Cracks in facade of coalition with Poe
SEN. GRACE Poe has repudiated claims of her most ardent supporters and power brokers that she had decided to run for president in 2016 despite the collapse of talks between President Aquino and herself. Mr. Aquino has asked her to be part of the presidential-vice presidential tandem of his administration’s coalition ticket for next year’s polls.
Poe, who is leading in surveys on voter preference for Mr. Aquino’s successor, made the disclaimer after Sen. Serge Osmeña, who serves as a political adviser to her, said that he was more certain she would run as an independent than as an administration candidate. While Poe is “just dancing the fandango, [and] she is just going through the motions, she has already made up her mind,” Osmeña said in a media interview. “She will run for president.”
Another Poe supporter, Sen. Vicente Sotto, said he had no doubt that she would run for president “with her close friend, Sen. Francis Escudero, as her running mate.” Sotto claimed that the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) would meet before the end of the month and would likely decide to support a Poe-Escudero team in the 2016 balloting, and that NPC members were waiting for Poe’s final decision on her options in 2016.
Reacting on Tuesday to these statements, Poe said she remained uncertain whether or not she would seek the presidency. She said she was still weighing her options.
Her reaction came as a slap on her intermediaries in the opposition camp, as well as on the efforts of the President to get her onto the administration’s bandwagon, using her high survey ratings to bolster the electoral chances of its presidential-vice presidential tandem. The latest surveys, conducted last month, show that Poe is now the front-runner, overtaking Vice President Jejomar Binay who had consistently topped the previous surveys.
But Poe is in no position to be smug. Her lead is mainly based on survey ratings which, at this stage of the election season, are historically fluid. Even her own alliances are beginning to fray at the edges. Osmeña was one of her advisers and mentors when she ran for senator under Team PNoy in 2013, but there are signs that their ties are breaking up. He is reported to have said that he had severed his link with Poe after “I disagreed with some of her moves.” In previous interviews, he suggested that Poe was “not yet ripe to lead the country,” and that she was better off as running mate of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
In a left-handed compliment to Poe, Osmeña is reported to have said that she would make a better president if she first goes through apprenticeship as vice president. After a six-year apprenticeship, Poe will be a shoo-in for the presidency in 2022, he said.
This was what Osmeña told reporters: “Just looking at it from her perspective—I’m not talking about political strategy—she would be better off and she would be a better president if she has six years as vice president. Because she’s fairly new in this game. Running for president is not just about winning the election. The hard part actually comes afterward… After that, the big work, the headache, comes—running the country. And we’ve seen [that it’s] very difficult. If you start stumbling, then the country stumbles with you.”
But Osmeña pointed out that Poe, an independent, had all the attributes of a good president. He also did not favor a team-up between Poe and Escudero. He did not explain; all he would say was that he believed that Poe would be better off running “without any extra weight.” He added that Roxas, the presumptive presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, could also be extra weight but Poe would be “safer” running with him.
Osmeña aired the unsolicited advice as Mr. Aquino agonized over the choice of a candidate who would pursue the reforms on good governance introduced by his administration.
The administration is saddled by Roxas’ low ratings in the surveys. One solution being offered to boost his popularity is to make Poe lend him some of her sheen by running as his vice president. It is believed that this is what President Aquino was trying to do in meeting with Poe—with little success. They have met twice since May, but nothing substantial has come out of those meetings. According to Poe, at each meeting she was not offered anything. This is the reason she has remained undecided on whether to run, and if she does do so, she prefers to run with Escudero, she said.
The President invited Poe, Escudero and Roxas to dinner in Malacañang on Wednesday night for a make-or-break attempt to eliminate competition to Roxas within the administration coalition. According to Osmeña, it appeared that Mr. Aquino wanted to remove Poe from the contest. From this perspective, the calculus is this: With Poe out of the race, some 60 percent of the votes for her will go to Roxas, and the other 40 percent will be split among Binay, Rodrigo Duterte and whoever else is running.
Also according to Osmeña, Mr. Aquino will be in a bind if he fails to persuade Poe to run with Roxas. “If the President is unable to convince a member of his coalition, he’s not that strong a leader,” Osmeña was quoted as saying. “If the President can’t convince Senator Grace, how can he convince voters to make his own candidate win? So, he has to convince Grace to lock herself into the Liberal Party.”
Meanwhile, for Roxas, “it’s the presidency or nothing.” He is not willing to make a second sacrifice this time, to make way for an outsider. The President is impaled on the horns of a dilemma.
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