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Grace-Chiz team looms

Roxas, presumptive LP bet, yanked out by Palace faction

A FACTION within the camp of President Benigno Aquino III—including his sisters—is rooting for Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero to run for president and vice president in 2016, repudiating Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, a Palace source said Sunday.

Secretary Mar Roxas, Senators Grace Poe
and Francis Escudero
Rallying around the battle cry “anybody but Mar,” the group was the same “Noy-Bi” faction that campaigned for Vice President Jejomar Binay instead of Roxas in the 2010 elections.

“The Noy-Bi group that includes the presidential sisters and relatives, the Samar group and some ranking members of the ruling Liberal Party will not support Mar Roxas even if President Aquino endorses Roxas as the LP’s or LP coalition’s standard bearer,” the Palace source told the Manila Standard.

The group, which now calls itself ABM for Anybody But Mar, has started consolidating its forces and meets weekly. Its members, the source said, were turned off by Roxas’ arrogance and elitist character.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda denied knowledge of such a group, however.

“No I have not heard of such groups. The government remains focused on the business of governance,” he said.

Even before the 2013 mid-term elections, the President had sought a Roxas-Escudero ticket for 2016, but Roxas balked, the Palace source said.

During the 2010 presidential campaign, Roxas and Escudero bickered bitterly after the latter openly endorsed Binay for vice president while he was running President Aquino’s media campaign.

“In the 2013 senatorial elections, Poe became a surprise topnotcher. Already some Samarenos took notice of her potential. But Poe refused to bite,” the source said.

However, when the second quarter surveys showed Poe was a second placer to Binay’s 41 percent, the wooing of Poe resumed, the source added.

Roxas received only 6 percent in the same opinion poll.

“That was when Mar’s group unleashed their atomic bomb against Binay. At the same time, they put some money on radio and cable ads in Visayas-Mindanao. This seems to have paid-off because his rating improved to 13 percent, second to Binay, which diminished by 10 percent to 31 percent,” the Palace source said.

“The Samar group, which includes some relatives and classmates, cannot forgive LP oldies because they immediately cordoned off [Aquino] right after the elections,” said the source, referring to major Cabinet portfolios that were cornered by the officials of the ruling Liberal Party.

Worse, the sources said, the anti-Roxas group believed almost all the political problems of President Aquino were caused by the LP.

“The Samar, presidential sisters, relatives, friends and classmates believe that the political and economic blunders were caused by the LP, such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program, portions of which were declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional,” the source said.

The architect of the DAP was Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, President Aquino’s campaign manager in 2010.

“As if the DAP was not enough, the MRT 3 mishap was such a huge blunder that commuters curse the government daily because of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya’s incompetence. Abaya is another LP stalwart,” the source said.

“Mar Roxas is not exempted. The rising criminality is a big headache to President Aquino as the people’s safety and security are at stake,” the source said. “Mar is LP president-on leave.”

The Liberals are also being blamed for the rising prices of basic commodities, massive rice importation, and the rampant smuggling of pork, chicken, garlic and onions.

Even the much-touted rice self sufficiency target was missed, thanks to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who is LP national treasurer, the source said.

Another LP official, former senator Francis Pangilinan, quickly became embroiled in an extortion scandal involving one of his trusted lieutenants shortly after being named food czar.

“The LP brought nothing but embarrassment to the Aquino administration,” the source said.

“The AMB group believes that Mar and Butch cabal are too exclusive... Binay was okay, but he was mortally wounded by the demolition job, and his counter-moves have failed.”

The source said all eyes are now on the November last quarter surveys, which should be released in late December.

Despite Poe’s declaration that she is not keen on running for a higher position, the source said the AMB continues to talk to her. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares

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