PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III met with Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero for five hours Thursday afternoon, suggesting he has not yet decided to endorse the Liberal Party’s presumptive candidate for president in 2016, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Both Escudero and Poe confirmed the President talked to them in Malacañang in a meeting that lasted more than five hours, with Escudero arriving at the Palace at around 1:30 p.m., followed by Poe an hour later.
Escudero said Friday it was likely the President has not yet made up his mind who to support in next year’s elections because he is still talking to other prospective candidates, even those that are not members of his Liberal Party.
In a statement issued on Friday, Poe confirmed she and Escudero met the President.
“Yes, the President met with us. We discussed 2016 but only to the extent of hopefully having a united ticket. No specific commitments or positions were mentioned. We will meet again as part of a continued consultation process,” she said.
Poe and Escudero, who were No. 1 and No. 4 in the last senatorial elections, are frontrunners in the race for the presidency and vice presidency. Poe has been leading recent surveys by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia for both positions, while Escudero has been faring well as the voters’ top choice for vice president.
The two, who are close friends, also have the highest trust ratings among the senators.
Escudero served as campaign manager of Poe’s late father, Fernando Poe Jr., when he ran and lost for president in 2010.
In the meeting with the President, Escudero said no clear message was made to them about any endorsement.
Asked if he and Poe might be the President’s alternatives, Escudero noted they are both independents and not part of the LP.
Poe has repeatedly said she would remain an independent candidate should she decide to seek higher office in 2016. She said she had made this clear to the President earlier, when they met on two occasions to talk about 2016.
She said it would be in bad taste to join the Liberal Party just for the sake of running in the upcoming elections.
But Poe said she is open to a coalition such as the one for the senatorial races in 2013.
Escudero said the President didn’t make any specific offers to him or Poe, but appealed to keep the administration coalition intact by supporting a common candidate next year to avoid dividing the vote.
“He talks about continuing the reforms. If the straight path will continue, our country will go a long way in just short span of time,” Escudero said.
Escudero said he and Poe agreed to another meeting, this time with the President and Roxas.
In a statement, Poe also cited her accomplishments in her second year in office.
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