Speaker: Poe unstoppable
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has to prove he can win next year’s presidential election or President Aquino has no choice but to endorse the “unstoppable” Sen. Grace Poe as the administration’s standard-bearer, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said on Sunday.
Roxas is the presumptive presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), but he is unpopular with voters, holding only third or fourth place in the latest voter preference polls.
Roxas is expecting President Aquino to endorse his candidacy, but Belmonte, vice chair of the LP, does not see that happening unless Roxas can show proof that he can win the election.
“All his (President Aquino’s) candidates, particularly Mar, are qualified and will give effective, honest government that will make a difference. But Mar should prove his winnability, by a dramatic increase in ratings,” Belmonte said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Aquino, who has said he will announce his chosen candidate after his last address to a joint session of Congress on July 27, has met twice with Poe, the new front-runner in the 2016 race for Malacañang.
But Poe, an independent who topped the 2013 senatorial election, says the President has not asked her to run either for President or Vice President.
And she says she has not decided whether to run for higher office next year.
Poe surged to the front in the presidential race in the voter preference poll taken by Pulse Asia from May 30 to June 5 and in a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) from June 5 to 8, overtaking Vice President Jejomar Binay, who held the lead for the past nine months.
Roxas is in third place, behind Binay, in the SWS poll and in fourth place, behind a local official—the tough-talking mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte—in the Pulse Asia survey.
Belmonte said Roxas needs to do better to win the presidential endorsement.
“Otherwise, Grace will be another P-Noy, unstoppable,” Belmonte said, referring to Aquino’s winning the 2010 presidential election by a landslide despite having less than a year to prepare for his campaign.
Belmonte spoke after meetings between the President and Roxas, Poe and her preferred running mate, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, last week.
Escudero said the President offered him nothing, explaining to reporters that their discussions centered on the formation of a slate of candidates that would be supported by the administration coalition.
Belmonte is a pillar of the coalition, being the leader of dozens of former members of the Lakas-CMD party whom he brought into the LP just months before the 2010 elections.
Belmonte bloc to pull out
A source who declined to be identified for lack of authority to speak on behalf of the Belmonte bloc said the Speaker and his followers would pull out of the LP if the administration picked a presidential candidate who had no chances of winning the 2016 election.
A member of the administration coalition, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, a deputy Speaker, said the President should make known his chosen candidate soon and “leave out who would be a hard sell, whether friend or foe.”
Wait for next polls
Aggabao is a leader of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), a political party founded by the President’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.
“I think the President faces a solemn charge in choosing who should succeed him. After his term, the long and difficult work still lies ahead and the next President has a rigorous task to carry out. P-Noy has a duty to fulfill that solemn charge,” Aggabao said in a text message.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice of the LP said Belmonte should wait and he would see a surge in Roxas’ ratings in the next two voter preference polls.
“We expect to post a good survey by January next year, but the upward trend will be reflected by September,” Erice predicted.
‘Not dictated by surveys’
“But we should not be dictated to by surveys in the matter of choosing our candidates. Instead we should use the surveys as a tool to run the campaign. I am confident that with the accomplishments of the Aquino administration coupled with the qualities of [Secretary Roxas] that will be highlighted in the campaign and there is no other output but victory in 2016,” he said.
‘Nothing definite yet’
In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there was “nothing definite yet” about administration-backed candidates for 2016.
Lacierda told Palace reporters that a ticket like Roxas-Poe or Poe-Escudero had not yet been decided.
“It’s all being discussed right now. [But it’s] not the proper time [to talk about] these matters,” he said.
“It’s exciting to speculate and to think, but there’s nothing definite yet,” he said.–With a report from Jerry E. Esplanada
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