Mar as ‘face-saver’

Aquino will be forced to pick Roxas, says Osmeña

TO save face, President Benigno Aquino III will be forced to anoint Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II as the Liberal Party standard bearer for 2016, despite his being a “consistent tail-ender” in all opinion surveys by independent polling companies, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said  Tuesday.

“They also extoll the LP as the biggest, the most powerful, the one with the most resources, but they have no presidential candidate,” said Osmeña.

“So if I were to guess, [the President] will endorse Mar,” said Osmena, a political strategist who served on Aquino’s campaign when he ran for president in 2010.

Osmeña said it would be embarrassing for Aquino to endorse the current leader in the opinion polls, Senator Grace Poe, if she decides to run outside the LP.

Neither Roxas nor Poe have declared their intention to run for president in 2016.

Poe, however, has dislodged Vice President Jejomar Binay in the latest opinion surveys of the presidential candidate preferred by most voters. In the June survey, Roxas placed fourth.

Osmeña denied insinuations that he tried to dissuade Poe from running for President to give Roxas a better shot at the presidency next year.

Earlier, Osmeña said Poe would be better off running for vice president and serve six years to gain the experience to become a better president.

Osmeña’s son, Jose Lorenzo Osmeña, is set to marry Roxas’ niece, Ana Cristina Maria Roxas Ojeda in January 2016, but the senator said this had nothing to do with his suggestion to Poe.

“That proposal to Grace [Poe] to run for vice president was in response to a question on the better route to great for presidency for her. Obviously, the more experienced [she is], the better,” Osmeña said.

Liberal Party leaders believe Roxas has a better chance of winning the presidency if Poe does not run.

The President met Poe on five occasions, but they have failed to reach an agreement on a common, unified ticket.

Osmena said the results are going to be the same no matter how many meetings they have, and that there was no stopping Poe from running for president in 2016, with or without the President’s endorsement.

“Grace Poe will still run as an independent,” he said.

Osmeña, to whom Poe goes to for advice, said she should choose her running mate carefully, and that her friend Senator Francis Escudero had “excess baggage.”

“As of today, there’s no issue against Grace Poe. She is honest. She’s straightforward. She’s charming. She has no issue, so why would she pick a partner who has excess baggage? Not just a baggage, but excess baggage,” he said.

During her last meeting with the President, Poe said she felt the President was in a very difficult position.

“I understand and sympathize with his predicament and situation. I consider him a true and sincere friend and he has my utmost respect,” she said.

Poe said the President reiterated his desire for all of them to continue working together, and that he believed that like him, they could and would do the best for the country.

“In the end, we both agreed to continue, in whatever capacity, striving and working for our countrymen and for the betterment of our children’s future,” she said.

The President’s meeting with Poe  Monday  afternoon, which lasted five hours, came after last week’s dinner with her, Roxas and Escudero.

Poe has said she is more comfortable running with Escudero who is her close friend, but they have not yet made a final decision to run for higher office.

Poe said  Monday’s  meeting with the President “is perhaps our last meeting before the SONA (State of the Nation Address) and we both agreed that we both have the best interest of our country in mind in whatever decisions we will make in the coming days.”

Aquino had said he would announce his administration’s presidential candidate after the SONA on  July 27. Political observers said the President wants an administration tandem composed of Roxas and Poe.

Osmeña said the President’s endorsement of Roxas should not be seen as payback for Roxas’ decision to slide down to the vice presidential race in 2010 to give way to Aquino.

He said “give way” was inappropriate because even then, Roxas had no chance of winning the presidency.

“Yeah, it’s true. He sacrificed for the party. But you know the usual phrase that I gave way... Hello? He didn’t have a chance,” Osmeña said.

After last week’s dinner with Poe, Escudero and Roxas, the President said he was closer to naming his anointed presidential candidate, but it was apparent that no decision had been reached on a common ticket.

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