RUSSKIY ISLAND, Vladivostok—President Benigno Aquino gave a sneak peek at who’s in and who’s out of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) coalition slate for next year’s senatorial elections but was curiously mum about the inclusion of his friend, reelectionist Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
During a briefing here Saturday night where he attended the 20th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, reporters rattled off possible candidates in the administration slate and the President gamely made comments on whether they were a “definite” or a “maybe.”
But when asked about Escudero, who has been either No. 1 or No. 2 in senatorial surveys, the President was quick to reply: “Next question.”
Escudero, who ditched his presidential bid in 2010 and supported a “Noy-Bi” (Noynoy-Binay) ticket, could not be reached for comment.
He is currently being wooed by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), the coalition that joins Vice President Jejomar Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and ousted President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), possibly as a guest candidate.
LP leader and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, however, that Senators Escudero and Loren Legarda were assured of slots in the LP’s senatorial slate.
“Certainly, they are in the short list and both are shoo-ins should they finally decide to join the administration coalition,” Abad said in a phone interview.
Among those President Aquino said had a lock on the slate were Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara. At least one seat has been reserved for the Biazons, with the LP undecided whether to field the son (Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon) or the father (former senator and new Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon).
Those whose spots had yet to be confirmed were the President’s cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva; Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, and former Senator Jamby Madrigal.
“I think we’ve already named 10 of the 14 candidates vying for 12 seats. I don’t think those who were not mentioned now but would be included in the final list should feel bad,” said the President.
Mr. Aquino also declined to say how the slate would be divided among coalition partners LP, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Nacionalista Party (NP), which will likely field former Las Piñas Representative Cynthia Villar, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Senator Alan Cayetano.
The President said the final list would depend on the results of senatorial surveys and on those who actually file certificates of their candidacy in October.
Meanwhile, official senatorial candidates of the LP-led alliance may be adopted by other coalitions provided they do not join their campaign sorties, according to members of the ruling party.
“It would be improper for them to endorse their rivals,” said House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II.