NUP: Roxas endorsement mere ‘formality’

Bea Cupin
NUP: Roxas endorsement mere ‘formality’
Save for a few members, the National Unity Party is set to stay in the broad Liberal Party-led coalition come 2016

MANILA, Philippines – At least one political party will stay allied with the ruling Liberal Party (LP) and is on track to endorse the administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II for 2016.

On Wednesday, August 16, Roxas met with members of the National Unity Party (NUP), which is a part of a broad coalition led by the LP. Other members include the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

Unlike the NP and the NPC, the NUP is poised to stay united behind a common candidate: Roxas.

“As far as I am concerned, ang reading ko parang formality na lang para sa akin iyan (as I read it, endorsing Roxas is a mere formality). Because you interview other members and they are openly saying that they are for Sec Mar,” NUP vice president for external affairs Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr told reporters.

It will “only be a matter of time” before the party, which was formed in 2010, will formally endorse Roxas, said Barzaga.

“Yes of course,” was Roxas’ answer when asked by reporters if he had formally asked for the NUP’s support come 2016.

Unlike the NUP, however, the NPC and the NP seem to be heading towards a different path. Members from the two parties are set to support different candidates come 2016: Roxas, opposition leader Vice President Jejomar Binay, survey front-runner Senator Grace Poe, and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

NUP members who attended the Wednesday meeting:
  1. Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan
  2. Bataan Governor Albert Garcia
  3. Northern Samar Governor Jose Ong
  4. Agusan del Sur Governor Adolph Edward Plaza
  5. Misamis Occidental Governor Herminia Ramiro
  6. Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado
  7. Palawan Representative Frederick Abueg
  8. Palawan Representative Franz Joseph Alvarez
  9. Manila Representative Maria Theresa Bonoan
  10. Masbate Representative Maria Vida Bravo
  11. Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro
  12. Negros Occidental Representative Leo Rafael Cueva
  13. Davao Oriental Representative Noel Dayanghirang Negross
  14. Occidential Representative Jeffrey Ferrer Cavite Representative Luis Ferrer, IV
  15. Bataan Representative Enrique Garcia
  16. Valenzuela Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo
  17. Balanga City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia
  18. Ozamis City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, Sr.
  19. San Jose del Monte City Mayor Reynaldo San Pedro
  20. Tagbilaran City John Geesnell Yap
  21. Bulakan Mayor Patrick Meneses
  22. COOP-NATCCO Representative Anthony Bravo
  23. A-Teacher Representative Juliet Cortuna
  24. AGAP Representative Rico Geron
  25. Butil Representative Agapito Guanlao
  26. ABS Representative Catalina Leonen-Pizarro
  27. Angkla Representative Jesulito Manalo
  28. 1-CARE Representative Michael Angelo Rivera

The Wednesday dinner meeting at a restaurant in Cubao was set upon the request of the NUP, following Roxas’ earlier meeting with several members of the NPC.

Barzaga explained it’s also a different scenario for the NUP. Unlike NPC and NP, theirs is a party with no national candidates. They are unlikely to field bets for the Senate come 2016 and are composed primarily of district representatives, party-list representatives, governors, and city and municipal mayors.

At least 24 district representatives, 9 party list representatives, 4 city mayors, 1 municipal mayor, and 6 governors were present during the meeting with Roxas. 

The 6 governors are from the provinces of Benguet, Bataan, Northern Samar, Agusan del Sur, Misamis Occidental, and Bulacan.

Nothing to do with Arroyo

NUP was formed in 2010 as a breakaway group from Lakas, with many of its members former loyalist of former president and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Barzaga was quick to disassociate NUP from Arroyo, pointing out that the former president is allied with “Lakas, the group of [Leyte Representative] Martin Romualdez.”

“No more. This was a party which was organized way back in 2010, at the start of the Aquino presidency,” said Barzaga when asked about their ties to Lakas and Arroyo. 

Also at the meeting were LP president and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, LP stalwart Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Quezon City Representatives Jorge Banal and Jose Christopher Belmonte, both members of the LP.   

Local bets a problem

Barzaga was quick to admit, however, that there are some provinces ruled by NUP members that have already expressed support for other candidates.

Party chairman Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, for instance, is already allied with Binay. “He is not active [in the party],” said Barzaga of Garcia, from a well-entrenched political family in the vote-rich Cebu.

Quezon Governor David Suarez has also pledged support for Binay. “This is one reality which we have to accept,” added Barzaga.

Two other NUP governors were also not present during the dinner meeting: Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon and Southern Leyte Representative Roger Mercado. 

Marañon has already expressed his plans to support Roxas, who traces his roots to Bago City, Negros Occidental, come 2016. 

The NUP highlighted the Aquino government’s treatment of local government units and their anti-poverty measures as among the key reasons why the party will remain allied with the administration come 2016.

Barzaga did admit, however, that a “free zone” – a situation in which party members are free to pick their presidential bets – is possible at the local level. He did not discount the possibility that some NUP bets will go against LP candidates in local government.

“There will be problems in the local level. NUP members going against LP in the local level. Those are the problems that we will have to discuss in the future,” he said.

Abaya admitted as much.

“With NUP, clearly one of our long term partners in this coalition is clearly engaged. The only ruffles na kailangan namin tugunan (that we need to address) is the local concerns. We’ve gone through exercise in the local elections and we ended up cordially agreeing to our positions,” he told reporters.

But as is always the case in Philippines politics, Barzaga did not rule out “surprises” as the filing for candidacies in October draws nearer.

Ang free zone sa tingin namin will be at the local level. Pero alam mo naman ang pulitika, iba ngayon, posible na magbago bukas. Siguro antayin muna natin ang deadline ng filing. Ang sabi ko nga (When it comes to politics… you can say something now and change your tune tomorrow. It’s best we wait for the deadline of the filing of candidates. Like I said, expect surprises),” he said. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.