‘Poe’s high ratings not enough for LP’

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

Palace: Grace too green to be standard bearer   

MANILA, Philippines - Despite Sen. Grace Poe’s high popularity ratings, the Liberal Party has not felt the need to make her its standard bearer in 2016, as competence and adherence to reforms have been the LP’s yardstick in choosing its presidential candidate, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday.

In a press briefing, Coloma said the party’s basis for choosing its presidential candidate is his or her belief in the “principles of reforms, good governance and upholding the straight path advocacy” of the administration.

He said the LP believes “it’s not reasonable to make survey results” the basis for choosing its standard bearer. Besides, it’s still too early to judge a candidate’s chances just by looking at survey results, he said.

Moreover, the surveys showing Poe beating other possible candidates came before President Aquino’s endorsement of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II as his choice for successor.

Coloma also ruled out the possibility of Roxas sliding down to vice president again – like he did in 2010.

“According to President Aquino, Roxas’ capability to continue the straight path has been tried and tested, that’s why he’s been chosen by the Liberal Party as its standard bearer,” he said.

He said Aquino and Roxas have repeatedly made clear the principles espoused by the administration, including the importance of continuing reforms.

In Cebu City the other day, President Aquino said the LP could never have tried to malign Poe, whom it was trying to take in as vice presidential candidate.

It was the first time the President spoke in defense of his party against Poe’s accusation that it has had backstabbers in its ranks. But he stressed the party is still open to having Poe as running mate of Roxas.

“For me, I think we have to consider, No.1, we’re trying to woo her and at the same time make black propaganda against her. If we are able to get her, then we will have to answer the same black propaganda against her,” Aquino told reporters in Filipino in a chance interview here.

“That doesn’t make sense, and no one can accuse us of bad planning. Let’s just take a look at its practicality,” he said.

He said the information Poe received regarding supposed underhanded tactics by some LP members may have actually come from groups engaged in a hatchet job against the ruling party.

Defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David is questioning Poe’s citizenship and residency status before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

Aquino said getting criticized is part of the hazards of seeking public office. Poe has not announced her political plans for 2016. Her term as senator ends in 2019. 

He said that while they expect more intrigues and disinformation, truth will ultimately prevail. 

Meeting with allies

Roxas, meanwhile, is set to meet today with leaders of the National Unity Party (NUP) in an effort to consolidate support from political parties allied with the administration.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a stalwart of the NUP, said Roxas will present to party leaders his platform of government as well as programs aimed at continuing the policies set by the Aquino administration.

“I firmly believe that he can continue the good governance of President Aquino,” Barzaga said, adding many NUP members are supportive of Roxas.

The NUP is the third largest party in the House of Representatives and belongs to the majority coalition. At least six governors and several mayors belong to the NUP.

He said the meeting would be held at the Gloria Maris restaurant in Cubao, Quezon City.

In a separate interview, Roxas said daang matuwid is a fight for the future of 100 million Filipinos.

Roxas said the reforms in the national and local governments have resulted in significant improvements in the lives of ordinary people.

He said these achievements include the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) being able to benefit 4.4 million Filipinos, 88 percent reach of the PhilHealth program and the modernization of the PNP and the BFP, among others.

In Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend, Roxas’ wife broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez-Roxas said she doesn’t care who her husband’s running mate is provided he or she is willing to continue the administration’s tuwid na daan advocacy.

Doing a Gloria

Militant groups, meanwhile, accused yesterday the Aquino administration of using government resources to prop up its presidential candidate, just like what the Arroyo administration did in the 2004 presidential elections.

“This unapologetic abuse of power is supposedly what P-Noy and his party fought against, but now they are guilty of the very same evils they once condemned,”  Renato  Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said in a statement.

In recent surveys, Roxas was lagging behind Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Reyes said “Roxas could have irrevocably resigned out of delicadeza, but it’s obvious that his resigning and Aquino’s refusal to accept it is all a show, just for a show, just to impress upon us that he supposedly has integrity,” he said.

Roxas tendered his resignation but was prevailed upon by the President to stay on as he reportedly has some unfinished tasks, including the modernization of the Philippine National Police and the relocation of informal settlers in Metro Manila.

Roxas has been going around the county as part of “pseudo campaign” being billed to taxpayers, Reyes said.

He also accused Roxas of premature campaigning with his recent distribution of fire trucks and patrol cars to local government units as part of their “capability enhancement.” 

‘Campaign kitty’

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), for its part, said the P10.1-billion proposed budget of the  Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for next year represented “premeditated savings” intended for LP’s “campaign kitty” in 2016.

“With the expiration of the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program  (CARP) or the absence of a land reform law in general, the P10.13-billion budgetary allocation for DAR in 2016 is no less than a premeditated savings and funding source for LP bets in 2016,” said KMP chair Rafael Mariano.

“Without a land reform law, the P4.5 billion for land acquisition and distribution of the DAR is obviously a lump-sum allocation highly vulnerable to corruption,” Mariano said.

“And with the new definition of savings, the DAR budget will be another deep source of Aquino’s LP, designed to suit their fiscal and electoral agenda next year,” he added.

Mariano said CARP’s expiration on June 30, 2014 was supposed to prevent the DAR from further acquiring and distributing lands.

“At the same time, due to the Supreme Court’s decision declaring as unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Congress during the budget deliberations last year redefined savings as ‘portions or balances’ of any programmed items of appropriations which have not been released or obligated,” he noted.

“In fact, the lump sum funds were prepositioned to LP-friendly downloading stations, administration bailiwicks and vote-rich territories,” Mariano said.

He noted that Region 6 or Western Visayas got the biggest share on the DAR’s P10-billion budget with P893.2 million.

The KMP said “the biggest slice of the DAR budget went to Region 6, a bastion of big landlords, not because vast haciendas in Negros and Panay will be placed under an expired and sham agrarian reform program but mainly because it is the LP standard bearer Mar Roxas’ territory.”

Mariano said the highest allocations in the DAR budget were for Region 6 with P893.2 million, Region 8 with P585.67 million, Region 5 with P536 million, Region 3 with P450 million, and Region 2 with P411 million.

“We fear that systematic electoral fraud will occur in these vote-rich regions using lump sum DAR funds,” Mariano said.

The KMP has called for a “zero budget for CARP,” insisting that “the sham program already expired and that the CARP was used as a cash cow of big landlords and corrupt bureaucrats like the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”

“Insofar as there is no land reform program existing today, the bogus CARP should not have any budget at all,” the peasant leader said. Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Perseus Echeminada, Ding Cervantes, Gerry Lee Gorit

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