By Marvin Sy and Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
Sen. Franklin Drilon said this was the consensus in the LP but admitted that Roxas has not yet decided if he would accept an official nomination.
“I do not know exactly what is on his mind but he said he has not yet decided and I assume he has not yet decided because he wants to concentrate on his job as DILG (secretary) and doesn’t want his decisions to be influenced by 2016 at this point,” said Drilon, vice chairman of the LP.
“Insofar as the LP is concerned, insofar as I am concerned, we believe that he is best qualified for 2016,” he added.
In a text message to The STAR, Roxas expressed surprise at Drilon’s revelation and said he is at the moment focused on his job as DILG chief.
“I was surprised. Maybe it’s his plan or projection. But I’m busy with my job fighting criminality so it’s not on my mind,” Roxas said in Filipino.
It was the second time that Roxas had been declared LP bet for president. The first was at the start of the campaign period for the 2010 elections. He eventually gave way to then senator Benigno Aquino III following widespread clamor for the latter to run for president after the death of his mother, former President Cory Aquino.
Roxas ended up running for vice president alongside Aquino but lost to then Makati City mayor Jejomar Binay. He is likely to face off with Binay in 2016 if he accepts the LP nomination.
“We are preparing by means of following the matuwid na daan (straight path). That is our preparation because it is all about good governance. That is the advocacy of LP, of which the President is the chairman,” Drilon said.
Since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010, Roxas has held key posts in his administration, the first being secretary of transportation and communications.
Drilon argued that it was not too early to prepare for the 2016 polls, considering that UNA has started its own preparations, starting with this year’s elections.
Drilon said there’s no way UNA can hide the fact that it’s an opposition party intent on making the President a “lame duck” in his last three years in office.
Drilon cited the statement issued by the President that those in the LP coalition for 2013, dubbed as Team Pinoy, are his allies and that the people should be wary of pretenders.
During an interview over ANC, UNA secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco took a swipe at the straight path policy of the administration.
Tiangco said that UNA is offering a magandang daan (beautiful path) as against the tuwid na daan of the administration, which he said could still be crooked or full of potholes.
Such statement, Drilon said, only bolsters his argument that UNA should be considered an opposition party.
“We are conscious of that. The President is conscious of that and we draw the line. We will not be a lame duck. We will have the majority of the people with us because we still have reforms to do,” Drilon said in the same television interview.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. You want to make a lame duck administration so when the time comes that the endorsement of the President is not given to you, it would mean nothing to you. But that’s a challenge for us. We will show that for the next three years, we will do things correctly; we will do things in a manner that a decent right-thinking (person) will do regardless of politics,” he added.
No more playing safe
For Malacañang, battle lines have been drawn between the administration’s slate and that of UNA and there is no room for playing safe now that the campaign is near.
“I think the first salvo of the LP advertisement would show what kind of a campaign the LP is going to mount,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said when asked if they expect mudslinging.
“It is to clearly show you these are my candidates, these are their candidates. These are the people I trust to forge ahead with my reforms, so these are the people that I ask you to vote for. That’s very clear, that’s Team Pinoy,” Lacierda said.
“The opposition, if you notice, has been trying to say that they put a qualifier. It’s called constructive opposition but we’ve heard anything but constructive from them,” he said.
Lacierda said UNA’s style was “confusing” because its camp was hitting the government but not directly the President.
“So they would like to make sure that they don’t want to be identified as against the President. But the President has already made it clear in Team Pinoy, in the advertisement: ‘These are my senatorial (candidates). These are my people. This is the one that will push for my reforms.’ So it is clear what kind of campaign we will employ and what UNA will do,” Lacierda said.
“That’s why Sen. Frank Drilon yesterday was saying: ‘Let’s call a spade a spade. This is the LP coalition. These are the people from UNA’,” he said.
“Very clear we need to have the set of people who will forge ahead and push for my reforms in government, and that’s what we’re looking at. We’ve passed three years wherein reforms have been instituted,” he said.
Lacierda could not say who shouldered the ads for the LP bets, but clarified that no government funds would be spent.
“I can categorically tell you that we are not using government funds for this political campaign,” he said.
Lacierda lamented that UNA had been hitting administration programs like the conditional cash transfer and even the President’s recent trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum.
“Well, the only thing that they have said positively is that they support the Philippine approach to arbitral tribunal. Of course, it’s a no-brainer if you’re going to go against that policy. Who’s going to go against that policy?” Lacierda said.
On the line
For his colleagues in the LP, President Aquino is putting his political capital and performance at stake in the May 13 midterm polls.
“The coming May 13 vote is a midterm election, in which the President is putting on the line his performance for the first three years of his term and his programs for the next three years,” Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, one of LP’s spokespersons, told reporters.
He said Aquino would go all-out for members of his Team Pinoy senatorial ticket on the campaign trail.
“They are the people he has assembled, the people he can trust and rely on up to the end of his term in 2016,” he said.
Asked whether the President could trust candidates of UNA who, according to its leaders, are the “constructive opposition,” Quimbo said, “We are not sure of that.” – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jess Diaz