MANILA, Philippines – With two top political endorsers, is the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada the team to beat?
Binay and Estrada had different reactions to a Pulse Asia survey showing that they were the first and third top political endorsers for the 2013 senatorial elections, respectively. President Benigno Aquino III came in second.
In an interview during a testimonial dinner for Estrada in Taguig on Monday, April 16, Binay shrugged off the survey. The Vice President also sought to douse speculation of an inevitable political rift with Aquino over the 2013 and 2016 polls.
“Matagal pa naman ang eleksyon eh. Tingnan muna natin kung iyon na nga ang mangyayari pero alam mo kasi kung ako ang ico-compare kay Pangulo, sabi ko ‘di naman ‘yun apple to apple eh. Pangulo naman siya, ako naman ay Vice President.” (The elections are still far away. Let’s see first what will happen but you know, if I will be compared with the President, it’s not apple to apple. He’s the President and I’m the Vice President.)
Binay added, “That’s the result of the survey so we just leave it as it is.” Watch the interview here:
While Binay downplayed the survey results, Estrada was more outspoken.
“That’s good for the alliance so we are not wrong in aligning with the [PDP-Laban], the party of the Vice President, so we can join forces and make it a reality,” Estrada told reporters.
Estrada said, “Our alignment is strong because he won and I placed second [in the 2010 elections].” Estrada then ran for president with Binay as running mate.
The survey conducted from February 26 to March 9, 2012 showed that 73% of respondents said they will vote for senatorial candidates endorsed by Binay while 66% will choose the senatorial bets of Aquino.
Estrada, Binay’s ally and coalition partner, is the third top endorser, with 51% saying they will vote for candidates he endorses. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can only muster 7% to vote for her candidates.
Binay and Estrada formed the UNA for the 2013 polls. UNA is a coalition between Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Binay’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Estrada explained, “It’s an alliance between the two parties. I play a big role there, an important role. I’m the president of my party and he’s the [chairman] of the PDP so we have to be together in putting up a strong force for our candidates.”
Watch Estrada respond to questions about being Binay’s running mate in 2016 here:
During the dinner in his honor, Estrada introduced Binay as “the future president” and “our next president.”
Estrada made the announcement as he was seated right beside Aquino’s political adviser, Secretary Ronald Llamas.
UNA is expected to go up against the ruling Liberal Party of Aquino. (Read: Binay coalition not a threat – LP)
Llamas’s ‘tent coalition’
In an interview with Rappler, Llamas said he is neither worried nor surprised that Binay’s endorsement is seen to be stronger than the President’s.
“Historically, it’s always the Vice President who is higher [in surveys] than the President. That’s also what happened with [former Vice President] Noli de Castro because the President is the one on the hotseat.”
Llamas said despite maneuverings and intrigues, an LP coalition with UNA may still happen.
“I think it’s not yet settled if there will be a big tent coalition but I think we’re still optimistic that the possibility is there in spite of all the pronouncements.”
Earlier that day, PDP-Laban President Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also expressed hope of a coalition, even inviting the LP to join UNA.
Asked about Pimentel’s invitation, Binay did not close the door on LP but described a coalition as “impossible.”
“Well as they say in politics, the impossible happens so let’s just see what is the endgame, what will really happen,” said Binay.
A coalition between the LP and PDP-Laban has seemed unlikely because of the rivalry between Binay and LP President Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas.
Binay pulled off a come-from-behind victory against Roxas in 2010. The two were expected to battle it out again for the presidency in 2016 but Roxas said he has no plans of running again. (Read: Mar not running? Binay doubts it)
Erap chides Maceda
Estrada also echoed Binay’s denial of the comment from their ally, former Sen Ernesto Maceda, that Binay will benefit from an acquittal of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Maceda said Corona’s acquittal will weaken Aquino and strengthen the opposition candidate in 2016, which he said will likely be Binay.
Estrada reacted, “That’s not true. I don’t think so. I believe the Vice President is not interfering in that impeachment trial. Maybe that’s only the political analysis of some people.”
Llamas said he takes Binay and Estrada’s word for it and will no longer interpret their statements.
Estrada has praised Aquino for pushing for Corona’s impeachment, saying it sends a message that his administration is serious in fighting corruption.
Binay, though, is neither for nor against the impeachment and calls it “democracy in action.” He said that it is up to the Senate to decide whether the evidence against Corona is sufficient.
In the open forum during the dinner, Estrada took the opportunity to rib Maceda for causing a stir.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not ready for any controversial questions. [For] anything controversial, we have Sen Maceda here to answer it.” –Rappler.com