Drawing the line? Mar Roxas on Grace Poe's 'announcement'
MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of Senator Grace Poe's expected declaration of her presidential bid, what does administration standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas – who wooed her to be his running mate – have to say about it?
Poe is set to announce her presidential bid on Wednesday, September 16, ending months of speculation and administration attempts to make her slide down and run with Roxas in the May 2016 elections.
While Roxas refused to speculate on Poe’s “important” announcement at the UP Bahay ng Alumni on Wednesday, the outgoing interior secretary seemed to draw the line: if you’re not with us, you’re against us.
“Para sa amin naman ay nagsimula si Senadora Grace sa Daang Matuwid at kabahagi siya noong nagpapalaot siya bilang lingkod bayan ay kabahagi siya ng Team PNoy (Senator Poe started her career as an ally of the Daang Matuwid and when she was running to be a public servant, she was part of Team PNoy),” Roxas told reporters in a chance interview on Tuesday, September 18, at the Apolonio Samson Elementary school, where he taught Araling Panlipunan to a fifth grade class.
He added: “So, kung anuman ang kanyang napagpasyahan at desisyon na ia-anunsyo bukas ay re-respetuhin natin. Kung ayaw na niya sa Daang Matuwid ay nasasakanya naman po yun (So, whatever her decision is and whatever she announces tomorrow, we will respect that. If she doesn’t want to be part of the Daang Matuwid, that’s her decision).”
“Daang Matuwid” is the administration’s catch phrase for its anti-corruption, good governance and transparency platform. Roxas’ campaign is hinged on the idea that he, as President Beningo Aquino III’s anointed candidate, he will be able to continue the reforms of the current administration. (WATCH: The anointing of Mar Roxas)
Monopoly of good intentions?
The coming elections, said Roxas, is a "referendum" on the current administration. A vote against the ruling party's ticket, he said, would be akin to choosing a path different from the "Daang Matuwid."
"Ito'y pagpapasya kung ano ang pagtanggap ng ating mga kababayan sa nakaraang lima hanggang anim na taon. Kung nais ba natin na magpatuloy itong mga programa na nasimulan ng Pangulo then doon tayo sa Daang Matuwid. Kung gusto namam natin na palitan o baguhin, kung ang sigaw ay palitan o baguhin ay wala po yun sa Daang Matuwid," he said.
(It's the public's way of assessing the past 5 or 6 years. If we want to continue the reforms Aquino started, choose the Daang Matuwid. If you want to change it, if the cry if for something new, that's no longer part of Daang Matuwid.)
No less than Aquino and Roxas met with Poe several times the past few months to discuss the 2016 elections. During their first meeting, Poe had asked Aquino if he would support her – even if she did not run under the ruling party's ticket.
Those talks, apparently, were not enough to convince the survey front-runner to run as the administration ticket’s vice president.
In past interviews, both Poe and her close friend and political ally Senator Francis Escudero, insisted that the “Daang Matuwid” is not “exclusive” to a particular party or affiliation.
Roxas did not seem to agree. “That’s her opinion,” he said.
The former Cabinet secretary and LP president-on-leave went on to remind people of how Poe started in politics in the first place: when Aquino appointed her to head the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
She was picked to run for senator in 2013, Roxas noted, even if she was not faring well in surveys then. “Kabahagi siya ng Daang Matuwid, itinaguyod yung Daang Matuwid at kabahagi siya ng Team PNoy (She was part of the Daang Matuwid, pushing Daang Matuwid futher. And she was part of Team PNoy),” said Roxas.
Pressed if launching her own presidential run meant Poe wasn’t part of “Daang Matuwid” anymore, Roxas did not give a straight answer. “The father of Daang Matuwid is?” he asked reporters, referring to the President.
‘Bring it on’
Poe’s Wednesday announcement means the LP can formally move forward in its search for a vice presidential bet. Legislators allied with Roxas and the ruling part wished Poe “the best,” when sought for a reaction to her Wednesday announcement.
“Bring it on,” said deputy minority floor leader and YACAP party-list Representative Carol Lopez.
“I wish her well [but] I was hoping she’d fulfil her promise, that she would heed the advice from the President on how to continue the gains of ‘Daang Matuwid (the Straight Path),” Quezon City Representative Bolet Banal, an LP member and supporter of Roxas, told Rappler in a phone interview.
The wooing of Poe was not simply about eliminating a strong contender to rival Roxas, who ranked 3rd or 4th in the latest presidential preference surveys.
The LP was also hoping to keep its existing broad coalition with the Nacionalista Party (NP), the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and the National Unity Party (NUP).
The NPC, the country’s second-largest party, is said to be leaning towards supporting Poe in 2016. The party, which has met with Poe, Roxas, and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) chairman Vice President Jejomar Binay, has yet to announce its chosen presidential candidate.
Sources close to the LP camp had long acknowledged that persuading Poe to run as Roxas’ vice president was a long shot. The LP’s vice chairpersons, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. were among the most vocal in insisting it was time the ruling party begin its search for Roxas’ running mate.
“Yung iba di ko masisisi na mainip. Pero yung iba, sabi nga nila habang may buhay may pag-asa. Umaasa sila na magkakaisa pero kung di yan ang mangyayari, syempre we wish her well,” said Banal. (I can’t blame those who grew impatient. Other were still hoping. They were hoping that the partnership will remain intact but if that isn’t happening, we wish Poe well.)
“Now siguro mas openly, mas aggressively, mas makakapagpursue na si Mar kung suno magiging ka tandem niya. Dati kasi talagang out of respect for Senator Poe [he wasn’t vocal about other options],” added Banal. (Now Mar will be more open, aggressive in pursuing a running-mate. Before, out of respect for Senator Poe, he wasn’t vocal about other options.)
Informal talks within the LP to look for Roxas’ running mate have begun, but they are not set to officially convene until the end of September or early October.
Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, are reportedly among those being eyed for the country’s second-highest post.
Roxas on Tuesday said he had met with Robredo “as well as others” to discuss 2016 plans, but declined to give other details. But Roxas said theirs would be a "strongest ticket" in 2016 since it would not be based on the politics of personality.
"Ang ticket po ng Daang Matuwid ay ang tinutungtungan ng ating programa na ngayon ay masasabi ng ating mga kababayan ay nararamdaman na nila (The ticket of Daang Matuwid will be rooted in the programs that are already being felt by our countrymen)," he said.
The filing of candidacies for 2016 is set in October. – with reports from Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com
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