Despite endorsements, Poe still undecided on 2016
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - While grateful to Senate colleagues for their informal endorsement of her possible presidential run, Sen. Grace Poe said she would rather keep her political plans under wraps for now.                    

“Sen. Serge is someone I respect and consult. We may differ in our views sometimes, but I consider him to be politically astute and an expert in many different areas in government such as the energy sector and finance. I have learned a lot from him,” Poe told The STAR, referring to Sen. Sergio Osmeña III.

She reiterated she has not yet decided on calls for her to run for president next year in tandem with Sen. Francis Escudero.

“We have discussed possibilities for 2016 but I have not made a decision yet on the matter,” she said.

Poe also said she was heartened by Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III’s expressing his full support for her possible presidential candidacy.

Sotto is a stalwart of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), one of the biggest and most well-funded political parties in the country.

“As for Tito Sen, he was a campaign manager of my dad and he has always been very supportive of me. We have been family friends in and outside of politics,” Poe added.

Sotto and his actress wife Helen Gamboa are close friends of Poe’s adoptive parents, the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. and his wife Susan Roces.   

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto called Poe the “lady to beat” in the coming elections if results of recent surveys on voter preference are to be considered.

But he said a presidential campaign involves many factors, including party machinery and support from local officials. 

As Liberal Party member, Recto said he would support the candidate chosen by the party.

No more meeting?

Poe said President Aquino has not set another meeting but asked her “to keep lines of communication open.”

The President met for over five hours last Monday at Malacañang with Poe and LP’s presumptive standard-bearer Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, reportedly to discuss a possible administration tandem.

While they apparently did not agree on matters pertaining to the presidential campaign, Poe said that after the meeting they agreed to do only “what is best for the country in whatever decisions we will make in the coming days.”

Poe said she sensed that the President was in a difficult situation, and was agonizing over how the administration coalition can be preserved.

“I understand and sympathize with his predicament and situation. I consider him a true and sincere friend and he has my utmost respect,” said Poe, who won a Senate seat in 2013 as independent adopted by the administration party.

“He reiterated his desire for all of us to continue working together and that he believes that, like him, we can and will do what is best for our country,” she added.

“In the end, we both agreed to continue, in whatever capacity, striving and working for our countrymen and for the betterment of our children’s future,” Poe said.

She also chided Vice President Jejomar Binay for dredging up the issue regarding her citizenship, saying the matter has been resolved and her loyalty is beyond question.

“Now, she is a Filipino public servant who has taken an oath to serve the best interest of the Filipino people and uphold and defend the laws and the Constitution of our country,” Poe’s chief of staff Nelson Victorino said in a statement.

“She has renounced any foreign citizenship years ago before she entered government service,” he said.

“She is and will abide by her oath,” he stressed.

“The real proof of love and loyalty to the country is not just taking oath of allegiance but fulfilling one’s sworn duty in thought and in action, and that’s what Sen. Poe has been doing all along,” he said in Filipino.

NPC backing

With the President apparently still undecided on who to endorse for the 2016 presidential race, the NPC appears poised to back a Poe-Escudero tandem.

Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, who is president of the NPC, said the overwhelming support of party members for the tandem may help President Aquino get himself out of a dilemma. Aggabao, however, clarified there is no official party stand yet on the matter. The filing of certificates of candidacy is in October.

“We’re hoping that whatever they (Aquino and LP leadership) infer from here, becomes an input in their decision-making process. At the end of the day, there could be disparities but I hope they will respect whatever decision we will make,” Aggabao told reporters.

“The operative fact is for Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Escudero to announce their candidacy,” he said. “Only at that time will NPC come out to say we’re with them or with other parties.”

When asked why the NPC is leaning towards Poe, he said her splendid survey ratings were among the key considerations.

The administration coalition also includes the Nacionalista Party, the National Unity Party and other smaller groups.

The NPC boasts of over 2,000 incumbent officials including two senators, 47 congressmen, 14 governors and 22 city mayors.

Its chairman emeritus is businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., Aquino’s uncle.

Aggabao said Cojuangco’s preference would be highly considered in the party decision even as consultations are underway.

Escudero was an NPC member but quit the party in 2009. At that time, there were talks that he might run for president. – With Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano

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