Guess who’s coming to dinner at the Palace
President Aquino will have a casual dinner with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Francis Escudero either Wednesday night or any day this week, according to a Palace source.
This is the first time Aquino will sit down with all three national figures who are expected to run in the 2016 elections for President and Vice President.
While the dinner is casual, it is also crucial in Aquino’s choice of his successor.
The three—together—would make a formidable team on the side of Aquino in 2016, but then, as the Palace source noted, there are only two top slots for the highest positions in the land. Therefore, someone has to give way.
Aquino had already met with Poe and Escudero at the Palace in separate instances, and then together, also at the Palace.
Aquino is squeezing the dinner into his tight schedule. The past few weeks, his focus has been the writing of his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Poe has been topping the polls on potential presidential candidates. Her foremost ally, Escudero, is believed to be eyeing the vice presidency.
Roxas is expected to be named the standard-bearer of the President’s party, the Liberal Party. (Poe ran as independent in the 2013 senatorial elections. Escudero has been an independent since 2009.)
The presidency or nothing
There are quarters who believe that a Roxas-Poe—or Poe-Roxas—tandem is the only team-up that stands a good chance to rival the presidential candidacy of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
For Roxas, the Inquirer has learned, it is the presidency or nothing.
But Poe’s solid alliance with Escudero remains evident—a political bonding forged when Poe’s father, the late king of Philippine movies, Fernando Poe Jr., ran for President in 2004. Escudero was strongly behind, if not at the helm, of that candidacy.
So Poe has openly cast her lot with Escudero.
Escudero backed Binay for the vice presidency in 2010. He was also known as the proponent of the “Noy-Bi” tandem—which, expectedly, riled Roxas.
Such is the political backdrop of crisscrossed alliances that will be the setting of this week’s dinner.
Aquino, the Palace source said, sees the selection of his successor as a “work in progress.”
In need of Solomonic wisdom, however, is how the Palace source called the task.
While Aquino has given himself a deadline for the announcement of his choice successor, and that is shortly after the 2015 Sona, the Inquirer learned that other “presidentiables” and “vice presidentiables” are asking for until September for Aquino to announce his endorsement.
The Palace source stressed that Aquino’s choice of successor would depend on which presidential candidate could assure the continuity of the form and substance of governance Aquino has been known for.
Continuity is the operative word—of the leader’s moral ascendancy that has helped in the fight against corruption, of foreign investors’ renewed confidence in the government and economy, of the infrastructures that have been started, and more important, of the country’s improved standing in the global financial institutions.
Time Magazine, in its June 15 issue, ran a Gallup poll on “Feeling Good about Finding Work,” where it “asked people in over 130 countries their opinions on local job opportunities. Here’s a sampling of how many said they were optimistic:
“66 percent Philippines, 51 percent US, 34 percent India …”
That a sense of optimism about their country has seeped into the psyche of the country’s youth, if the Gallup poll is to be believed, is good news to everyone, friends and foes alike, even to a President who has learned to steel himself against bad news.
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