MANILA, Philippines – Senatorial aspirant Joel Villanueva, the director of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority who is consistently praised by President Benigno Aquino III, is not keen on joining the senatorial slate of the administration's Liberal Party in 2016.
"I don't think I'm ready to run with [Justice Secretary Leila] De Lima," Villanueva told Rappler on Tuesday, August 18.
De Lima filed a graft complaint against Villanueva before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the multi-billion pork barrel scam. He maintained the documents used against him bore forged signatures.
Villanueva on Tuesday night attended the meeting of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), which is expected to support the tandem of senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero.
He said the President knew that he was attending the fellowship meeting.
"I would like to reiterate that I am not a member of any party, whether LP, NPC, or even NP (Nacionalista Party). I've been very close to these parties. The NPC is perhaps the one I am closest to because of the fact that I worked with them for 9 years in the House of Representatives," Villanueva added.
Villanueva was a representative of CIBAC party-list group for 3 terms.
"I am grateful, humbled, and blessed by their invitation. I treasure my friendship with a lot of the members of NPC," he said.
"I am more confident now to run [for senator]. I have more people supporting me. But there are factors I need to consider. I need the 100% support of my family. Right now it's about 90%," Villanueva added.
Villanueva said Senator Escudero, the presumptive running mate of Poe, has been his "mentor" in the House of Representatives. He was a deputy minority leader when Escudero was minority leader.
CIBAC is a member of the administration's rainbow coalition. Villanueva and his brother-in-law, current CIBAC Representative Sherwin Tugna, were present in Club Filipino when Aquino endorsed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. – Camille Elemia/Rappler.com