Roxas, Grace vie for NPC support

THE Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) played it safe  Tuesday  by setting up separate meetings with two presidential contenders in one day—Liberal Party (LP) bet and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II at lunch and independent Senator Grace Poe accompanied by Senator Francis Escudero in the evening.

NPC stalwarts Reps. Mark Llandro Mendoza of Batangas and Mark Enverga of Quezon confirmed that the lunch meeting was initiated by the Roxas camp amid reports that some members of the NPC were inclined to support Poe if she runs for the presidency next year.

“Secretary Mar Roxas was specifically asking us to support him,” Mendoza said. But he said he would respect the party’s final decision.

“At the end of the day, it is still the party decision that shall prevail. We will abide by the party decision,” Mendoza said.

NPC officials were set to meet with Poe and Escudero at the New Manila residence of NPC chairman emeritus Edurardo Cojuangco Jr.

An administration ally privy to LP meetings with its coalition partners said that the two meetings showed that the NPC was still undecided about who they would support for the 2016 presidential election.

Wooing the NPC. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Senator Grace Poe gesticulate in file photos, while below shows Roxas meeting with congressmen and other key officials of the Nationalist People’s Coalition on Tuesday. Manny Palmero and Ey Acasio 
The source added that the party would likely come out with a decision by December.

Earlier, NPC president and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said most of the members of the NPC were all for a Poe-Escudero ticket in 2016. But some NPC members contested Aggabao’s claim.

Mendoza earlier slammed the effort of Roxas’ mother, Judy Araneta Roxas, to woo support for her son from non-profit, charitable and non-political groups such as the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc.

Mendoza said members of the CSFI were being invited by Mrs. Roxas to a lunch  Wednesday  at Gloria Maris, the same venue where allies of Roxas gathered last week to show their support for the administration bet.

Aside from Mendoza and Enverga, other NPC members who joined the meeting with Roxas were Reps. Scott Lanete of Masbate, Victor Yu of Zamboanga del Sur, Susan Yap of Tarlac, Pedro Acharon Jr. of South Cotabato, Jorge Arnaiz of Negros Oriental, Aristotle Aumentado of Bohol, Evilio Leonardia of Bacolod City, Henry Pryde Teves of Negros Oriental, Mercedes of Negros Occidental, Isidro Rodriguez Jr. of Rizas, and Darlene Antonino-Custodio of South Cotabato.

On the part of the LP, the Roxas meeting was attended by some of its stalwarts, namely Reps. Edgar Erice of Caloocan City, Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City, Josephine Sato of Occidental Mindoto, Leni Robredo of Camsur, a potential running mate of Roxas; and Sen. Ralph Recto.

The NPC is the second largest political party in the country with two senators, 47 members in the House of Representatives, 14 governors, and 22 city mayors.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, meanwhile, said he believed that the LP was “solidly behind Roxas.”

“My assumption is the LP will be intact,” Gonzales told reporters at a news conference. “I do not suppose that the LP will be divided [in terms of who will they support for president in 2016,” Gonzales added.

LP stalwart and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, however, said the NPC could be split over the 2016 elections.

“NPC members are divided on who to support... It is possible that the party would be splintered into those supporting Roxas, Binay or Poe,” Evardone said.

According to reports, none of the vocal supporters of Poe were present during the meeting with Roxas.

“There were no commitments asked... He was appealing for the support of the party,” said Enverga.

“It’s part of the consultation process. We’d like to hear from the candidate – his platform, his plans for the country. We just had that opportunity to hear from him,” Enverga added.

Davao del Sur Gov. Claude Bautista said it was Conjuangco and businessman Ramon Ang who urged party members to meet Roxas and hear his plans.

“As of now, there is no final instruction from boss Danding (Cojuangco) and boss Ramon Ang so we’re just waiting for the marching orders. Since we are just good soldiers in the party, we will abide by what he told us,” he added.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. agreed that the NPC was playing it safe because the dominant LP will put up candidates against NPC bets in the national, local, provincial and city levels during next year’s elections.

“That is the dilemma of NPC candidates and even other members of the administration coalition,” said Barzaga of the National Unity Party, another ruling coalition member.

Amid the flurry of activity, the Palace said it is hoping the NPC coalition with the Liberal Party will continue the reforms of the Aquino administration.

“President Aquino... is hoping that the administration coalition could be maintained, especially on the aspect of the implementation of permanent reforms in the country,”  said  Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. –  With  John Paolo Bencito  and  Sandy Araneta

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