With no VP yet, Binay party drops national convention

MANILA, Philippines – With Vice President Jejomar Binay's running mate and senatorial slate still not finalized, his party decided to forego a national convention and will instead hold regional launches. 

Binay confirmed that a planned event for September 30 was cancelled, and his opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will instead visit provinces and cities in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. 

The activities will lead up to the filing of certificates of candidacy from October 12 to 16 for the May 2016 polls. 

Iba na yata ang magiging pamamaraan. Tila yata we go by regions at hindi lang iisang sabi ba. Iikot kami,” Binay said in an interview in Cavite on Wednesday, September 23. (The method will be different. We go by the regions, and it will not just be one event. We will go around the country.) 

In contrast, the ruling Liberal Party (LP) is set to hold a national convention on September 28, Monday. LP stalwart Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said that the convention at the Club Filipino in San Juan is meant to announce the running mate and senatorial slate of administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. 

Roxas and Binay still do not have vice presidential bets while independent candidate Senator Grace Poe already announced that she is running with her friend, Senator Francis Escudero

Binay said he is pushing for talks to be finalized soon. The former human rights lawyer is eyeing Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr as his first choice for running mate even if he fought Marcos' father during martial law. 

Sana sa lalong madaling panahon [ang announcement]. Pinagpipilitan ko na sa lalong madaling panahon,” the opposition standard-bearer said. (I hope the announcement comes at the soonest possible time. I am imposing that it be done soon.) 

Binay's party set a September 30 deadline to finalize its vice presidential and senatorial bets, but the lack of progress in the negotiations may push the date back. 

UNA secretary general JV Bautista explained to Rappler that Commission on Elections (Comelec) rules require parties to hold conventions only until September 30. Under the rules, political parties may hold conventions to nominate official candidates only from September 12 to 30. 

“The thing is we do not want to announce at this time. The technicality there is you nominate the candidates and they will accept, and you proclaim them in a party convention. We won't do that anymore. It's going to be a series of party launches,” Bautista said. 

The UNA official said that the following is the schedule for the regional launches: 

“It's bringing the party to the people, the candidates closer to the regions instead of Manila,” Bautista said. 

BINAY VP? Former senator Panfilo Lacson (rightmost) is among the options for Binay's running mate. Lacson has yet to announce his final 2016 plans. File photo

BINAY VP? Former senator Panfilo Lacson (rightmost) is among the options for Binay's running mate. Lacson has yet to announce his final 2016 plans.

File photo

Lacson also an option for VP 

Binay has been having difficulty finding a running mate and completing a 12-member Senate slate after losing his front-runner status in surveys in the wake of corruption allegations and investigations by the Senate, the Ombudsman, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council. 

The former Makati mayor is accused of amassing wealth from overpriced infrastructure projects in the financial district. 

Bautista admitted that UNA is still waiting for Marcos to decide whether to run for president, vice president, or re-election, but it will soon move on. 

“At the end of the month, we will have a decision. We cannot wait all the time. Of course, the VP must have a running mate,” he said. 

Binay is still considering Senator Gregorio Honasan II as another option even after the UNA vice president said he is not interested in running in 2016. Honasan's Senate term ends in 2019. 

Bautista confirmed that the other option for Binay is to draft former senator and rehabilitation secretary Panfilo Lacson as his vice presidential bet. 

The UNA secretary-general said Binay likes Lacson's campaign against the congressional pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and the administration's spending measure, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“He has a good advocacy. It's very complementary with the Vice President who was not involved in the PDAF and DAP controversies. Ping Lacson is a crusader so the two of them are consistent,” Bautista said. 

Asked about the contradiction due to corruption allegations against Binay, Bautista said, “The accusations against the VP are on local government matters, about bidding but they have no proof.” 

Lacson is a strong anti-corruption advocate, who was known for rejecting PDAF allocations as senator even before a corruption scam was exposed in 2013. The former police chief said that he is eyeing the presidency but it remains unclear if he will slide down to vice president or senator. 

UNA also named Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago as Binay's possible running mate but Bautista said her health is a hindrance. Santiago has stage 4 lung cancer.

'Simple announcement' 

Binay is trying to seal the deal on his running mate and senatorial candidates in the coming days. 

UNA Spokesman Mon Ilagan said that if talks are successful, an announcement on Binay's tandem may be made this weekend or early next week. 

“Maybe it will just be a simple announcement, if ever. There might be a joint press conference,” Ilagan told Rappler. 

Whatever the outcome is, Ilagan said that Binay will make the most out of the regional sorties by swearing in local officials, and going around provinces. 

Binay vowed to recover his lead by campaigning even harder.  

“The Vice President prefers to go around and to be with the grassroots, to be with local officials, people who support him and commit to him. He wants to be with the people,” Ilagan said. – Rappler.com