Aquino, LP members not giving up on Poe as Roxas’s VP
President Benigno Aquino III appears to have not given up on Sen. Grace Poe as running mate of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential election, and a close ally said the Chief Executive’s talks with her were likely to continue.
Poe remains the top choice of some Liberal Party (LP) members as Roxas’ vice presidential candidate but that window seems to be closing—and Poe herself remains as inscrutable as ever.
Perhaps for the first time in recent history, the administration coalition did not endorse a vice presidential candidate during its announcement on Friday of its standard-bearer.
In his speech endorsing Roxas, Mr. Aquino said he “interviewed” three people he believed “could continue” the daang matuwid (straight path).
He did not name them but obviously these were Roxas, Poe and Sen. Francis Escudero.
The President has had lengthy meetings with Poe and Escudero. Two weeks ago, he sat with them along with Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, an LP stalwart.
It was the first time all five met together. The meeting lasted almost six hours in Malacañang with no concrete outcome.
“The ideal situation is for those who still need experience to have the opportunity to have their skills and talents fully developed, and to understand all that is required of a leader,” Mr. Aquino said.
“In my view, these three people could form a truly formidable team,” he said. “At this point, success has eluded us in this endeavor … It seems like we have similar goals but our means of achieving those goals are not exactly attuned to one another.”
Poe and Escudero appear set to seek the presidency and vice presidency, respectively, as a tandem but neither has categorically said so.
Abad told reporters the President’s endorsement of Roxas as the administration standard-bearer “does not stop the conversations from proceeding.”
“I am sure (the) talks continue,” he said.
Abad said they have had yet to decide who should be Roxas’ running mate, adding it would be up to the President and Roxas to decide it.
“I don’t want to name names. I don’t want to miss out on anyone. That is going to be decided soon,” Abad said.
Earlier, Abad told the Inquirer it was unlikely for Roxas to ask Poe to be his Vice President out of respect for her, considering that she had been rating high in presidential surveys.
Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, widow of the late LP stalwart Jesse Robredo, was among those on the short list of administration vice presidentiables.
Robredo was at the proclamation of Roxas. She told reporters neither Mr. Aquino nor Roxas had spoken to her on being the latter’s running mate.
Poe remains the top choice of LP members as Roxas’ running mate.
“At this point, it’s no longer the President who should choose. It’s now Mar,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., said on the sidelines of an LP meeting at Club Filipino, where Mr. Aquino declared Roxas as his chosen successor.
“Of course, I want Mar-Grace. But that’s not my call,” the LP vice chair told reporters. “A lot of people are in the running. Many of them have also served the country well. I just say Grace is most ideal but she’s not the only one.”
The Speaker said he would stay loyal to the party and support its standard-bearer, even if Poe eventually decided to run for President.
Sen. Ralph Recto said Poe, a freshman senator who topped the latest presidential preference surveys, “will be a very strong running mate of Mar.”
But Recto added he thought convincing Poe to run as Roxas’ Vice President might prove difficult. “I was looking at the numbers last night. She has a chance to be President also. She is still the lady to beat,” he said.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, LP chair in Bicol, said he also preferred Poe.
“I am really for Grace (as Roxas’ running mate) but it now appears unlikely, and she does not want it,” he said.
If Poe does not accept the invitation from the LP, “I am for Robredo,” Salceda said, referring to Leni Robredo.
Robredo, however, repeated her reluctance to run for Vice President, citing her lack of experience.
“My options are open up to now but it has nothing to do with being VP,” she told reporters. She is thinking of seeking reelection or running for senator.
LP’s chair for political affairs, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, said the “consensus” among party members was still a Roxas-Poe ticket.
“We are not giving up. We believe that possibility is still open,” Erice said.
Wishing Roxas well
Asked if the LP was already preparing for Poe’s announcement to run for President, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said: “We’re preparing for her to accept our invitation.”
“If she does not run, hopefully, Chiz will accept,” he said.
Among the names floated as possible running mate of Roxas are Senators Poe, Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, Robredo and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto.
As Mr. Aquino chose his preferred successor on Friday, Poe said she was and would always be on the same daang matuwid as the President, and wished Roxas well as the administration candidate.
“I assure President Aquino that I will continue to walk the daang matuwid because I believe it will be made more meaningful if more people continue the journey, wherever they may be and in whatever role they play,” Poe said.
Based on issues
Poe also spoke of her wish for a campaign focused on issues that would continue the administration’s reforms.
“I am hopeful the 2016 election campaign would be (on) issues and proposed programs of government that would build on what President Aquino has started. This way, the Filipino people can arrive at a clear choice on Election Day,” she added.
Poe has said she would be “comfortable” with Escudero, with whom she has discussed the possibility of running in the elections.
The two senators, who do not belong to any political party, have yet to declare their plans for 2016.
The President had met with Poe five times and twice with Escudero. Roxas was in one of the meetings where Poe and Escudero were both present. But there was no apparent agreement reached for Poe to partner with Roxas.
In his speech on Friday, Aquino alluded to his meeting with people who he thinks are with him on his administration’s straight path, but said he has not succeeded in getting the three to team up. They have the same goals, but different ways of getting there, he said.
Poe was glad the President recognized her as an ally.
“I thank President Aquino for considering me among those who can continue his vision for daang matuwid. I see this as an acknowledgement of my efforts in our shared desire to improve the lives of all Filipinos,” she said.
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