NPC endorsement of Grace Poe stirs confusion among members

MANILA, Philippines – It was supposedly a party endorsement of the tandem of Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, but some members of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) claimed they were not consulted and not informed before the announcement was made on Monday, February 29.

Before the announcement, which NPC president Giorgidi Aggabao made in a press conference, a number of officials and members of NPC had repeatedly declared their support for the two. But it is also no secret within the party that some members have their other presidential bets in mind. That was why Monday's announcement came as a surprise to some. 

NPC members met with Vice President Jejomar Binay (United Nationalist Alliance), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan), and Manuel Roxas II (Liberal Party). But it is only independent candidate Poe with whom they met several times.

Former Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco, son of NPC founder businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr, said he only found out about the endorsement through the media.

"Wala pa akong natanggap na pahayag ng partido. Hindi ko alam. Wala pang pahayag na dumarating sa akin. Di po nila kino-communicate sa akin. Sa iyo ko lang narinig 'yan ngayon," Cojuangco told Rappler a few hours after the announcement.

(I haven't received any announcement from the party. I do not know. No announcement has reached me. They haven't communicated that to me. I only found out about it through you.)

Cojuangco is a staunch supporter of Vice President Binay and even lobbied for him during Binay’s meeting with the NPC in September.

Asked if he would still support Binay now that there is a party endorsement, Cojuangco said, "We will cross the bridge when we cross it."

Besides Cojuangco, Binay counts as his NPC supporters former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella and son Camarines Sur Representative Felix William Fuentebella.

Victor del Rosario, provincial chairman of NPC in Biliran, said his group did not know about the endorsement either. He was quick to point out, however, that they are aware that majority of members were indeed for Poe.

In February, NPC leaders in Biliran and Davao del Norte already expressed their support for Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Asked if he would now support Poe, Del Rosario said: "No. We stand by our decision. We will however meet again following this pronouncement of NPC Headquarters."

"As far as NPC Biliran is concerned, most members are for Duterte. But then again, we will reconvene following this decision," he added.

South Cotabato Representative Pedro “Jun” Acharon Jr, a known supporter of administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, said there were no consultations done.

He then reaffirmed his “commitment” to Roxas and running mate Leni Robredo in his personal capacity.

“I respect the sentiments of some of our fellow NPC congressmen to express their preference for Senator Grace Poe, but, for the record, I have not been consulted by the party on any official endorsement on any candidate. As far as I am concerned, I have already committed my support to Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo and I will continue to do so in my personal capacity,” Acharon said.

Critics 'afraid' of Poe’s strength – Sotto

Despite the noise that the endorsement has generated within the party, NPC officials are standing by their decision.

NPC spokesman and Quezon Representative Mark Enverga said the Cojuangco patriarch was not, in any way, involved in the decision to endorse Poe.

Poe earlier admitted borrowing planes from top conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, where Cojuangco is the chairman and where her husband is a consultant.

“Ambassador Danding has chosen not to meddle with our party decision-making process. We have instilled a democratic means of selecting our candidates to support. It was clearly the overwhelming majority of the members (90%) that led to our decision. Ambassador Danding did not participate in the selection process,” Enverga told Rappler in a text message.

Another Poe supporter – re-electionist Senator Vicente Sotto III – defended the party from critics. After all, he maintained, the decision was made by the executive committee after due consultation.

“We need not be informed before the announcement. I was not informed of the final decision, but I am not complaining,” Sotto told Rappler.

He said NPC is a “very tolerant party" and that those who oppose the party stand are free “to think whatever they want.”

Sotto, who is running under the Poe-Escudero slate, said critics are just riding on the issue because they fear Poe’s supposed strength.

“'Yung iba ginagatungan lang ng ibang partido dahil lalong lumalakas sina Grace. Kinabahan sila,” Sotto said.

(Others are just being egged on by other political parties because Grace is getting stronger. They are nervous.) – with reports from Bea Cupin, Mara Cepeda, and Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, 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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