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Analysis

2016 polls enter crucial period of uncertainty

/ 01:08 AM August 19, 2015

CANBERRA—The administration’s efforts to draft Sen. Grace Poe as running mate of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in the May 2016 presidential election are bogging down with her unenthusiastic response to the latter’s offer to join his team.

Poe and Roxas had a four-hour meeting on Sunday night at her house, where she told him she had not yet decided whether to run for higher office. She was later quoted as telling reporters: “I told him I understand they cannot wait for a long time, especially if they are organizing. But for me he will not lose [a running mate] because the party has many to choose from… I don’t want to mislead or to give false hopes. What I’m saying is that at this point, I’m still studying it, and it’s up to them if they will wait. But I’m thankful that their doors are open, and I’m not encouraging them to wait if this is contrary to their position.”

It is not clear whether Poe has slammed the door on further talks with Roxas. The ruling Liberal Party is wooing her to be Roxas’ running mate in the hope that her popularity in opinion surveys would boost his own poll ratings. He is running third in the latest Social Weather Stations survey, behind Vice President Jejomar Binay, the declared opposition presidential candidate. In the latest Pulse Asia survey, Roxas is running fourth behind Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

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It is also not clear from Poe whether she will run for president, together with Sen. Francis Escudero as vice president, on a third-party ticket.

While Poe was sending that message to the LP, which sounded as though it were a threat, there were signs that the party was exploring other options for the vice presidency should she formally decline Roxas’ offer. A clamor is rising in the LP to consider Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, widow of Jesse Robredo, Roxas’ predecessor as interior secretary, as vice presidential candidate. Last week, Roxas extolled his predecessor as a reformist who, as mayor of Naga City, implemented President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” good governance platform.

Roxas cited Robredo, who died in a plane crash on Aug. 18, 2012, as “an example and inspiration to reformists in government.” Roxas said: “Although his life was short, he did many things for the country. [He] was among those [who] proved to us that honest, consensus-driven governance was not only possible but necessary to achieve our dreams as a nation. A stalwart of good governance, he led by example.”

An outstanding mayor of Naga City, Robredo was known for always leading the cleanup after a storm. “He ensured that public money went to projects which directly benefit the people. … He lived with humility and the dignified confidence of the incorruptible,” Roxas said.

On the third anniversary of Robredo’s death on Aug. 18, the President and his Cabinet flew to Naga City. His visit was seen as not only a tribute to Robredo but also as a signal to his widow, a lawyer, to encourage her to run as Roxas’ running mate.

LP officials have pointed out that Roxas and Leni Robredo share the same views on good governance. Last week, friends of Jesse Robredo launched a movement to persuade her to run for vice president. But she appears disinterested and in fact did not attend the launch. She told reporters earlier that she would rather seek reelection as Camarines Sur representative or run for senator.

On another front, the fate of Roxas’ bid for the presidency and of Poe’s plans to run as an independent candidate unattached to the ruling party or the opposition party is being sealed by new coalitions. Last week, the second largest party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, was in the process of consultations on the candidate to support in the May 2016 presidential election. According to NPC officials, Cojuangco only wanted to consult with Poe but the majority of NPC members were “ready to support” her as presidential candidate with Escudero as her running mate. Still, the party was awaiting Cojuangco’s decision and was prepared to back it.

Roxas has sought Cojuangco’s support, but the latter is reported to be hedging and is said to be waiting for signs of marked improvement in the chances of Roxas winning after the President endorsed him as his successor. Observers are also watching for the next surveys in September, for signs of whether Roxas’ electoral chances had been enhanced by the clout of the party machine following the President’s endorsement and by the weight of the President’s performance legacy, as outlined in his last State of the Nation Address.

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The NPC is part of the administration’s LP-led coalition, which also includes the Nacionalista Party. With big party players realigning their coalitions, presidential aspirants (now numbering at least five) without party vehicles are likely to be eliminated in this process of attrition.

The 2016 presidential election has entered a critical period of uncertainty.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Chiz Escudero, Danding Cojuangco, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay, jesse robredo, leni robredo, Mar Roxas, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, P-Noy, Rodrigo Duterte
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