MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It was a "cordial" 6-hour dinner meeting of potential rivals that started at 7 pm on Wednesday, July 15, and ended past 1 am.
President Benigno Aquino III hosted a Malacañang dinner for two political allies who make up his short list on who to endorse for president in 2016: Senator Grace Poe and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.
Also in the meeting is Poe's friend and adviser, Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero.
Poe said they all agreed that what matters most in 2016 is the continuation of the reforms started by the Aquino administration, the very same theme that Aquino himself and the Liberal Party members are saying.
Poe said in a text message to Rappler on Thursday, July 16: “Maganda at maayos ang aming naging pag-uusap. Lahat kami ay sang-ayon na nakasalalay sa tamang liderato ang pagsulong ng ating bansa. Kaya naman, nagkasundo kami na ang pinakamahalaga ay isaalang-alang ang boses at gabay ng ating mga kababayan para masiguro na hindi mawaldas at mapalakas pa ang maayos na paraan ng pamamalakad ng gobyerno sa darating na susunod na taon.”
(The meeting was cordial and went well. We all agreed that progress of the country depends on the right leadership. That's why we all agreed that the most important thing to do is to consider the voice and guidance of the people to ensure the reforms started will not be put to waste.)
Poe, however, did not give further details, and has yet to reply to questions sent to her.
Escudero said they ate Chinese food. "The meeting was cordial and relaxed. We talked about a lot of things other than 2016," he said.
Poe said there will be another meeting before the President's last State of the Nationa Address on July 27 but no confirmed date yet.
"Though personally, I continue to pray that I will discern what is best, not just for myself and my family but what is best for our country," Poe said in a text message to Rappler.
Choices and surveys
The dinner came after Aquino's separate meetings between both camps last week as his self-imposed deadline for his endorsement loomed. (READ: Chiz: Aquino having a 'hard time' choosing anointed one)
Aquino has said he will announce his choice after his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27. Some are saying that he's even considering making his endorsement during the SONA itself.
In the June Social Weather Stations survey, Poe led the list of preferred presidential candidates with 42%, followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay with 34%, and Roxas with 21%.
The survey ratings are being cited by some of Aquino's friends, relatives and allies as the key reason for him to consider Poe, a neophyte senator.
But LP stalwarts have been pushing for a Roxas-Poe tandem instead.
Even Poe's close adviser, Senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III said he would advise her to settle for the vice presidency. (READ: Osmeña to Poe: Serve as VP before running for president)
Other Aquino allies however are saying that it is Roxas who should give way.
Asked about this, Roxas, the presumed standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, said he is capable of sacrificing and cited the 2010 elections as example.
“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 instead ran for vice president, but lost to Jejomar Binay, now the standard-bearer of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
Focused on 'presidency'
Budget Secretary and LP stalwart Florencio “Butch” Abad stressed, however, that Roxas is “fully focused” on the presidency.
“That’s the impression I get. He thinks with what has been done and with his long experience, he can do it. But it’s not just him who will decide,” Abad told Rappler in an interview on Tuesday, July 14.
There are talks that the LP is not solid behind Roxas. Sources said the Belmonte bloc in the House of Representatives, including Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, plans to leave the LP if Roxas is declared standard-bearer. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com