Mar not giving up on Grace

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 21, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Being the administration’s “first love,” Sen. Grace Poe remains the preferred running mate of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II even if there are other good choices for vice president, his allies in the House of Representatives said yesterday.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, a stalwart of the Liberal Party (LP), said Roxas wants to forge a unity ticket under the tuwid na daan (straight path) and Poe is essential to achieving such goal.

“Secretary Mar has always been clear from the start that his first choice is Senator Grace. He envisions a unity ticket for tuwid na daan and that would be the best for our country not only for 2016 but 2022 as well,” Vargas said.

“Senator Grace is all we’re waiting for. I hope she says yes,” he said.

Roxas and President Aquino have been asking Poe to be the administration’s vice presidential candidate in the 2016 elections with the commitment that she will be endorsed as the presidential bet in 2022.

Poe, who is currently topping both presidential and vice presidential surveys, has not yet made public her political plans for next year.

LP acting president Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya confirmed yesterday the party is still courting Poe and that – just like any suitor – it’s not setting a deadline for her response.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said the talks between Roxas and Poe are not yet over and there is still plenty of time to adjust if the senator finally declines the invitation to be the administration’s vice presidential candidate.

“I hope that the adage ‘walang matimtimang birhen sa matiyagang manalangin’ (no pious woman can resist a prayerful man) may apply,” Erice said.

Roxas’ other allies in the House also said they remain hopeful that a Roxas-Poe tandem would materialize, even as they maintained that there was nothing wrong with the administration standard bearer still without a running mate less than two months from the deadline for the filing of the certificates of candidacy (COC) in October.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of the National Unity Party said even Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose presidential ambition has been known for years, is still scouting for a running mate.

He recalled that the tandem of the late President Corazon Aquino and the late Vice President Salvador Laurel was finalized an hour and 15 minutes before the deadline for the filing of COCs.

“I expect therefore a lot of political maneuvering as the filing of the COCs starts and I am still confident of a unified ticket for the ‘straight path.’ As they say, politics is the art of making the impossible possible,” he said.

“Expect political surprises, alliances, tandems and lineups which, at present, you could conceive to be too remote to happen but would materialize,” Barzaga said.

Vargas and LP congressmen Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Jorge Banal of Quezon City and Reynaldo Umali of Mindoro Oriental said finding a running mate for Roxas should not be a problem as there are other viable choices aside from Poe.

Banal said Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano are being considered as LP vice presidential bet. “But being the gentleman that he is, he does not want to entertain other options while he’s waiting for Senator Grace to say yes. I think he’s doing the right thing,” Banal said, referring to Roxas.

LP secretary general and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento and Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez of You Against Corruption and Poverty said it is important that Roxas and his vice presidential candidate must complement each other and share the same vision and ideals.

Plan A only

Abaya, for his part, said the party leadership so far only has a “Plan A,” or Poe for vice president.

“As of now, as far as I know, we only have a Plan A. Some members might have their own separate Plan B but I am certain that before we could tackle the other letters of the alphabet, the Plan A would already be closed,” said Abaya.

When asked if they have set a deadline for Poe to give her response, the DOTC chief replied, “Any hopeful suitor never sets a deadline because it would be the biggest turnoff to the girl he is courting if he would set a deadline.”

“The suitor would definitely be rejected,” he added.

He admitted that some members of the LP, out of frustration, are reportedly attacking her credibility, including her lack of experience in a major executive position. Abaya clarified it is not the party’s position.

Abaya dismissed his partymates’ attacks on Poe as “human reactions to the political situation, and some out of frustration.”

He said that it is not in LP’s character to malign unsympathetic individuals or even political foes. “Me, I am not frustrated. I remain hopeful on her so we have different reactions, but definitely we are not involved in discrediting her… Definitely, it is not the LP’s stand to put people down,” he said.

While the LP leadership and members appear to have a difference of opinion on Poe, no one in the party is being subjected to any kind of pressure, according to Abaya.

“I don’t think it would be rational if we zip everybody’s mouth, of course we have ways of talking to them,” he said.

“Everyone is free to express their opinion, especially in our party; we are not dictatorial so we take this as a personal opinion, reflective of some of the party, but not the party’s stand,” he said.

In order to avoid confusion on the party’s stand, he advised the media to just interview party leaders.

No rift

Roxas, for his part, said there is no rift between him and Poe despite his difficulty in convincing her to be his running mate.

Roxas and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also met briefly yesterday at La Salle Greenhills where a mass was held to commemorate the 32nd death anniversary of President Aquino’s father Benigno Jr. and the recent passing of his uncle Agapito or Butz.

Asked to comment on the advice of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that he should consider letting go of Poe, Roxas said “everybody has their opinion on it” but that he and Poe were talking to each other directly.

Roxas said reports in the media might be different but he maintained they were okay.

On his encounter with Estrada, who is a member of the opposition, Roxas said they only exchanged greetings and well wishes.

“I thanked him for what he said about how I worked for him as a member of his Cabinet,” Roxas, who served as trade secretary during the Estrada administration, said.

“There were mutual expressions of goodwill,” Roxas added, noting that his relationship with Estrada is good.

For his part, Estrada said he went to the mass because Butz was his grade school and high school classmate at the Ateneo de Manila University.

“He’s a big loss to the country, he’s a very good man and a very principled man,” Estrada told reporters.

Asked if he has thrown his support for Roxas, Estrada said not really.

“I respect Secretary Roxas very much because he was a member of my Cabinet and he performed very well, he’s one of the best Cabinet members (I had), I just wish him the best of luck,” Estrada said.

“He’s one of the most qualified. All of them are qualified but I believe because of experience, he’s been a congressman, Cabinet member, a senator, he has that advantage,” Estrada said of Roxas.

Estrada admitted all the prospective presidential candidates – Roxas, Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay – were all close to him but that there would come a time when he would have to choose only one.

“Vice President Binay is my kumpadre, Grace is my inaanak and Mar, I’m very close to Mar because he was a member of my Cabinet,” Estrada said.

“Kapag ako namili (When I have made my choice), I’ll explain to you the reason why,” Estrada said. – Aurea Calica, Evelyn Macairan



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