MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Wednesday, July 15, confirmed reports that President Benigno Aquino III will be meeting him and senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero in the evening, possibly to work out a tandem for the 2016 elections.
“Una, ang pangulo ang nag-imbita. Palagay ko ay may pakay siya (It’s the President who invited us over. I suppose he has a goal in mind),” Roxas told reporters on the sidelines of a disaster preparedness forum in Malabon City.
The talks will take place as factions are forming within the ruling Liberal Party (LP) between those supporting Roxas to be the standard-bearer and those pushing for the President to choose Poe.
But should talks between high-ranking LP officials and the two “independent” senators falter, will Roxas be willing to step aside?
“Malinaw ang track record natin na may kakayahan tayo na magsakripisyo, na magparaya alang-alang sa mas malaking objective na pagsulong ng Daang Matuwid,” he said.
(Our track record is clear: we are capable of sacrificing, of giving way for the sake of the bigger objective, which is to continue the Daang Matuwid.)
Roxas was supposed to run for president in 2010 but slid down at the last minute to make way for Aquino, whose victory was boosted by the death of his mother, EDSA Revolution icon and former President Corazon Aquino. Roxas ran for vice president, but lost to Jejomar Binay, now the standard-bearer of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
Series of talks
Although he has yet to declare his plans for 2016, Roxas is LP’s presumptive standard-bearer.
Roxas did not say the President’s purpose for calling the meeting but said he was interested in joining the meeting in the interest of continuing the current administration’s programs.
“Interesado akong makibahagi dahil napakahalaga po nitong Daang Matuwid na ito at lahat ng kilos ay dapat nating gawin para nga mabuo lahat ng puwersa na nais magpatuloy ng Daang Matuwid na ito,” he said. (I’m interested in joining because the Daang Matuwid is important and we need to do everything we can to rally together everyone who wants Daang Matuwid to continue.)
“Daang Matuwid” is the Aquino administration’s tagline for its anti-corruption, transparency, and good governance platform.
It is believed that Aquino is wooing Poe, who leads early presidential surveys, to be Roxas’ running mate for the coming elections. Roxas, in contrast, is only the 3rd or 4th choice for president according to recent nationwide surveys.
The dinner meeting is the latest in a series of talks the President has initiated with key political players in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections.
Aquino has met with Poe at least twice in the past few months – the first, with Roxas; the second, with Escudero, Poe’s political and personal ally. (READ: Grace Poe-Chiz to announce tandem on August 20?)
But Poe has hinted at an unwillingness to be Roxas’ running mate in 2016. She had also shot down the possibility of going around the country with Roxas because no clear plans were made after the President floated the idea.
Cracks in the party?
Another LP stalwart, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, earlier said he is open to a collaboration between the party, Poe, and Chiz. The two senators ran as independents in 2013 but campaigned with the ruling party.
“Ang interes ko ay ang patuloy na pagsulong ng Daang Matuwid, ng mga programa na sinimulan ng Pangulo na tinrabaho namin (My interests lie in the continuation of Daang Matuwid, of the programs under the President that we worked on),” said Roxas.
But for a legislator allied with the LP, sliding down should not be an option for Roxas.
“Dapat ang para sa isang bansa na maunlad, dapat ang pinipili ‘yung pinaka-kalipikado. Ngayon kung magpaparaya para because of popularity, hindi uunlad ang bansa natin,” said Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice told reporters.
(For a country to be prosperous, the leaders need to be the most qualified. Now, if you slide down just because you’re unpopular, the country will not progress.)
Erice was, of course, referring to Roxas’ survey numbers, which have not been stellar. LP allies, however, hope that an endorsement from Aquino will boost those numbers soon enough.
The congressman also dismissed any concerns of factions within the ruling party, saying those were mere “intrigues.”
Who will the President pick as his anointed? Erice said the announcement should be made in “a matter of days” or “in about 2 or 3 weeks.” The President earlier said he will be making the announcement after his last State of the Nation Address in late July.
But Erice said he was confident the President would ultimately pick Roxas. “Si Pangulo naman ay laging pinipili ang laging kalipikado (The President will always pick the most qualified).” – Rappler.com