Mar tells Grace: Mag-usap tayo

Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Mar Roxas and Grace Poe. ABS-CBN News

Hindi ako umaatras sa laban, Grace answers

MANILA (UPDATED) - Administration standard bearer Mar Roxas on Friday called for a dialogue with one of his presidential rivals, Senator Grace Poe, saying now is a time for unity and decency.

"I call for unity. I call for decency. I call for democracy. I call for the rule of law," Roxas said before reporters at the Liberal Party (LP) headquarters in Balay, Cubao, Quezon City.

"I call on Senator Grace Poe. Grace, mag-usap tayo. I will adjust schedules to your convenience. Sabihin mo lang kung saan at kailan at darating ako. This is for unity. This is for our country. This is for our future," he added.

In response to Roxas' appeal, Poe said that they can talk anytime. The senator, however, stressed that she has no plans of quitting the presidential race.

"Kahit naman kailan ay pwede niya akong kausapin. Ngayon yung panawagan niya na yun, kung para sa kabutihan ng bayan, pwede naman talaga kaming mag-usap tungkol diyan. Pero ang malinaw ay hindi ako umaatras sa laban," Poe told radio dzMM.

"Marami na tayong pinagdaanan at ang dala-dala natin dito ay ang mga pangarap at pag-asa ng ating mga kababayan na hindi naman siguro dapat ikompromiso."

Roxas issued the statement amid the recent turn of events where Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has been keeping his lead over the four other presidential aspirants in voter preference surveys.

In the latest ABS-CBN survey conducted by Pulse Asia from April 26 to 29, Duterte again emerged as the top choice for president of Filipino voters.

READ: Duterte keeps lead in ABS-CBN survey

The tough-talking mayor, who has vowed to eliminate crime in only three to six months, retained his 33% voter support. This, despite the criticisms he has received over his controversial joke on the rape-slay of an Australian missionary and allegations that he is keeping hidden wealth.

Roxas came in at second place with a 22% rating, in a statistical tie with erstwhile frontrunner Poe who got 21%.

Roxas, without mentioning the name of Duterte, said he fears the return of another dictatorship in the Philippines. Critics have branded Duterte as a dictator in the making, saying he has no respect for democratic institutions.

Duterte has said that he will kill thousands of criminals and pardon himself for mass murder if elected president.

READ: 'Dictator' Duterte facing coup rumors in Philippines

"The campaign has been very divisive and vicious. We have run a very hard-charging and spirited campaign. And now, silent majority at marami sa ating mga kababayan, yung mga undecided, ay kumikilos na patungo sa atin. But still, citizens of good will from all walks of life are worried," said Roxas.

"They are concerned that damage is already being done to the country and our democracy. Uncertainty and the specter of a dictatorship are looming over our country once again. The peso has dropped, affecting everything from the price of oil, medicines, steel, other imported goods; investors are putting plans on hold; and after six years of the corrupt being on the run, we now face the possibility of a leader coming to power who cares nothing about honesty, integrity, transparency, responsibility, or even just basic decency."

The Liberal Party (LP) candidate said he feels it is now one's duty to set aside his political ambition to ensure that the interests of the Filipino people are protected.

"Sa tingin ko naman, sang-ayon ang lahat: Mas mahalaga ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa, kinabukasan ng ating mga kababayan, kaysa political career ng kahit sinumang politiko o kandidato," he said.


President Benigno Aquino III, who anointed the former interior secretary as his successor, said he has been talking to Roxas for the past three days.

He said he also exchanged text messages with Poe on Thursday evening, but said it was not "conclusive."

The President pointed out that while Duterte has the support of about 30% of the voters, the mayor does not have the rest of the 70%.

"And in our democratic system, it is the majority that decides for everybody. Therefore, it behooves everybody to try and get together and ensure that instead of thinking about what shall we do if everything he says is exactly what he intends to do, why don't we remove that problem or that threat or that insecurity by uniting the 70 and defeating the 30?" he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Asked if by "everybody" he referred to Roxas, Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay, the President answered in the affirmative and even added Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to the list.

"The whole point is, any two of them unite... If Mar and Grace unite, we have more than 40%, defeats the 30%... I'm trying to get all of these different voices from so many sectors together, and in that sense perhaps help our candidates get together and have that united front," said Aquino.

READ: PNoy twits Duterte over threat to cut US, Australia ties

For Binay's part, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) communications director Joey Salgado said: "Si VP Binay hanggang sa huling araw ng kampanya ay lalapit sa ating mga kababayan."


Two different petitions on website are asking Roxas and Poe to give way in order to thwart the possible victory of Duterte in the May 9 polls.

Duterte on Thursday received another boost in his candidacy after getting the endorsement of the influential religious group Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), whose members are known to practice bloc voting during elections.

READ: INC endorses Duterte, Marcos

''For the love of our country and for the love of our children, may I ask you to please consider setting aside your personal interests for now and close ranks with the group of Sec. Mar Roxas in order to provide a credible reversal to the momentum of a Duterte presidency?" Nenette Coronel said in her petition posted on May 4.

A petition filed by a certain Troy De Leon on May 5, meanwhile, asked Roxas to do again this time what he did in 2010, when he shelved his plan to run for president to give way to the candidacy of his party-mate, then Senator Aquino.

''Mr. Roxas, you've done it before please do it again. Real surveys show the public's wide support for the senator (Poe). She is the only one who can present a credible alternative to Mayor Duterte and have a chance to win the presidency,'' De Leon said. - With a report from Zandro Ochona, dzMM

READ: Poe, Roxas urged to give way to stop Duterte