Aquino admits meeting with Poe to discuss 2016 plans
TORONTO, Canada — President Benigno Aquino III has initiated talks with Sen. Grace Poe, an independent senator who has ranked high in the polls, on her possible role in next year’s presidential elections.
“The best to say it is we broached the idea of continuing the things that this administration has been trying to do. Now, in what capacity, that’s not yet finalized. And that can also include even campaigning,” he said when asked if Poe has been invited to run for President or Vice President.
The President, leader of the ruling Liberal Party, confirmed that he had a recent discussion with the lady senator.
“And I am not at liberty at this point in time to discuss all of the details of the same. But I have made commitments to her about when to announce it, what exactly to announce, et cetera,” he said.
The President admitted this much in a briefing with journalists aboard flight PR 001 en route from Ottawa to Toronto, the second stop of his three-day swing through Canada.
For some time now, his allies in the House of Representatives have been floating the idea that Poe should be fielded as the running mate of Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II. Poe has pooh-poohed this, saying nobody in LP has talked to her.
Poe, who topped the 2013 senatorial elections after her stint as movie censors chief, has consistently ranked high in poll surveys, behind front-running Vice President Jejomar Binay. So far, she has kept her cards close to her chest.
In the March 20-23 Social Weather Station survey on who should succeed Aquino, Poe posted 31 percent, closing in on Binay’s 36 percent. Roxas got 15 percent.
She also emerged as the top choice for Vice President, with 26 percent, in the same survey. And her response then was: “I am humbled by the results of the survey. I view it as a positive appreciation and validation by a good number of our countrymen of my work within and prior to the survey period.”
Poe ran as an independent in the 2013 mid-term elections but was adopted by the administration coalition.
In his whirlwind working visit to Chicago last Wednesday, the President exhorted the Filipino community to chase the “Filipino dream” of a better Philippines by picking the right leader, but endorsed no one.
Aquino indicated that he was trying to get a broad consensus from all members of the administration coalition on who will be their standard-bearer to push their “reform agenda” beyond 2016.
“Actually, it’s still ongoing,’’ he said of the selection process.
“Our coalition, we think, is very, very broad. You have the non-governmental organizations, the civil society organizations, various peoples’ organizations, established political parties who are part and parcel of this whole coalition that has been promoting the reform agenda. So, at the very least, I think we owe it to all partners to get their inputs in determining who should be the one to carry on the mantle of this country towards a goal,” he added.
In effect, the administration was casting a wider net beyond the ruling party in its search for the candidate, Aquino indicated.
“No, no, no. I said going back — the whole coalition,” he said when asked if the selection process was limited to LP.
Is he open to an independent candidate?
“Possible,” he said. “I get everybody’s inputs eh, not just the established political parties but also, again, the NGOs, the civil society organizations, peoples organizations, other support.”
What about a Roxas-Poe tandem?
“I’m open to all possibilities. Wait, let me correct that, almost all possibilities. Of course, there will be individuals whom I can’t consider but still can carry on the reform agenda,” he said.
Is Roxas still being considered among the possible candidates for President?
Mr. Aquino said: “The sense I get from our people is that I should listen to the voice of everyone in our organization, and that should be preserved.”
“If we’re able to preserve that, the push for the chosen candidate will be stronger. So, the No. 1 challenge is: Keep it intact and keep everybody focused. After all, what’s the lowest common denominator? That there is a reform agenda and this reform agenda has resulted in so many results and we want to continue the same,” he said.
At the same time, the President believed that his “endorsement value” has not diminished based on the attacks coming his way nearly a year before he steps down in June 2016.
“If we judge it by the attacks that are still the same if not even more vociferous from my critics, then I think even my critics will say that the endorsement value is still present,” he said.
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