Grace Poe could propel NPC as PH’s biggest political party

MANILA, Philippines – The Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) could become the country's biggest political party should independent senator and survey front runner Grace Poe decide to run for president with Senator Francis Escudero as her running mate.

It is also a shot for NPC, whose stalwarts have been vocal in supporting the tandem, to have its own presidential candidate again. The first, and so far the only time it did, was in 1992, when it fielded its founder, businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr, who lost.

"If that happens, NPC will emerge a bigger party," said a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) in the House of Representatives. He said many local politicians are just waiting for Poe to declare her candidacy.

Allen Surla, a political science professor at the De La Salle Universty, has the same projection. He said LP is likely to lose members in this scenario because of the low survey numbers of its presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.

"Yes, NPC can become the biggest party. In terms of numbers, NPC is already a big party. If you take away people from LP, it will be bigger," said Surla.

The ruling LP has 4 senators, 118 congressmen, and 37 governors. NPC has 2 senators, 40 congressmen, and 14 governors. 

Surla recalled how LP's growth was prompted by the popular candidacy of now President Benigno Aquino III in 2010. The then ruling Lakas-Kampi of President Gloria Arroyo was decimated when its members, discouraged by the survey performance of their presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro, abandoned the party one by one.

The same fate likely awaits LP if Roxas loses in 2016. (READ: Liberal Party: Sustaining a rebirth)

"Party loyalty in the Philippines does not exist. LP as a political party is practically divided because the House of PNoy is indeed divided into two contending groups. Definitely may aalis after (there will be members who will leave when) PNoy is gone. They are only making it work right now because PNoy is there," Surla said.

Surla said he expects the local politicians, particularly the congressmen, to flock to NPC if Poe's presidential bid pushes through.

"Isa lang naman ang rule na sinusunod sa kampaya: manalo," the LP member in the House said. (We only follow one rule during campaigns: win.)

Coalition the way to go

A coalition is the way to go for Poe, who has vowed to remain independent even if she decides to seek the presidency. NPC is expected to lead the coalition because of Poe's ties with Escudero, an NPC-turned-independent who remains close to some members of his former political party. 

"At the end of the day, Chiz is NPC," said the LP member.

"Ang nakikita kong strategy nila Chiz (The strategy I'm seeing on the part of Chiz) is they will maintain that they are independent but they will be backed by a coalition – NPC, NP (Nacionalista Party), possibly NUP (National Unity Party), and some LP who will leave. That is their hope," the LP lawmaker added.

Escudero was previously a member of NPC, but he bolted the party in 2010 after failing to get the leadership to support his presidential bid. He has since reconciled with his former party but has opted to remain independent.

Surla said the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada, who has recently been defending Poe from her critics, could join NPC as well. Estrada was Cojuangco's running mate in 1992.

NPC is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, August 11, to begin formal discussion on the 2016 polls. 

Liberal Party's move

LP stalwarts proclaim that Roxas' low survey numbers will not discourage their members. But everyone else is waiting to see how the President's endorsement is going to improve his numbers. (READ: How much a factor is Aquino's endorsement?)

LP can altogether prevent members from leaving if it succeeds in persuading Poe to run for vice president and become Roxas' running mate instead. They have been framing the 2016 polls as a "mano a mano" fight between Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Poe keeps her cards close to her chest although she continues to keep a high-profile media presence. She also admitted to already preparing her campaign platform. On Monday, August 10, she said the administration, instead of asking her to slide down to a vice presidential bid, should instead ask its own candidate to do so.

NPC president Isabela Representative Giorgidi Aggabao last week declared he is “dead certain” Poe will run for president.

Poe's decision will define not only the 2016 elections but the fate of the country's political parties. Rappler.com