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LP mixed on letting Aquino widen search for standard bearer beyond party

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Interior Secretary Mar Roxas INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The ruling Liberal Party is divided on President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to expand the search for a standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential election to cover allies who are not members of the party, including Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Some party members, however, are committed to accept and support Mr. Aquino’s chosen candidate.

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“We will respect the [President’s decision] if he will look beyond LP [members] to satisfy his requirements. We should not feel bad that he wants more breadth and depth on the decision. Anyway, the LP has a deep bench,” Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said on Thursday.

“We will respect and support whoever is the choice of P-Noy as our party’s standard-bearer,” said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, the LP spokesperson. “Although I am hopeful that the coalition will be preserved, I am hoping that the standard-bearer will come from our dominant political party. But there is a selection process.”

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Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, head of the LP’s Visayas bloc, said: “As an LP member, I would like an LP to be the anointed of the President. But I cannot guess [who the President’s choice will be].”

But for Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya, acting president of the party, the most qualified to carry on President Aquino’s reform is Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

“If you ask me, personally, my opinion is Secretary Mar Roxas is the most qualified to continue the reforms of the President,” Abaya told reporters on Thursday.

In interview with reporters in Singapore on Wednesday, President Aquino said he had abandoned plans to seek a second term and that the LP had reached the “consensus-building stage” in selecting a presidential candidate in 2016.

He did not say who his preferred candidate was, although Roxas is touted to become the anointed one.

Roxas gave way to Mr. Aquino in the 2010 presidential election and ran for vice president. But he lost to Binay, who now leads prospective presidential candidates in 2015 in early voter-preference polls.

Those polls indicate that Roxas cannot win a presidential election, which may be the reason why Mr. Aquino is considering looking outside the party.

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But Senate President Franklin Drilon said the administration candidate must be a member of the ruling party.

“We have enough talents in the Liberal Party. I would prefer an LP member to be the standard-bearer in 2016,” Drilon said yesterday in a radio interview.

In his interview with journalists in Singapore, Mr. Aquino was evasive when asked if Binay, who was reportedly endorsed by the President’s sisters, was being considered in the selection of a presidential candidate.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, an LP member, expressed doubt that the President would consider members of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), as the government has filed corruption charges against its leaders.

Binay is the head of UNA. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada are UNA members, but they are facing plunder and graft charges over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

“The LP will be undergoing a selection process and the main criteria shall be honesty, integrity and the capability to pursue [the administration’s reforms] and Secretary Mar Roxas has the edge,” Erice said.

Abaya said the fielding of a candidate from the LP’s future coalition partners would have to be debated by the ruling party.

“Are there candidates from other parties who will be in a better position to continue the reforms of the President? That will be the debate,” Abaya said.

He added: “I myself would think it will be best handled by a candidate from the LP. For me, my personal opinion is Secretary Roxas. We’ve not undergone the process. There will be a time for that.”

Castelo said the President’s choice should not be limited to the current leaders in presidential polls — Binay and Roxas — but also other names who could spark voter interest in the run-up to the election.

He cited Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo among those deserving to be considered in the selection of a presidential candidate.

Castelo named independent Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero and former Sen. Manuel Villar and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party.

“Roxas has the edge, as he has become the sentimental choice among LP members. But it would be better to open the process to avoid the LP being tagged as an elitist political party,” Castelo said.

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TAGS: 2016 presidential elections, Alan Peter Cayetano, Ben Evardone, Benigno Aquino III, Feliciano Belmonte, Francis Escudero, Franklin Drilon, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay, Jerry Treñas, Jinggoy Estrada, Joseph E. A. Abaya, Juan Ponce Enrile, Leni Robredo, Liberal Party, Manuel Villar, Mar Roxas, News, Philippine president, Philippine vice president, Politics, presidential endorsement, United Nationalist Alliance, Winston Castelo
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