Aquino not inclined to endorse Binay

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a dream that seems destined to be shattered.

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, June 11, practically shot down the idea of endorsing Vice President Jejomar Binay’s bid for the presidency in 2016, pointing out that the two of them ran under opposing parties in the 2010 and 2013 elections.

Siguro hindi ako klaro kasi hinahanap ba niya ang suporta ko? Dahil 2010 ibang grupo siya tumakbo, 2013 nanguna rin siya ng ibang grupo so pagdating ng 2016 magkasama kami? Parang, ‘di ba, parang patungo pala siya sa amin parang medyo ang layo ng kurba para makarating,” Aquino said in a news conference in Iloilo City, where he will lead independence day celebrations on Friday.

(Maybe it’s not clear to me, is he seeking my support? Because in 2010 he was with another group, in 2013 he led another group so in 2016, will we be on the same side? He wants to side with us but it seems like he took the long way to get there.)

Aquino said the only support he can commit to the Vice President, and any other candidate, would be in the form of ensuring orderly, credible, and peaceful elections in 2016.

"'Yung suporta niyang maaasahan sa akin, trabaho kong manigurado ‘yung matiwasay ‘yung eleksyon, kapani-paniwala, may kredibilidad, maayos. Iyon ang minimum kung sinumang kandidato. Last na major na trabaho ko siguro ‘yan," he said.

(The support he can expect from me, it's my job to ensure peaceful, credible, and orderly elections. That is the minimum [support] I can give to any candidate. That will be my last major task.)

Binay, a close friend of the Aquino family, said on Wednesday that he was still banking on Aquino to support him “secretly" in the 2016 elections.

In a press conference, Binay said that he was hoping for a repeat of the 2010 presidential elections, wherein a group secretly supported an Aquino-Binay tandem. Aquino’s running mate then was Manuel Roxas II, who is now his interior secretary.

The President also said it was “presumptuous” of him to think that Binay was seeking his endorsement given that the Vice President led the opposition in the past elections. In the first place, he said, Binay has yet to seek his support.

Roxas as LP’s standard-bearer?

Binay is thus far the only politician who has announced his plans to run for president in 2016. Despite being at the center of a huge corruption scandal, Binay leads early surveys on the 2016 polls, although it’s a lead that neophyte senator Grace Poe has been inching closer to.

Roxas, meanwhile, is the presumed standard-bearer of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

In the Iloilo news conference that was attended by Roxas, Aquino did not say for certain if he, the LP, and their allies would be endorsing the interior chief.

Before he can even think of endorsing anyone in 2016, Aquino said he must first speak to “all parties concerned,” referring not only to LP members but the members of their broad coalition.

“I have a role in a personal capacity, I also have a role as a head of a coalition of so many different parties, that one would want to preserve this coalition that led to our ability to deliver all that has been done these past 5 years,” he said, when asked if the LP was dead-set on Roxas as its standard-bearer or if he was open to other candidates.

Aquino added, “I cannot speak out of turn. I would like to give due respect to all the parties concerned whether as individuals or even as formal political parties that we conclude our discussions before making any announcement."

Roxas has been playing coy about his plans in 2016, only saying that he was “ready” to continue the Aquino administration’s reforms. The President emphasized that he will announce his anointed candidate after his last State of the Nation Address in July 2015, which he reiterated at the news briefing.

LP members have been pushing for Roxas as the party’s standard-bearer, although many are also considering Senator Grace Poe as an alternative, given Roxas’ poor ratings in early presidential surveys. (READ: Is Roxas worried LP will choose another presidential bet?)

Meetings with Poe, Escudero

Asked about his Wednesday meeting with Poe – their second to discuss the elections –  Aquino merely said they discussed “current issues.” It was also a chance for the President and Poe to sort out their views on the administration’s work – including its shortcomings.

Nagkikita kami eye to eye kung ano ba ang dapat mangyari (We see eye to eye when it comes to what should happen next), which is the continuance of the current governance,” said Aquino of the meeting.

The President said his meeting with Poe was still a “work in progress” and that more discussions with other politicians are being planned. The President is set to meet Senator Francis Escudero, who is close to Poe, next week.

Escudero had previously told reporters that he and Poe have yet to make a decision on 2016.

The senator, who campaigned alongside Poe in 2013, has been tagged as a member of the so-called “NoyBi” group in the 2010 polls. Escudero appeared in an ad endorsing Binay and taking a swipe at Roxas in the homestretch of the 2010 polls.

The filing of candidacies for 2016 hopefuls is set for October 2015. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com