MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Liberal Party stalwarts still expect President Benigno Aquino III to continue to persuade independent senator Grace Poe to become the running mate of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. (READ: Liberal Party: Sustaining a rebirth)
"Ako mismo, mas gusto ko 'yun (For myself, I prefer that)," said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr on the sidelines of the launch of Roxas's presidential bid on Friday, July 31.
Belmonte said the senator would be the "perfect" running mate of Roxas, citing Poe's "clean" image as reason.
"She's clean, remember that. Kailangan din dito people of integrity (People of integrity are also needed here)," Belmonte told Rappler on Friday, July 31.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, for his part, said a Roxas-Poe tandem is to "be desired because [Poe] is popular."
Both Belmonte and Abad said Poe has to make up her mind soon if she's seeking higher office in the 2016 polls.
"Hindi p'wede 'yung palapit na nang palapit ang nomination (She can't make up her mind too close to the nomination)," said Belmonte.
The deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy is in October.
Abad however said: "You cannot force her to make a decision until she makes up her mind."
The President held several meetings with Poe before he made a decision to endorse Roxas. Her supporters were encouraged that the President would consider her poll numbers and endorse her instead.
Abad said he never doubted that the President would endorse Roxas, but Poe herself said she was never given a categorical offer to run for president or vice president. (READ: Grace Poe: I think Aquino wants me to be Mar's VP)
In his speech endorsing Roxas, Aquino talked about his meetings with 3 people, presumably Roxas, Poe, and another independent Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero. He said he wants them to work together to continue his programs.
Belmonte said it's not too late. "I think the President will still try to do that. At least Chiz has been one of his oldest friends. Pero kung desidido ang dalawa, there’s nothing we can do about it," he said. (If both are bent on running, there's nothing we can do about it.)
"One thing is sure. Siguradong susubukan pa rin ng President," the Speaker added. (I'm sure the President will try to persuade them one more time.)
Belmonte said he is more than willing to help convince Poe.
"I don't know how strong I am with her. But if I would be of any help, I would because I like her."
A survey earlier this year by Publicus Asia, a political consultancy firm, showed that Poe and Senator Miriam Santiago are the top choices for Roxas' running mate. – with a report from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com