LP: We have enough talent

Ghio Ong, Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Liberal Party has “enough talents” deserving of President Aquino’s endorsement as administration standard-bearer in the 2016 elections, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

“I would prefer an LP member to be the standard bearer in 2016,” Drilon said in reaction to the President’s pronouncement on Tuesday that he is open to endorsing a candidate not necessarily from the LP. Aquino is LP chairman.

Drilon, LP vice chairman, said he has not yet talked to the President since the latter’s return from Singapore the other day. The Senate chief said his own position on the matter was clear.

The President revealed the other day that he was consulting with other political parties regarding his possible successor in 2016 while the LP was still trying to come up with a consensus of its own. Some LP members were worried the President might be referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay.

LP acting president Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya admitted that even some LP members were divided on the issue, but that as far as he is concerned, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II is still the ideal administration presidential bet in 2016.

“If you ask me, personally, my opinion is Secretary Mar Roxas is most qualified to continue the reforms of the President, daang matuwid (straight path). Other members of the party will have their own opinion as well, so it’s just a matter of processing everyone’s opinion,” Abaya said.

He said LP is used to forging coalitions and partnerships and the objective of the President is to get as many people to follow the daang matuwid policy of his administration.

“The reforms he has started should go beyond 2016, I think it is that mindset,” Abaya said.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said it is still premature to speculate at this time.

“We all have our personal choices but it’s better that we ventilate it in the proper forum and we talk about it within the party and we come up with a consensus. It’s a topic that we should talk about and certainly consider,” Guingona said.

For Sen. Francis Escudero, who was adopted by the administration in the 2013 senatorial election, the fact that the LP had entered into a coalition with other parties in 2013 “goes to show that as much as possible the administration wants a wider acceptability and a wider or broader coalition to implement its major reforms, plans and programs.”

Escudero said that he has not been approached by anyone from the administration. But he stressed he has not made up his mind yet on his plans for 2016.

Accept it

Instead of getting worried over the possibility of having a non-LP administration standard bearer in 2016, LP members should just embrace whatever decision is made by the President, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said.

But Castelo said the LP should come up with a credible selection process for both presidential and vice presidential candidates, who may or may not come from the ruling party.

He said that while he has his own choice of candidates, he is willing to support whoever is nominated by the administration party through a selection process.

He said Aquino, as the LP titular head, “should exert the moral and political influence to open the selection process” to other LP leaders like Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, widow of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, or even Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“The LP should also open the process to outsiders like independent Sens. Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and former senator Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party,” Castelo said.

He said Roxas still has the edge because he is the “sentimental” choice among LP members.

“If only to spread the gospel of daang matuwid we have to give the LP party members and even those from the other parties greater latitude in their choice of the next president,” Castelo said.

“Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte are qualified to lead the country because of their sterling leadership qualities and capability to cultivate consensus among the lawmakers,” he said.

“Belmonte has shown sterling qualities as a consensus builder. He has been a unifying force in Congress and an accomplished local government official too,” he added.

He called Poe “the rising star of the Senate,” and cited Escudero’s rich experience as a lawmaker.

LP spokesman Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone emphasized party members are ready to accept whatever is decided by Aquino.

“I am hoping that the standard bearer will come from our dominant political party,” Evardone said.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, a staunch supporter of Roxas and a vocal critic of Binay, said he strongly doubts that Aquino was thinking of Binay when he made his Tuesday pronouncements.

“I don’t think he (Aquino) will endorse him (Binay), especially with the recent developments where he evaded all the corruption allegations against him,” Erice said.

Open to alliance

Binay, meanwhile, is not averse to getting endorsement of his presidential bid from Aquino, Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco said.

Tiangco, a leader of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said Aquino’s endorsement would certainly be a big boost to Binay’s presidential bid.

“Let’s wait for his decision. I don’t want to preempt him,” Tiangco said in a phone interview.

“The endorsement should come as a bonus to VP Binay,” he said, adding the Vice President has remained focused on performing his job.

Tiangco also shrugged off criticisms from some administration lawmakers that Binay was campaigning too early.

He said the Vice President is just performing his duties, particularly in providing low-cost housing and attending to the needs of overseas Filipino workers.

“The Vice President is hands on. He wants to get the pulse of the people on the quality of service they are getting from the government,” he said.

Binay was in Cebu in the last two days, where he met with local officials and ordinary citizens. Binay also visited several towns in Cavite and Bulacan the week before.

In an interview in Cebu yesterday, Binay dismissed insinuations that he was prematurely campaigning.

“Let’s just be honest with each other, we will not be able to distinguish whether I am working or campaigning. Let’s not be hypocrites. For an incumbent (official), it will be very hard for you to distinguish if we are campaigning or we are working,” Binay said. – Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy


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