Will Mar Roxas seek Erap, INC support for 2016?

Bea Cupin
Will Mar Roxas seek Erap, INC support for 2016?
The LP standard-bearer says he wants ‘everybody’s support’ but stresses he draws the line when an endorsement comes with a price

MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II said he “wants everybody’s support” in the 2016 elections but draws the line if that endorsement comes with a condition.

During an October 29 interview on Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant series, Roxas said he was open to receiving the support of the popular Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada but was quick to say that should this endorsement come with a price, it’s a no-go.

Estrada, who was elected president in 1998, is among the major power players in Philippines politics – even if he was ousted barely two years into his presidency and later convicted of plunder.

Estrada ran for president again in 2010 but lost to President Benigno Aquino III. He placed 2nd in a field of 10 presidential candidates, but his vice-presidential bet then, Jejomar Binay, beat Roxas in the race.

Estrada has remained coy about his choice for 2016 – even keeping his distance from Binay, his 2010 running mate. He even floated the idea of running for president himself should Senator Grace Poe and Binay find themselves disqualified over citizenship and corruption issues, respectively.  

Deal for Jinggoy?

Several sources close to the former-president-turned-Manila-mayor say that the fate of his son, detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada, will be a key factor in whoever he chooses to endorse.

The younger Estrada is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame over his alleged involvement in the controversial “pork barrel scam.” The senator has been at Camp Crame since June 2014.

While he wants “everybody’s support,” Roxas said “I don’t give up quid pro quo, there’s a judicial process in place and that’s all to… that’s what ought to take its course.”

Roxas was once part of Estrada’s Cabinet, as trade and industry secretary.

The case against the younger Estrada before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has barely budged after more than a year. Most recently, another senator from the opposition, 91-year-old Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, was granted bail on “humanitarian grounds.”

ELECTIONS AND BEYOND. Mar Roxas talks about his plans should he get elected as president. Photo by Rappler

INC support

Roxas was also asked about another potentially controversial endorsement: that of the troubled Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), known for its bloc voting but also for its internal problems in the wake of allegations of abuse of power against its leaders.

“Why not? I mean I want to lead this country, I’d like to start the consensus building effort even before winning the position,” he said.

The INC is the country’s oldest local church and is considered an influential force in Philippine politics. The church and its leaders endorse local and national candidates.

In return, politicians are expected to give in to the INC’s wishes, particularly when it comes to key positions in government, particulary in the judiciary and the police.

Both Aquino and Roxas were endorsed by the INC during the 2010 elections.

Under the Aquino administration, however, the INC’s wishes have not always been granted. Aquino went against the church’s wishes when he pushed for the impeachment for former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona early in his term.

Roxas was among the key personalities who worked behind-the-scenes to ensure that Corona, an appointee of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would be sacked by the Senate. The Iglesia backed Corona throughout the trial, asking select senators, who acted as judges, to acquit him. In the end, 20 senators voted to convict Corona and only 3 acquitted him: the late Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

But the President has also appointed officials who have the backing of the influential church, prompting resignations from other officials. (READ: Customs’ Sevilla: Political nominees last straw and INSIDE STORY: The real reason behind Petilla’s resignation)

National elections aside, the INC has problems of its own to solve. Its leadership is accused of abducting several ministers over a corruption scandal in the church.

Recently, the INC called on its members to protest the government’s alleged overreach into its internal matters, sending thousands on the streets of EDSA. (READ: INSIDE STORY: The end of the Iglesia ni Cristo protest)

The INC eventually backed down, however, after negotiations with the government. – 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.