he entered politics in 1998.

Ochoa, who was Quezon City administrator for nine years, has said that he plans to keep a low profile "so the real boss gets to be in the limelight." Unless it's absolutely necessary for him to speak up, all questions about the incoming president would be answered by lawyer Edwin Lacierda, who will move on to become presidential spokesman after his stint as Aquino's campaign spokesman.

Noynoy's platforms for various sectors are hinged on the views of his party. Many of his plans are mapped out by the LP think-tank National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS), which counts among its policy analysts defeated LP senatorial aspirant Neric Acosta (who is rumored to be slated for environment secretary after the one-year ban), and professors Mario Taguiwalo and Dina Abad, wife of Butch.

Political commentator Manuel L. Quezon III, who is serving as Noynoy's inaugural spokesperson and is in charge of explaining inaugural rites and protocols, is a member of the Board of Trustees of NIPS.

Aquino presents to the media Col. Ramon Dizon, his choice as head of the Presidential Security Group. GMANews.TV file photo
Noynoy is currently staying at his home on Times Street, Quezon City, where he holds meetings with his inner circle, other rumored Cabinet appointees, supporters, and visiting dignitaries. Throughout the campaign, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jose Angel Honrado oversaw Noynoy's security detail.

Honrado, who is also a distant cousin of Noynoy, served in the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino.

Another former PSG member during Mrs. Aquino's time, Col. Ramon Dizon, has been named the incoming PSG commander once Noynoy assumes the presidency on June 30. — Jam L. Sisante, RSJ/HS, GMANews.TV


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