MANILA, Philippines – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte met with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the country's second largest political party, on Monday, January 18, to talk about his platform for the 2016 elections.
The meeting did not lead to an immediate endorsement from the NPC, but Duterte is the last presidential bet the party intends to consult with before finally announcing its favored candidate.
NPC spokesman and Quezon First District Representative Mark Enverga said the meeting with Duterte wraps up NPC’s consultation with presidential candidates.
“We’ve been inviting all presidential candidates to hear their platforms so...it took a while before we had a chance to meet with Mayor Duterte,” he told media.
The consultation is part of a larger selection process that is supposed to culminate in NPC’s announcement of its presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
Enverga said that by the start of the campaign season on February 9, NPC should have announced its picks.
He said the party has created an Executive Committee composed of 15 members tasked with making the final decision.
“We have members from Congress, former members who are with us in the committee. So it will take some time. Mayor Duterte would be the last for NPC to interview and interact with. So now, maybe the Executive Committee can really sit down and discuss on the possibility of whom to support in 2016,” explained Enverga.
NPC created the committee after realizing it faced a "difficult" scenario with some of its members choosing candidates for "personal reasons, personal attachments," said Enverga.
After the Executive Committee decides on the presidential bet, it will move on to choosing the vice-presidential candidate. NPC may choose to support a tandem or it could be a “split” decision with the candidates coming from different tandems or parties.
Asked what the party looks for in its candidate of choice, Enverga said, “Integrity, clear platform of economic development for the country, a government that will be reactive to the people’s needs.”
The candidates’ performance in election surveys would also be a factor.
“We would want the leader we will be choosing to be one of the top choices of the Filipino people. But not necessarily the number one. It doesn't work that way for us,” said Enverga.
“We were not talking of a political arrangement. Congressmen just wanted to be educated about my stand in governance,” Duterte told reporters in the NPC’s clubhouse in Quezon City where he met with the party’s officers and members on Monday.
Among the topics thoroughly discussed during the two-hour meeting were Duterte’s focus on peace and order, his fight against corruption and drugs, the situation in Mindanao, and his advocacy for a federal form of government.
Duterte described the meeting as “jovial and sometimes serious,” given the heavy topics on the agenda.
He said he arrived at the gathering with no expectations.
“I was not really expecting anything – an endorsement, being adopted as a presidential candidate. It’s really their call, not mine,” he said.
The Davao mayor also found that some NPC congressmen agree with his push for federalism, a form of government that gives more autonomy and resources to local government units.
Enverga confirmed this, but said other congressman needed more time to study federalism and its potential impact on the country.
Duterte explained that it was Davao First District Representative Karlo Nograles, son of his political rival and former Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr, who arranged his meeting with the NPC.
The idea was for Duterte to present his “program of governance, not really me as a candidate,” he said.
NPC, with its nationwide machinery and large membership, would be a boost to Duterte's campaign. The Davao City mayor admits he needs campaign funds.
NPC leaders and congressmen representing districts in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao attended the meeting with Duterte.
Present were NPC president and Isabela Representative Giorgidi Aggabao, NPC chairman and Isabela Governor Faustino Dy Jr.
Also in attendance were Representatives Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela City), Pryde Henry Teves (Negros Oriental), and Susan Yap (Tarlac), among others.
Gatchalian is part of the senatorial slate of Senators Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero – the tandem that many believe the NPC would support.
The meeting is held on the eve of the Supreme Court oral arguments on the disqualification cases against the presidential candidacy of Poe.
But Duterte also faces the possibility of disqualification after petitions were submitted to the Commission on Elections seeking to nullify his candidacy.
NPC was part of Team PNoy in 2013, the administration coalition that fielded a shared senatorial slate in the last national elections. The NPC has also helped pass priority administration measures.
The political party was founded by Aquino’s uncle, businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, when he ran for president in 1992.
But Enverga said that while Cojuangco is the party’s chairman emeritus, he no longer participates in the party’s decision-making process on which candidates to support. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.