PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III met a second time with Senator Grace Poe in Malacañang Wednesday, but the senator said there was as yet no offer to her to be the running mate of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party in 2016.
“The President did not say that I should be in tandem with this or that I should do that,” said Poe after the meeting. “It’s just that I should be ready, if ever, to continue his good governance.”
Poe said the President described Roxas as a good person who had the potential to continue his reforms. She said the President told her he had confidence in Roxas.
After the second meeting, Poe said it was clear to her that the President was actively looking for candidates to support in the 2106 elections.
“He has a list of those capable (to run). I can’t say that it is only me. He will also talk to Senator [Francis] Escudero. He mentioned it. It is clear to me that I’m not the only one on the list. There are others. I’m not the only one.”
But Poe said if she were to seek higher office, she would be more comfortable running with Escudero.
Both senators have been coy about their plans for next year’s elections.
Escudero, who supports the administration, said he has no political party with the resources to launch a national campaign.
In 2013, Poe and Escudero ran as independents, but won the first and fourth top spot, respectively, in the senatorial races.
Poe said she told the President she would remain an independent.
“He didn’t contradict me when I told him I prefer to remain independent. It’s not good that before elections, you would change your party. And he understood it. He also explained the stance of the Liberal Party that it has a process of selection. And I’m thankful for his fairness. He did not force me [and say] this should be your party,” Poe said.
Poe said the President asked how she was doing after critics questioned her qualifications to run for president.
They also discussed the President’s programs and policies, such as poverty alleviation and support for agriculture, Poe said.
She also said the President invited her to attend and observe his meetings.
The President’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, was clueless about the meeting with Poe.
“We’ll verify. I have a schedule. It doesn’t state in the schedule of whether there is a meeting or not with Senator Grace Poe,” Lacierda said.
“If it happens, it happens, but the schedule doesn’t say that. I think the MPC (Malacañang Press Corps) was furnished a copy of the schedule. So, as far as I know, there is no scheduled meeting with Grace Poe. But if there is one, I’m sure all of us will know,” he added.
In May, Aquino met with Poe, triggering speculation that she was being invited to run for higher office under the Liberal Party banner.
Aquino at the time said Poe had the characteristics of a successor who can continue his reform agenda and preserve the gains of his administration.
“We have worked hard to bring the country to where we are now – we have invested blood, sweat and tears. These accomplishments have to be made permanent,” the President said in an interview with Bombo Radyo.
The Liberal Party is expected to announce its standard bearer for the 2016 elections right after Aquino’s State of the Nation Address in July.
Aquino had earlier said that Roxas is on the top of his list in the LP, as his candidate for president. However, he said this would still be discussed within the LP before any decision is made.
Roxas, who was set to run for president in 2010, stepped aside and ran as Aquino’s running mate instead, but loss the race for the vice presidency to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who plans to run for president next year.
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