Liberal Party to decide on 2016 ticket 'in weeks'

MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumed standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP), remained vague about his plans for 2016, but confirmed having initiated at least two meetings with Senator Grace Poe in the past months. 

In a chance interview with reporters on the sidelines of a dentist’ convention on Tuesday, May 12, Roxas said he twice met with Poe, seen as a possible presidential bet for 2016. The first meeting happened before Holy Week, and the second just before President Benigno Aquino III left for Canada.

The meeting before Holy Week was only between Roxas, Senator Poe, and her husband, according to Roxas. The "success" of the first meeting led to a second, this time with Aquino, which was held in Malacañang on May 5. (READ: Poe asked Aquino: Will you support me?)

Roxas did not delve into the details of the meetings, only telling reporters that the discussions went well.

Maganda ang usapan tungkol sa daang matuwid, paano natin mapapalakas at mapapatibay ito,” said Roxas on Tuesday. (It was a good discussion about the Straight Path, how to strengthen it)

The meetings, he said, were part of LP’s “process” to prepare for the 2016 elections. Asked about the party’s timeline, Roxas said their plans will become clear in the “next few weeks or months.”

Roxas planned to run for president in 2010 under LP, but slid down for Aquino, whose numbers were boosted by the death of his mother, former president and EDSA revolution icon Corazon Aquino. 

Instead, Roxas ran for vice president and eventually lost to now Vice President Jejomar Binay. He has yet to confirm his plans for the coming elections, despite the pronouncements of both his allies and rivals in politics.

Long meeting 

On Monday, Poe told reporters she had a “long meeting” with Aquino on May 5 at Malacañang and that Roxas joined the “last part” of the huddle.

Poe added it was “clear” that the President is already thinking about the 2016 polls and “someone [the Liberal Party] can support who has the trust of the people, and has the chance to push for their reforms.” Poe added Aquino was looking for an “alternative.”

The interior secretary refused to comment on “what [Poe] said or didn’t say,” but emphasized that the meeting went well.

Lahat naman tayo na nag-nanais na magkaroon ng continuity itong Daang Matuwid, itong magandang nangyayari sa ating bansa, ay dapat matuwa na nangyari ang meeting na ito,” he said. (Anyone who wants the Straight Path, the improvements in our country to continue, should be happy this meeting happened.)

Nothing concrete was discussed in their meetings, at least when it comes to the elections, Roxas said. “Pag-uusap lang naman ito. Ang pinakamahalaga, ang pinaka-pundasyon ay ang prinsipyo,” he said. (This is just a discussion. What’s important is you’re grounded on common principles.)

Palagay ko ang mga kababayan natin, marunong naman sila, marunong silang kumilatis sa kakayahan, sa karanasan, sa kalinisan ng kung sino man ang pipiliin nila,” he added. (I think our fellow Filipinos know how to scrutinize a candidate’s capability, experience, good track record when it comes to picking their bet.)

The man who defeated Roxas in 2010 is also the leading candidate for president in 2016: Binay. The Vice President, however, is at the center of the biggest corruption scandal to hit him in almost two decades of politics.

Why Poe?

Asked why they chose to meet with Poe, Roxas said they “continuously meet with other leaders as well.”

Roxas on Tuesday continued to indirectly answer questions about his 2016 plans. 

Liberal Party allies are pushing for a Roxas-Poe tandem in 2016. 

When asked by reporters if he was open to a Roxas-Poe partnership in 2016, the Liberal Party president-on-leave quipped: “Magalang naman akong tao at kung nagpapakilala ako, sinasabi ko,‘Si Mar Po,” playing on the senator's family name. (I’m a respectful person. When I introduce myself to people I say: ‘Si Mar, po.’”) – Rappler.com