Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, March 05, 2007

Olongapo pols fight for piece of Chiz

By Arlyn dela Cruz - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- They all wanted a piece of “Chiz.”

Genuine Opposition senatorial candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero was literally caught in the middle of a “tug-of-war” between rival politicians in Olongapo City during a press conference arranged for the GO candidate.

The incident which happened on Thursday in full view of local media involved incumbent Olongapo City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon and Vice Mayor Rolen Paulino who is running against the former in the May elections.

There were two versions of the story. One said it really happened while the other said it was all “drama” and that no such thing happened.

But a source who was with Escudero’s party said the young senatorial candidate was stunned. “Chiz was speechless,” the source said.

One account of what happened came from a cameraman based in Olongapo who said: “The mayor pushed Rolen away from Chiz.”

The cameraman was among those who attended the press conference arranged by local media consultant Armin Santos at Wimpy’s Restaurant on Rizal Avenue near the Olongapo City Hall.

“I didn’t exactly see it for my attention was somewhere else but a local media man whispered to me that “hinawi” (he shoved) that was the word used, ni mayor si Rolen.”

Santos said he himself was taken aback. “I was surprised at the turn of events because in the first place I didn’t expect the mayor to be there.”

There was even confusion as to who really had arranged the press conference for the popular opposition candidate.

Another source said it was not Santos but Mike Pusing who had arranged the press conference.

Eggai Geniza, a local broadcaster who interviewed Escudero for his morning show over radio station dwHL, said, “Rolen, according to several eyewitness accounts, was shoved by the mayor who suddenly entered the restaurant where the press conference for Escudero was supposed to be held.”

In a phone interview, Paulino confirmed that he was indeed shoved. “It seemed that my lungs would collapse by the sheer force of it.”

Asked how he reacted, Paulino said he left the restaurant and restrained himself from reacting physically in deference to Escudero who is a party mate in the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

“Mas nakakahiya kay Chiz kung para kaming batang nagpang-abot doon kaya lumabas na lang ako at pinabayaan na lang si mayor na masolo si Chiz (It would be a shame if we would act like children so I just went out and gave way to the mayor).”

Paulino, a former protégé of the Gordons, said the rest of the local media who witnessed the incident walked out with him, leaving behind only the crew of local station STV-6 and Pusing’s group.

But Vic Vizcocho Jr., public and media information chief for City Hall, denied the incident.

From Wimpy’s Restaurant, Gordon and Escudero held a motorcade up to Gordon College and then parted ways.

Escudero went on to Mansion Restaurant where Paulino was waiting and there faced members of the media who had earlier walked out.

Escudero declined to comment on the incident.


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