Santiago for MV Pangilinan; ad backs Poe, Ping Lacson
MANILA, Philippines–The season for political endorsements or for floating trial balloons appears to have begun.
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan was put forward as a presidential candidate in May 2016 by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in her speech at a Maynilad event on Wednesday.
Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as she dismissed a full-page newspaper ad urging Sen. Grace Poe and former Sen. Panfilo Lacson “to run in tandem for higher office” in 2016 as the “PR work of a team working for either camp.”
Reacting to the ad, Poe said she was grateful for the kind words given by the retired military and police officers in the full-page ad, while Lacson said he was thankful for the endorsement.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who wants to run for Vice President next year, said Lacson was very much qualified to run for President.
As for Poe, Trillanes said she would be a “very formidable opponent” should she run for Vice President.
“She’s very much qualified to run for any position and I believe the people’s sympathy is with her,” he said.
At the Maynilad Leadership Talk at the University of the Philippines Asian Center auditorium, guest speaker Santiago said: “What is it that you want for the Philippines in 2016? I want you to think about those. And I want you to think about Mr. Manny Pangilinan for President of the republic.”
Pangilinan is chair of Maynilad Water Services Inc., one of the two private water concessionaires in Metro Manila. He is also chair of Manila Electric Co., Philex Mining Corp. and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., whose media arm has shares in the Inquirer and other newspapers.
Asked in a press briefing later if she was endorsing Pangilinan, Santiago said, “Yes.”
“People like him should be in positions of leadership,” the senator said, adding that honesty, professional excellence and academic excellence were the qualifications that she was looking for in public officials.
Not a politician
After Santiago’s speech, Pangilinan told reporters: “I thank her for that but I’m not sure if she was totally serious. I respect her opinion. Her opinion counts a lot but I’m not a politician.”
Pangilinan was reported last year as a possible running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the first politician to declare that he would run for President in 2016.
But Binay said last month he was considering Pag-Ibig president and CEO Darlene Marie Berberabe his running mate.
Don’t count her out
Despite her expression of support for Pangilinan, Santiago said she wasn’t discounting the possibility of her own candidacy.
“Just because it is an option for me doesn’t mean I have to close all options. I’m just thinking aloud to the young people what kind of candidate I have in mind,” she said.
Asked to comment on the manifesto supporting a Poe-Lacson tandem after she endorsed Pangilinan, Santiago said, “As a veteran candidate, I can dismiss it offhand as part of PR work.”
“In practical terms, you cannot just think of any person to put together and spend money on a full-page ad. It’s too expensive to express a casual opinion,” she said.
Retired men in uniform
A “manifesto for democratic discernment, vigilance and transformation” appeared in the Inquirer on Wednesday that was signed by 35 retired police and military officials. Lacson is a former national police chief.
The manifesto cited the Mamasapano clash, the devastation of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), the pork barrel scam, and traffic and port congestion as recent crises that “jarred the senses of our people.”
“Faced with these crises and problems, our people need and deserve a national leadership that is competent, incorruptible and does not adhere to traditional politics,” it said.
The manifesto said the “strong-willed, disciplined and decisive service reputation” of Lacson and the “untarnished and compassionate brand of leadership” of Poe would be the best combination to serve the needs of the Filipino people.
Among the signatories to the manifesto were retired Col. Mariano Santiago (who led rebels’ takeover of state-owned broadcast stations in the Edsa People Power Revolution), Brig. Gen. Rodrigo B. Gutang (executive director of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers), Lt. Gen. Edilberto P. Adan (former executive director of the Philippine Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement), Col. Guillermo G. Cunanan (former general manager of Manila International Airport), Col. Victor Erfe (member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement) and Lt. Gen. Edgardo E. Batenga (former chair of the Philippine peace panel).
Santiago said the proponents did not present a strong case for Poe and Lacson. “It’s not like they have experience, some mileage in working together. It makes you suspicious right away.”
Poe to consider tandem
Poe assured the retired men in uniform that she would continue to do what she believed what was best for the country.
“I have high respect for Senator Lacson’s record as a public servant. And to be regarded and mentioned with him in the same breath is a privilege. This expression of support among other equally important factors will definitely be considered in whatever decision I will make in the future,” Poe said in a text message.
Poe, who was appointed by President Aquino as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board before she topped the 2013 senatorial election, has remained coy on her political plans despite her high ratings in surveys on possible presidential and vice presidential candidates.
As chair of the committee on public order, she has led the hearings on the Mamasapano debacle and on the problems besetting the Metro Rail Transit.
In a text message, Lacson said he was thankful for the endorsement made by his former comrades “who have been in the battlefields themselves at some point and been vanguards of law and order.”
Lacson a Poe admirer
Lacson said he was a Poe admirer. “As I follow the young political career of Sen. Grace Poe, I can’t help but admire her for not being a traditional politician. With an untainted name and reputation, her sobriety and professionalism in showing a commanding presence and leadership even in the presence of her veteran colleagues in the Senate is truly commendable,” he said.
Lacson, whose second-straight term as senator ended in 2013, recently resigned as Aquino’s adviser on rehabilitation and recovery.
He noted that voters had become more critical and discerning in the light of recent events, such as the Mamasapano encounter. He said the elections of President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2010 and Poe in 2013 “have shown us how political landscapes and fortunes can change overnight and this other guiding factor I will consider in firming up my decision,” Lacson said.
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