Aquino to Roxas: No shame in being 2nd in presidential race

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite the loss of his preferred presidential candidate, President Benigno Aquino III lauded administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas for landing the second spot in the May 2016 polls.

Roxas previously ranked 4th in pre-election surveys, behind Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay. Official election results, however, showed Roxas jumping to 2nd place, behind President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

“I think we can say that we campaigned, I had to run the country while he was campaigning also. From number 4 in the surveys to number 2 is nothing to be ashamed of,” Aquino told Rappler in an exclusive interview.

Aquino, however, admitted they should have done “more, better effort” at an earlier time to help boost Roxas’ candidacy. But the President maintained he would not have changed the way he campaigned for his anointed one.

“No. If I had a choice, with one or the other, I have to choose to do that which is needed by the people,” Aquino said.

“Whether that should be our function – 50% explaining everything and 50% doing. Now, what we take time explaining is lost in the doing portion. Would we have served the people better by attending to propaganda more than governance?” he added.

Aquino claimed his people prioritized running the country more than campaigning for Roxas.

“Some people say they aspired the presidency since birth. But I’d like to think, most of the people around us had fulfilled that responsibility of addressing our people’s needs. Personal ambitions, that’s secondary,” he said.

Failed unity talks between Roxas, Poe

In the homestretch of the campaign, Aquino took it upon himself to try to unite two contenders who could possibly thwart a Duterte presidency – Poe and Roxas.

This long-standing courtship to unite the two failed at the moment of its inception as early as June. Aquino met with Poe and Roxas several times but failed to negotiate an agreement.

Poe earlier said Aquino wanted her to be the Liberal Party’s vice presidential candidate. She rejected the offer and decided to gun for the highest post on her own.

Aquino denied that his efforts in the last weeks of the campaign were all done last-minute.

After Aquino’s appeal, Roxas then invited Poe to talk on possibly joining forces – something that did not sit well with Poe and her camp, as she felt she was put in an awkward spot. Poe also blamed the Roxas camp for spreading rumors she had already withdrawn from the race days before May 9.

“Not last-ditch..from the beginning. We had that meeting that lasted until 2:30 in the morning, trying to get everybody together. Was not successful. Towards the end, I was prevailed upon to try again by quarters who are not affiliated to any of our political parties. I tried again," Aquino recounted.

He added: "There's another one, religious, please lang subukan mo na baka sakali (please just try, who knows it might work) This was last week of the campaign. I replied, I dont think everybody's predisposed to give way. Baka naman these persons were sent by God to deliver a message. I tried again. Obviously, it failed. But at least we maintained communication." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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