Dinners don’t automatically mean new alignments, but the presence of the three tycoons speaks of the former president’s clout as a powerbroker, a king or queenmaker
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines – Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo shared an intimate dinner with Uniteam standard-bearer Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in her Quezon City residence for her 75th birthday on April 5.
A source close to the former President passed on a photo of the dinner, showing Marcos, the son of the late dictator and his namesake, flanked by business tycoons Lance Gokongwei and Frederick Go.
Another source passed on some photos posted by Surigao 1st district representative Butch Pichay, showing Teresita Sy-Coson, co-chairman of SM Investments, seated beside the former President.
Gokongwei is listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the country’s few billionaires. The only son of the late John Gokongwei Jr. is chief executive of JG Summit, the conglomerate founded by his father, and one of the country’s largest with interests in airlines, telecom, banking, food, power and property.
Go, John’s nephew, is the president and chief executive officer of Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC).
The source said Arroyo personally arranged the meeting.
“Sign of the times?”, the source wrote as introduction to the photo taken by the Marcos media bureau.
Lance’s sister, Robina Gokongwei-Pe, president of Robinsons Retail Holdings Incorporated, endorsed senator Ping Lacson when he and running mate, fellow senator Tito Sotto, announced plans to bid for a national office in September 2021.
Gokongwei-Pe, a survivor of a 1981 kidnapping, described Lacson as the “white knight” who rescued her, and said she hoped he could save more Filipinos.
The photos publicly posted on Pichay’s Facebook page also show Marcos’ cousin, Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, and former Cabinet officials of Arroyo present, including her Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, her Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff and current National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and former Cabinet Secretary and now Bohol Governor Art Yap.
Dinners don’t automatically mean new alignments. But the presence of the three tycoons speaks of the former president’s clout, something she has used in forming the Uniteam and getting backing for them.
Arroyo was instrumental in Sara Duterte’s decision to withdraw as a reelectionist mayor of Davao City, after which she joined Lakas-CMD and filed as a vice presidential candidate.
When majority of Negros Occidental mayors came together for a public endorsement of Marcos Jr., several said they personally received calls from Arroyo, now running unopposed for her old Pampanga 2nd district congress seat. Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel is a Negrense.
Arroyo officially endorsed the presidential and vice presidential tandem of Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte the morning of her birthday, following a big rally in Lubao, Pampanga.
She forecast a landslide victory for the Uniteam tandem in her home province of Pampanga, the 10th most vote-rich province with 1.58 million voters.
The former president also stressed that Marcos Jr. would need Duterte as his vice president. – Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.