MANILA, Philippines – Number 1 or number 2? Senator Grace Poe has no definite answer yet on whether to run for president or vice president in 2016, as President Benigno Aquino III also did not give her a “firm offer.”
Poe revealed that Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II joined the “last part” of her “long” meeting with Aquino on the 2016 polls last Tuesday night, May 5, in Malacañang. Yet Poe said she did not force Aquino to give her a specific offer because she was also not yet ready to decide.
The senator, who is faring well in surveys, said her meeting with Aquino lacked specifics, but there was a particular question she boldly asked.
“'Mr President, kung saka-sakali, 'di naman po ako Liberal, susuportahan ba ninyo ako?' Sabi naman niya gusto niyang magkaroon ng konsultasyon sa grupo nila para kahit hindi Liberal, pero ang prinsipyong 'sinusulong niya para sa reporma ang may kakayanan ang taong gawin iyon ay gusto niyang suportahan.”
("Mr President, if ever [I decide to run], I am not a member of the Liberal Party, will you support me?" He said he wants to consult his group, but even if it's not a Liberal Party member, the person who can push for the principle and the reforms they are fighting for, he would support.)
Poe said that Aquino responded with a commitment. “At least from a personal level, but of course, the President has to consult his party for approval. He said he would like to make that commitment.”
The President announced on a trip to Canada last Friday that he talked to Poe about the 2016 polls, but refused to say what “commitment” he gave her.
Aquino is the chairman of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). The party president on leave, Roxas reportedly wants to be the LP's standard-bearer but has been trailing behind Poe and front runner Vice President Jejomar Binay in opinion polls. Poe is an independent candidate allied with the administration, and ran with the LP's Senate slate in 2013.
Some LP members are pushing for a Roxas-Poe tandem but others believe that with Poe's popularity, she will be better off as a presidential bet.
A reluctant possible candidate, Poe said the meeting with the President will help her decide on her political plans.
“It is a huge honor to have the trust of someone you respect. If ever, I won't say I have a bigger chance now but, of course, that adds to the decision I will make. But I can't say I am already sure because this is just one aspect.”
Poe said much of her meeting with Aquino was “reading between the lines.” She said he did not even directly ask her if she was open to higher office.
“This is what is clear. Aren't people asking if he is thinking about 2016? It's clear that he is. Second, it's clear that the President is thinking of someone they can support who has the trust of the people, and has the chance to push for their reforms. On a practical matter...oh never mind, that's it.”
Poe said Aquino is looking for an “alternative.”
“Siguro 'yun ang alternative na sinasabi, na mayroon na ang administrasyon kung sakali, pero ito ay pinag-iisipang mabuti. Karangalan na matawag ng 'ginagalang natin na mamuno sa atin. Pero 'di nangangahulugan noon bigla kang lulukso at sasama diyan.”
(Maybe that is the alternative that he is saying: that the administration also needs an alternative if ever, but I have to think that through. It's an honor to be considered, but it doesn't mean I will immediately jump and join the bandwagon.)
What will make Poe decide to run for office?
The senator said she first has to study, and consult her mother, actress Susan Roces.
“Importante rin sa lahat, buo ang loob mo. 'Di lang sa tingin mo kaya mo, mananalo ka, kundi paano ka ba talaga makakatulong? At ang pinakamalaking problema natin ang mahihirap. Paano natin maiangat iyon? 'Di lang reporma laban sa korapsyon, pero ang pagtulong talaga. Kaya ko ba? Sa ano ba'ng posisyon? Pinag-iisipan ko pa,” she said.
(The most important is a firm resolve. It's not just about thinking if you can do it and win, but thinking how you can help, and our biggest problem is poverty. How do we uplift the poor? It's not just about anti-corruption reforms but really helping. Can I do it? In what position, I am still thinking it through.)
Poe admitted that she is inexperienced, being a senator for only two years after heading the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. In an apparent reference to Binay, she said her edge is her clean record in government.
“There are many who have been in government for a longer time, so it's not easy to decide. But I believe that despite shortcomings and things left to be done, the reform on corruption must be continued,” Poe said.
Poe also addressed concerns about her perceived rift with Aquino after she issued a scathing report holding the President ultimately responsible for the January 25 Mamasapano clash. The biggest crisis to hit Aquino's administration, the clash in Maguindanao killed 67, and put the peace process in peril.
She has also criticized Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya over the poor Metro Trail Transit (MRT) services, and resigned police chief Alan Purisima over corruption. Abaya and Purisima are friends of Aquino.
Still, the senator said she and Aquino are “principled allies.”
“The mere fact he called me there means he appreciates my work. He knows I am an ally, a principled ally. My priority is what's best for the country. I also appreciate what he has done. There may be some deficiencies in any particular system, but we're here to help make it better,” Poe said.
Drilon: Mar still LP bet
Poe said she talked to her close friend, Senator Francis Escudero, about the meeting with Aquino. Escudero is rumored to be running for vice president, and a possible running mate of Poe should she seek the presidency as an independent bet.
“We're supportive of each other. We don't want to compete against each other. Senator Chiz is also independent so whatever his plan is, it's not tied to a particular party. I think [the LP] is also considering him,” she said.
LP vice chairman Senator Franklin Drilon though maintained that Roxas is still the “presumptive candidate" of the administration. It was Drilon who first revealed that Roxas supposedly said he wants to run for president.
“But, of course, we have to seek the opinion of the highest official of the land, and our chairman,” said Drilon.
Despite his high post in the LP, Drilon said he was not “totally aware” of the Poe meeting. “I don't think the President should ask anyone's permission.” – Rappler.com