Grace: I’m not Noy’s secret candidate

Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – She attended President Aquino’s recent birthday party and his appointees in the Supreme Court are arguing in her favor, but Sen. Grace Poe says these do not make her a “secret candidate” of the Chief Executive.

“If it’s secret, then it’s really a secret because I have no idea about it,” Poe said in Filipino after campaigning in vote-rich Toledo City in Cebu last Wednesday.

Poe, who is running as an independent, issued the statement yesterday as Aquino’s anointed successor, Manuel Roxas II of the Liberal Party (LP), continued to trail her in the latest surveys.

The two contenders reportedly ran into each other during Aquino’s 56th birthday party celebration at Bahay Pangarap, his official residence in Malacañang Park.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also doused speculation over a supposed “Plan B” candidate, saying “it is quite obvious that there are some quarters, other than LP, that continue to seek the endorsement of the President.”

But Poe, who is running with Sen. Francis Escudero as her vice president, stressed she remained grateful to the President for appointing her as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

From MTRCB chairman, Poe ran and won as senator in 2013 under the administration coalition.

“There’s no denying it’s the President who gave me the chance to serve in the government as MTRCB chairman. And up to the last time we talked, I let him know my heartfelt gratitude, and how he had inspired me with his words that there should be no corrupt in government,” Poe said.

She stressed she and Aquino remain friends despite the different routes they’ve taken ahead of the elections.

The senator said they share the same commitment to improve the country. “So nothing has changed in our friendship,” she said.

B-day party guest

In the same event, Poe admitted attending Aquino’s exclusive birthday party early this week but stressed she sees nothing wrong with it.

The senator arrived at the party – held at the official presidential residence at Bahay Pangarap – just as Roxas was leaving.

“Yes, the President invited me and I accepted his invitation as a friend,” she said, adding that she always got invited during gatherings organized for the President.

“That’s what’s good about our relationship. We are friends – and we do things required of us by our jobs. We respect each other’s opinions. We don’t get personal if we have clashing opinions,” she said.

Poe is leading the surveys among presidential candidates but is facing a disqualification case now being heard by the Supreme Court.

Roxas’ chances of winning are being doubted because of his poor ratings and Senate President Franklin Drilon, an LP stalwart seeking reelection, has admitted it’s something that’s causing concern among their party-mates.

But he said Aquino has been providing a big boost to them as LP and Daang Matuwid coalition candidates.

Lacierda, meanwhile, said the rumor about Poe highlights the “very strategic and significant role” the President plays in the coming elections.

“Make no mistake however. The President has drawn the line in the sand when it comes to who he wants to be his successor. There is none other than Mar Roxas,” Lacierda stressed.

Lacierda said all the talk of a secret candidate is mere speculations and should be ignored.

Poe said she had never regretted her decision not to join the LP slate, although she would tell the media she had to face disqualification cases after making that decision.

In Solid North

Poe visited Ilocos Norte yesterday, the third day of the campaign period.

Accompanied by Team Galing at Puso senatorial candidate Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, Poe arrived at the Laoag International Airport at 7:15 a.m. and proceeded to the Batac City Public Market where she mingled with vendors.

After her market tour, Poe went to the Batac City Hall where she was welcomed by Gov. Imee Marcos.

Marcos said everyone is welcome to campaign in Ilocos Norte, but clarified that her support is with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the running mate of her brother, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is seeking the vice presidency.

Poe and Gov. Marcos also went to the famous Paoay Sand Dunes where a sculpture in honor of Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) was built by the provincial government last year.

FPJ was the adoptive father of the senator.

Poe said she was happy to be in Ilocos Norte because the province reminds her of FPJ.

“Whenever I come here to Ilocos, I get sentimental because I always remember that as a child, I would ride a bike with my father in Paoay near where they were shooting ‘Panday’,” she said, referring to one of FPJ’s movies.  – Ariel Paolo Tejada, Marvin Sy

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