Palace dinner ends with no consensus

NO consensus was reached on a unified ticket for the 2016 presidential elections after President Benigno Aquino III met for six hours with potential candidates Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II  Wednesday  night.

But Aquino said he is closer to choosing his anointed candidate for president after  Wednesday  night’s meeting in the Palace.

“I think, the best that I can say at this point is I am closer to that point,” said Aquino during ceremonies to usher in the new chief of the Philippine National Police.

Aquino said that after the meeting, he had a clearer idea who would continue the reforms he started when he was elected President in 2010.

“I think the result of last night’s dialogue assures me there are a lot of those who will be able to continue what we have worked for, and we are happy about it,” said Aquino.

He said the meeting at the Palace finished past  midnight.

“For me, it is a good sign. It was a good meeting,” he said.

“Success can be measured by your ability to train your successor, or to name your successor,” the President said. “And I am very glad that there is such a big pool of people who will continue the struggle to really get our people to where they should be.”

Aquino declined to say if he was considering anyone else outside of the three, and said only that he still needed to meet with the Liberal Party hierarchy and other sectors.

Wednesday  night was Escudero’s second meeting and Poe’s fourth with the President regarding the 2016 elections.

Roxas, the presumptive standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party, which Aquino heads as national chairman, was also present at the meeting.

Poe and Escudero, who have rated well in opinion polls for the presidency and vice presidency, have not officially announced their intentions to run, but said they will remain independent if they choose to seek higher office.

Roxas, who has fared poorly in opinion polls, has also not declared his intention to run.

Escudero said the meeting with the President and Roxas was cordial and relaxed. He said they ate Chinese food and talked about a lot of things “other than 2016.”

He said no consensus was reached, which meant the President has not yet decided on who will be his anointed candidate for President next year.

Aquino also said he is on track to naming his anointed presidential candidate after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) later this month.

Poe said their meeting started around  7 p.m.  and lasted six hours.

“We were all amenable [to the idea] that the growth of our country lies in the right leadership. So we all agreed that the most important [thing] is to consider the voices our people to ensure that the reforms initiated will not go to waste and further boost the good leadership in the next six years,” Poe said in a text message.

A source said the President plans to endorse Roxas and press Poe into be his running mate and offer Escudero a Cabinet position.

But Poe is contemplating a run for the presidency herself, in which case she will choose Escudero has her vice president, the same source said.

Although both Poe and Escudero are independents, they ran as guest candidates of the administration’s Team PNoy.

During their first meeting, Poe said she was informed by the President that they were looking for an alternative candidate. In the second meeting, the President told her to be ready, but made no specific offer.

In the third meeting, Poe said the President talked to her and Escudero about keeping the coalition intact to continue his administration’s anti-corruption drive.

Escudero also said the President told them they would have to talk to Roxas about the coming elections.

Still, no offer was made,” said Escudero about his second meeting with the President.

In a text message to reporters  Thursday, Poe said even highly experienced leaders falter if they do not have the best interest of the people at heart—a reaction to Senator Sergio Osmeña III’s advice that she would be better off running as vice president in 2016.

In an interview  Wednesday  night, Osmeña said Poe should first serve as vice president for six years to make a better president because “she is fairly new in this game.”

“This is not all about national politics and winning the elections. After that, the big work comes, the headache comes, running the country. And we can see it, that’s very difficult,” Osmeña said.

He also warned Poe that if she stumbled, the entire country stumbled with her.

Poe said she understands the sentiments of Osmeña, to whom she has been going to for advice.

She also said she was thankful for Osmeña’s continued trust in her character, even though he has brought up her lack of experience.

In the House, lawmakers who support Roxas urged Poe to wait for her time.

House deputy majority leader and Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal urged Poe to “do a Mar Roxas,” in reference to Roxas’ move in 2010 to give way to Aquino’s presidential bid.

“I think it’s Senator Grace’s turn to do a Mar Roxas while gaining the necessary experience to continue the gains of the straight path in 2022,” Banal said in an interview.

Banal, an LP member, said that he is hopeful that President Aquino will heed the calls of his party-mates and supporters, and endorse Roxas, whom he described as “the most deserving and most qualified standard bearer for the 2016 elections.”

“There was never any doubt, as far as I’m concerned. Selecting a President who will follow in the footsteps of Pnoy [Aquino] was not decided overnight, it was a long process, of reviewing track records, of analyzing issues and deciding on who I believe can carry on, for the sake of continuity,” Banal said.

“What we are looking for now are those who will openly stand up and come out declaring their support for Secretary Mar and why, we need that kind of conviction this early in the ball game,” he added.

Cavite Rep. Alex Advincula, an LP member, echoed Banal’s call to Poe.

“I think Senator Grace, if she truly loves this country, can understand. She needs Secretary Roxas to learn from. He can give her experience if she will support him, experience that she will use when it is her turn to be President after 2022,” Advincula said in a statement.

Advincula said he believes Roxas would be able to continue the “gains” of the Aquino government.

“The focus of the party is continuity and whether we admit it or not, we all agree that it is also what the people want, that governance will not be disrupted by this election,” Advincula said.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. a stalwart of the National Unity Party (NUP) which is a member of the administration coalition, also vouched for Roxas as “the perfect successor to continue the administration’s reform agenda.”

Barzaga said a Roxas-Poe ticket would be unbeatable in the 2016 presidential elections.

“A Roxas-Poe tandem will be a solid one since the pairing is the best fit, especially with Roxas’ experience as a congressman, senator, and a member of both the Estrada and Arroyo Cabinets,” Barzaga said.

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