MANILA, Philippines – As far as President Benigno Aquino III is concerned, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II is still “top of the list” as the ruling Liberal Party’s standard-bearer for 2016, despite the latter’s low ranking in early presidential surveys.
“I was surprised to read in certain publications that it's as if he is not being considered to be the standard bearer of our coalition,” Aquino told reporters in a chance interview on Monday, May 25.
“He has demonstrated quite a wide range of expertise in so many different assignments. He is a valuable member of the Cabinet. He has been a staunch leader of the party even during the days that we [were] in the opposition,” added Aquino of Roxas, who previously served as his transportation chief. (READ: How do you solve a problem like Mar Roxas?)
But, Aquino said, even if Roxas is “at the top of the list,” the LP is still “undergoing a lot of consultations” and will only make public their pick for the 2016 elections after the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2015.
Roxas is presumed by many to be the ruling party’s pick for president in the 2016 elections even if he has yet to make public his plans, less than a year to the May polls. In interviews with media, Roxas has said that he is “flattered” by speculation over his 2016 plans and that at the end of the day, he will consider what’s best for the country.
Roxas was geared up to run for president in 2010 but slid down to vice president months before the filing of candidacies to make way for Aquino, whose win was bolstered by the death of his mother and EDSA revolution icon former president Cory Aquino.
Roxas lost his vice presidential bid to Jejomar Binay, who currently leads in current surveys on choices for president.
Scouting for a running mate
Although Roxas has been coy about his 2016 plans, constantly dodging questions from media, he has been meeting with politicians considered top contenders for either the presidency or the vice-presidency.
Before the Holy Week started, Roxas met with neophyte Senator Grace Poe. They met a second time, this time with Aquino himself, before the Chief Executive left for a visit to to Canada.
Roxas also met with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte during a trip to Mindanao over the weekend. But Duterte said Roxas did not discuss 2016 with him.
Asked if he preferred a Roxas-Poe or a Poe-Roxas tandem, Aquino said he would only be able to say in “July after the SONA.”
Some members of the LP want Roxas as standard-bearer but it will likely be a tough campaign given current surveys. Poe and Duterte, in fact, have fared better than Roxas in surveys.