MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – After months of suspense, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) – the second biggest political party in the country – announced on Monday, February 29, its support for the presidential candidacy of Senator Grace Poe.
NPC had been keen on supporting Poe, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr whose presidential bid it also backed in 2004. However, the party was perceived to be holding back on making a commitment because of the disqualification cases that Poe is facing.
The Supreme Court (SC) has yet to decide the disqualification cases.
Aside from Poe, the party is also backing her running mate Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who was once a member of the party but left when it did not endorse his plans to run for vice president in 2010.
"About 90% of members have said yes to endorsing Senator Chiz and Senator Poe. We plan to talk to the remaining 10%," said Isabela Representative Giorgidi Aggabao in a news conference at the House of Representatives. Aggabao, NPC's president, is a known Poe supporter.
Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler
In Tuguegarao City, where they were welcomed by NPC member Mayor Jefferson Soriano, Poe and Escudero welcomed the help that the party’s endorsement would provide their campaign.
A seemingly surprised Poe admitted she had no idea that the NPC would make an announcement on Monday.
“Taos-puso kaming nagpapasalamat sa NPC sa kanilang suporta. Marami sa kanila doon ang ating kakilala at nakasamahan ng aking ama na si FPJ,” Poe said.
(We heartily thank the NPC for their support. A lot of them knew and worked with my father, FPJ.)
Escudero said NPC’s support will, by extension, boost their tandem’s presence in the provinces.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa dati kong kapartido na NPC sa pagsuporta nila sa amin ni Senator Grace…lalung-lalo na...dahil sa talagang kakulangan sa aming kapartido at makinarya,” Escudero said.
(I thank my former colleagues in the NPC for their support for me and Senator Grace…especially...because we really lack the machinery of a party.)
Both Poe and Escudero clarified that they remain independent candidates despite the endorsement of NPC.
Poe said the NPC will support their candidacy in “organizational and not financial” terms.
They earlier said that they are banking on their being independent so as not to deal with political pressure in implementing ther platform if elected.
Almost a year ahead of the 2016 elections, the NPC hinted it would be favoring the tandem of Poe and Escudero even if members said the party was keeping its options open.
The party formed by businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr even went through the motions of organizing meetings with other "presidentiables" to help members make their choices.
Despite the long-delayed NPC announcement of support, Poe has accommodated party members in her campaign.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, an NPC member, is Poe's campaign spokesperson. Two NPC senatorial bets – Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian and re-electionist Senator Vicente Sotto III – are on Poe's Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) ticket.
“I am glad that the NPC finally decided to endorse the Grace-Chiz tandem. All NPC members are expected to tow the official party line and bring Senators Poe and Escudero to victory in the May 9 elections,” Representative Gatchalian said in a statement.
Aggabao, although supportive of Poe from the start, said on Monday that his personal position was for the party to wait for the disqualification cases to be resolved before making an endorsement.
Party mates disagreed with him, he said. "The opinion of many is different, that even without the SC decision we should already come out and make an open decision for Grace and Chiz." – with a report from Raymon Dullana/Rappler.com