The Senate shakeup and Chiz’s long-time dream to become president

Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero had set his sights on the presidency way before he entered politics at age 28 in 1998 as congressman of Sorsogon’s first legislative district. He was open about it.

Is the recent Senate shakeup in pursuit of that unfulfilled dream? With May 2025 not too far away, most politicians have been positioning for the midterm elections and, eventually, for the 2028 balloting.

Escudero’s original timetable was for 2010, but he ended up helping his good friend, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who became a popular candidate following the death of his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, less than 10 months before the next presidential election.

Besides, he was short on campaign funds at that time, and he didn’t want to settle for the vice presidency. It was the “presidency or nothing” for him, something he used to say way back when he was in his first term. And that made other political leaders see him as arrogant.

I was covering the House of Representatives when Escudero and Aquino were congressmen. While Aquino never imagined he would be president, we used to tease Escudero if he would run in a national election with then-majority leader Mar Roxas. And his reply was always, “If he would agree to be the vice president.”

At 15, Escudero was already in the thick of a political campaign, helping his father, the late Salvador Escudero III, win a seat in the 1984 Batasan Pambansa. The older Escudero won and became the last agriculture minister of then-president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. before he was ousted in 1986.

Escudero had wanted to run for public office since he was studying law at the University of the Philippines, but his parents wanted him to finish his studies first. He passed the bar exams in 1994, went into practice and taught law subjects at the UP College of Law. Then, he obtained a master’s degree in International and Comparative Law at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., in 1998.

After fulfilling his parents’ wish, he asked again if he could run. His father was completing his third term as Sorsogon’s representative in Congress and no longer had reason to stop his son from pursuing his own dream. He served three terms in the House.

A first-term senator in 2010, Escudero did declare his intention to run for president. However, destiny intervened and changed the presidential game in 2010 in favor of Aquino III.

In 2016, Escudero again positioned himself for the presidency, but he ended up as the vice presidential running mate of Grace Poe, former chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. They both lost in the election. Escudero went back to the Senate to serve his unfinished term. Poe ran and won as senator in 2013.

Escudero was thrown into the limelight when he served in 2004 as spokesman for the United Opposition, particularly for then-presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., who was running against the then-incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After several years, he became a hot topic even in showbiz news because of his romantic relationship with actress and fashion model Heart Evangelista, whom he married in 2015, about three years after his first marriage was annulled.

Escudero is a fourth-generation politician. His great-grandfather, Salvador Sr., was governor of Sorsogon province. His grandfather was the mayor of Casiguran town in Sorsogon. His father returned to the Department of Agriculture as secretary during the Ramos administration, after completing his three terms as congressman. When Salvador Jr. died in 2012, Escudero’s mother, Evelina Guevara, ran and won in 2013 in the same congressional seat, which is now represented by Maria Bernadette, the Senate president’s younger sister.

During the first eight months of the current Congress, Escudero was among the top three absentees in the Senate, with five absences. That was when rumors about his and Evangelista’s separation flew thick. A few months after news about their reconciliation came out, Escudero underwent a physical transformation, appearing with microbladed eyebrows and wearing a stud earring and fashionable attire.

When he announced his vice presidential bid for the 2016 elections, Escudero advocated for a “government with a heart.” Will he last long enough in his new position as Senate president to show his brand of good governance? Will this serve him as a vehicle to reach his long-time dream to become the country’s president? Will Heart and his microbladed eyebrows and stud earring be his lucky charms?

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.