VP sets off ‘2016 play’

As Binay firms up plan, others telegraph moves

THE departure of Vice President Jejomar Binay from the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas or PDP-Laban triggered an avalanche of political speculation and maneuvering Monday, including talk of an administration ticket headed by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and President Benigno Aquino III’s showbiz sister, Kris, for the 2016 presidential elections.

The Palace refused to comment on talk of a Roxas-Aquino slate for 2016, saying it was focused on its job of governance, and that it was too early to think about the elections two years away.

“We still have 894 days in office. The President is in the thick of governance right now,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda also said the President has not made up his mind yet if Roxas will be the administration party’s standard bearer.

“It’s a decision that the President has to make. It too far off and I don’t want to preempt the President. Whatever decision he makes, we will support it,” Lacierda said.

He also declined to comment on Binay’s preparations for the 2016 elections.

“We have no comment on the formation of a new political party by Vice President Binay. Obviously, that is his decision to make and we have no hand in that.”

Binay confirmed Sunday that he has already left the PDP-Laban to form his own party, which will be launched June 12 to coincide with Independence Day.

Binay said while it was still too early to chose a running mate for 2016, three-term Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos was being considered.

Reacting to the statement, Santos’ husband, Senator Ralph Recto, said his wife had no intention to seek higher office, and was considering retiring from politics to focus on her career in show business.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his own Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) could join Binay’s new party.

Estrada’s son, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, said he would offer Binay his position as president of the PMP if he wanted to join the party.

“I believe he is going to be the next president,” the senator said of Binay.

Reports of Santos being considered as running mate of Binay came on the heels of the Vice President’s visit to Batangas last month for a presentation of the government’s shelter program, but Recto said neither of them discussed the 2016 elections.

In an earlier interview, Liberal Party spokesman Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said that while Roxas is the frontrunner, the administration has a wide range of choices.

“Most likely, in the absence of any other candidate, it will be Secretary Mar. But the post is till open,” Evardone said.

Aside from Roxas, Evardone said another LP stalwart who could be considered is Senate President Franklin Drilon.

From outside the party, Evardone said the choices could include former senator Panfilo Lacson, and Senators Francis Escudero, Grace Poe Llamanzares and Alan Peter Cayetano.

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Monday said Binay’s new party would strengthen the political opposition in 2016.

UNA secretary general and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco said Binay’s allies welcomed his decision to bolt the PDP-Laban, where he was national chairman.

Many of these allies, some from the ruling Liberal Party, wanted to join Binay, but would not take their oath under the PDP-Laban, Tiangco added.

“The opposition will be stronger come 2016,” Tiangco said.

But House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., LP vice president, played down the possibility of Liberals joining Binay’s new party.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal said the new party was “bound to sitr the interest of political butterflies.”

The independent minority bloc in the House and several lawmakers welcomed Binay’s decision to form his own party.

“That was a welcome development,” said Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, head of the independent bloc. “It only reaffirms his presidential ambition. It also signals support for Binay from other political camps.”

But Romualdez said Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. remained a strong presidential hopeful, despite the recent plunder charges filed against him in connection to the pork barrel scam.

Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) which Revilla chairs, said it could put forward its own slate for the 2016 elections.

“He is a number one senator, and everything is possible. He is still very popular,” Romualdez said of Revilla.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of Romualdez’s bloc, said Binay’s move was expected as 2016 draws near.

“The political lines are being re-drawn faster and earlier than expected. Vice President Binay and [former President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada] will now firm the core core of a new opposition group,” Dela Cruz said.

Two lawmakers and members of UNA, Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian and Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting also welcomed Binay’s decision, saying it would avoid any conflict in the PDP-Laban leadership.

“I think it is good for Vice President Binay to start with a clean slate,” said Gatchalian. “It will be a good opportunity for [him] to recruit would-be party mates with the same advocacy and principles. A lot of public servants want to join him also.”

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said Binay’s departure would not affect the party, which emphasized ideology, not personalities.

“I’m (still) waiting a formal communication from him, so it will be official,” he added.

Binay, who served as national chairman, said differences with other key players in the party including Pimentel prompted him to leave the party founded by Pimentel’s father. With Maricel V. Cruz and Joel E. Zurbano




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