Filipino presidential candidate 'Gibo' Teodoro says 'I'm not throwing in the towel'

President's candidate lags well behind two main contenders in Filipino election but 'we have no intention of quitting the race.'

The Philippine administration's presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro greets residents while campaigning for the upcoming May election in Marikina City, Metro Manila March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo   (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

MANILA // The former Philippine defence secretary, Gilbert 'Gibo' Teodoro, has no intention of quitting the presidential race despite persistent rumours that he is about to throw in the towel. Mr Teodoro, the standard-bearer for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's ruling coalition, Lakas-Kampi Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), resigned as chairman of the coalition last week along with a number of senior officials, triggering an avalanche of rumours that he was giving up the presidential race.

"Nothing can be further from the truth," his spokesman Mike Toledo said. "These rumours only strengthen our resolve to continue the fight. We have no intention of quitting the race." He said Mr Teodoro's resignation had nothing to do with campaign finances and was seen as a necessary move to allow him to concentrate on the campaign. Despite having the backing of a cash-rich party, Mr Teodoro's campaign has only managed to spend 60 million pesos (Dh4.9m) on political advertising since campaigning started in February. The sum is just half the 120 million spent by one of the presidential front runners, Manuel Villar.

Since opinion polls opened in February, Mr Teodoro, 45, has found himself trailing well behind the two main presidential contenders, Senator Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino, son of the former president Corazon Aquino, and Mr Villar, a self-made billionaire senator. Many political observers believe Mr Teodoro's biggest problem is that his principal endorser is Mrs Arroyo. Since Mrs Arroyo came to power in 2001 following the ousting of the then president, Joseph Estrada, she and her family have been linked to numerous corruption scandals. Polls have consistenty shown her to be the most disliked president the country has had. Even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos rates well above Mrs Arroyo.

The columnist Ana Marie Pamintuan, writing in The Philippine Star recently, said: "You see the competent, intelligent, articulate and youthful Gilbert Teodoro, and immediately you see behind him the shadow of GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] - everything that she and her merged political parties stand for, with all the scandals of the past nine years tumbling in. The question that then pops up is, do we want more of the same?"

Mr Teodoro, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was born into a wealthy, politically connected family. Mrs Aquino is his aunt, while the country's most powerful businessman, Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, founder of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) party, is his uncle. Mr Teodoro entered politics in 1998 and served three terms as congressman for the first district of Tarlac in Luzon. In 2003 he led a failed move to impeach the then Supreme Court chief justice, Hilario Davide. At the time he was accused of acting on behalf of his uncle, who had pending cases with the high court.

As a congressman, he consistently supported efforts to amend the constitution and voted against numerous attempts to impeach Mrs Arroyo, which paid off in 2007 when, at the age of 43, he was appointed the country's youngest ever defence secretary. Edmund Tayao, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said: "Teodoro is probably the best candidate out of the nine running for president but he is seen by many ordinary Filipinos as being Mrs Arroyo's candidate.

"That perception may be changing following his resignation last week as chairman of Lakas-Kampi CMD. One of the major problems facing Teodoro has been the lack of funds. Many of his campaign people have asked: where is the money? "It is no secret that many Lakas-Kampi CMD governor and local government candidates are jumping ship to Mr Villar's Nacionalista Party which does not help Teodoro," Professor Tayao said.

The defections to Mr Villar's camp has set the Philippine political rumour mill into overdrive in recent days, with unsubstantiated reports that Mrs Arroyo has abandoned Mr Teodoro and that her husband, Mike, is actively endorsing Mr Villar. The Nacionalista Party said in a statement on Monday: "We have nothing to do with the first family. We have not sought their support nor asked for any favour regarding this election."

Three governors in the southern Philippines, including a provincial coalition chairman, have said they were switching their support to Mr Villar. The former governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, a key ally of Mrs Arroyo and a political kingpin in the northern Philippines, had also switched from Mr Teodoro to Mr Villar. The Nacionalista Party explained the defections as "local officials scrambling to try to side with the perceived winner of these elections".

One Lakas-Kampi CMD insider, who did not want to be named, said: "A few high-profile defections are to be expected during an election. The coalition is supporting some 12,000 local and provincial candidates."