ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
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Resignation, defections hit Philippines' ruling coalition
Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo's ruling coalition appeared to be in disarray on Thursday with just over a month before national elections to choose a new president, reported AFP.
Arroyo's chosen presidential candidate, Gilberto Teodoro, this week resigned as chairman of her Lakas Kampi CMD coalition, while many other senior leaders defected to other parties.
"Gilbert Teodoro's resignation is a shock to me and (came) without any consultation from us... the local troops are now confused over this event," said House Speaker and top coalition member Prospero Nograles.
Nograles said in a statement sent to AFP on Thursday that even he, a former vice chairman of the party, did not know in advance of Teodoro's resignation.
"I am now confused and seem to be out of the loop," he said.
Teodoro announced on Tuesday that he had resigned as chairman of Lakas Kampi CMD. His running mate, Edu Manzano, resigned as vice chairman.
Teodoro's resignation came after several top Lakas Kampi CMD members defected to support the candidacy of a main rival, Senator Manny Villar, candidate of the Nacionalista Party.
The defection of key party members to Villar's camp has fanned speculation that Arroyo and her allies have abandoned Teodoro.
Claims that Teodoro quit to protest at a lack of support from Arroyo dominated the Philippine media on Thursday.
However, Teodoro's office said in a statement he resigned as chairman to have more time to devote to his presidential campaign.
Villar has also consistently denied any links to Arroyo, whose popularity ratings are so low that her endorsement is seen as costing a candidate votes.
The Nacionalista Party meanwhile denied reports that Arroyo and her family were working out a deal to covertly support Villar for the presidency.
"There is no such deal in the works. We have nothing to do with the... first family. We have not sought their support nor asked for any favour regarding this election," a party statement said.
Three governors in the southern Philippines, including a provincial coalition chairman, announced in recent days they were switching their support to Villar.
Former governor Luis "Chavit" Singson -- a key Arroyo ally and political kingpin in the northern Philippines -- also said he was switching from Teodoro to Villar.
The Nacionalista Party explained these defections, saying "local officials are now scrambling to try to side with the perceived winner of these elections."
Surveys have shown that Teodoro lags a distant fourth in the race for the presidency.
Villar is second, just behind Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, the son of recently deceased democracy heroine Corazon Aquino.