Quezon City, April 1, 2013 – Citing numerous distractions to his campaign, Senator Francis Escudero announced this evening his decision to end his re-election bid in the May 2013 polls. Apart from having a highly-publicized rift with former President Joseph Estrada, Escudero also came under fire from the parents of his girlfriend, actress Heart Evangelista.
Speaking at a hastily called news conference in Quezon City’s Sulo Hotel besides Evangelista, Escudero said: “Nang nagpasya akong muling tumakbo sa pagka-senador, layunin kong ipagpatuloy ang aking krusada laban sa katiwalian. Sinimulan ko nung panahon ni Ginang Arroyo hanggang sa kasalukuyang administrasyon. Sa kasamaang palad, dahil sa mga naglabasang isyung personal nitong nakaraang mga linggo, natatabunan na ang mga hangarin kong ito.”
His voice occasionally shaking, Escudero added: “Sumali ako sa Team PNoy (administration party slate) dahil naniniwala ako sa plataporma ng ating Pangulong Aquino. Hindi ko ninais lapastanganin ang mga taong itinuring ko nang kapamilya,” an obvious reference to Estrada, his wedding godfather and erstwhile political ally. Escudero also took a swipe against the Ongpauco couple (Heart Evangelista is Love Marie Ongpauco in real life).
“May mga bagay na mas mainam na personal na lamang namin pag-usapan subalit tila mas gusto pa nilang inilalantad pa sa publiko ang lahat. Ang problemang pampamilya ay dapat manatili sa loob ng bahay,” the 43-year-old senator added. Upon hearing this, presidential sister Kris Aquino almost choked while eating steak and lobster with her sons somewhere in Paris. Nevertheless, Escudero did not rule out reconciling with the Ongpaucos. “Panahon lamang ang makakapaghilom sa sugat na ito,” he said.
Escudero’s sudden announcement elicited mixed reactions from across the political spectrum. Budget Secretary and Liberal Party stalwart Florencio Abad expressed dismay about the senator’s move, pointing out Escudero’s high ratings in pre-election surveys. “Sayang siya. Sure winner na pa naman,” Abad said. LP president Mar Roxas, for his part, said: “P***** **a! Good riddance sa kanya!” In 2010, Escudero endorsed then-Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and not Roxas in the vice presidential race.
Estrada meanwhile chided Escudero for not being “man enough” in dealing with the problems confronting him. “Hindi gawain ng isang tunay na lalake ang sumusuko sa laban! Ginawa na niya noong 2009, gagawin na naman niya ngayon. Ano ba yan!” the former president said, referring to the senator’s last minute decision not to run for president four years ago.
The senator meanwhile remains coy about his plans for 2016. “Siguro pagdating ng 2016, magiging running-mate ko si Heart papunta sa dambana,” Escudero said with a wink, eliciting laughter from his supporters.
Abad declined to say who will take Escudero’s place in the Team PNoy senatorial slate, but a source from the administration mentioned actresses Sharon Cuneta and Jodi Sta. Maria as possible substitute candidates. Cuneta is the wife of Senator Francis Pangilinan while Sta. Maria is Senator Lacson’s former daughter-in-law. Both Lacson and Pangilinan are ineligible for re-election this year.