MANILA – After thorough consultation among its leaders and members, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), the country's second largest political party, has finally named Sen. Grace Poe and her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero as its choice for president and vice-president in the upcoming elections.
NPC President Giorgiddi Aggabao said the party's members agreed that the candidates which the party would endorse should promote inclusiveness and free the country from the shackles of partisan politics.
READ: Grace still NPC's top choice - spokesman
''The candidates must have a clear intention to build on gains rather than simply accept the status quo or signal a return to old practices,'' Aggabao said in a press conference.
''The party feels that these past decades of division and partisanship, these candidates represent the best hope for unified push for sustainable development. In other words, these candidates most embody our party's manifesto that every Filipino is important and that every Filipino must be served equally well regardless of station and status."
The camp of Sen. Poe expressed gratitude for the endorsement, saying this gives a boost to her campaign.
''Sen. Poe is extremely grateful to the NPC for endorsing her candidacy to become the country's next President. She believes that together, she and the thousands of NPC members nationwide can propel the country to become more inclusive and help uplift the lives of our countrymen,'' Poe's camp said in a statement.
''The endorsement of the NPC will serve as inspiration for Sen. Poe to intensify her campaign and to further detail to the Filipino public her advocacy to establish - Gobyernong may Puso."
NPC MAY NOT BE SOLID BEHIND POE
Prior to choosing Poe, the NPC had separately met with the neophyte senator and her fellow presidential candidates Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Aggabao, however, admitted that the NPC may not be as solid as they want to be behind this decision.
NPC founder Danding Cojuangco's own son, former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco is known to back Binay.
"We have not talked about sanctions among the members but let me state that about 90% of the members have said yes to endorsing Senators Chiz and Poe. Now what what we plan to do is talk to the remaining 10%,'' he said.
Aggabao claims NPC's endorsement will guarantee the tandem's victory in the elections.
Poe and Escudero filed as independents. Independents won't have the benefit of a party's organization in terms of organizing their campaigns at the local level. Independents won't get their own copies of election returns. Party poll watchers are also prioritized over independent canddaites' pollwatchers on election day.
The NPC endorsement, however, fixes that.
''We do have a very big machinery. At this point, we have seen a big gain in terms of vying for membership in NPC. In fact as compared to the previous election, there is an additional 1,200 members joining the NPC. Of course we do have our mahcinery down to the councilor members. These candidates also have their own leaders.
Malaki ang tulong mabibigay kay Senators Grace and Chiz,'' said NPC spokesperson Mark Enverga.
The NPC picked Poe even if there is a possibility that she could be eliminated from the presidential race. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether Poe can run for president.
The Commission on Elections earlier disqualified Poe from the race for supposedly failing to satisfy the requirements on citizenship and residency.
"As party president I had taken the position before that perhaps it's prudent to wait for the outcome of the Supreme Court decision considering that the candidacy of our putative candidate is precarious. But that is my personal opinion as party president,''Aggabao said.
The official added the party continues to look forward to a favorable decision.
''We are hoping. We are praying. I think that it's based on solid belief, based on what we have heard and what we have read during the several public heraings before the SC. We feel more confident that Grace will be able to hurdle the Supreme Court case," he said.
Aggabao said the NPC will also support candidates for senator, apart from party members such as incumbent Senator Vicente Sotto III and Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian.
Enverga said they already have 8 candidates for senator. NPC has been backing presidential candidates since 1992. In 1992, NPC founder Danding Cojuangco ran unsuccessfully for president.
In 1998, NPC backed Joseph Estrada. In 2004, NPC backed Fernando Poe Jr., and in 2010, NPC backed President Aquino.
Aggabao believes should Poe hurdle the disqualification case, she will win the election."Perhaps her poll numbers will go through the roof . We feel if she's able to hurdle that, she will own the finish line."
Meanwhile, Duterte's spokesperson Peter Laviña, asked to react on NPC's endorsement of Poe, said the mayor's camp respects the party's decision. He, however, doubted whether all the members of NPC will be behind Poe.
"It's their call. We thank their members in receiving Duterte in one meeting in New Manila. We expect many NPC members not to go with this party decision. NPC leaders for instance in Davao del Sur and Biliran provinces already declared their lot with genuine change under Duterte. We continue to bank on our mass of volunteers and supporters to carry Duterte-Cayetano to victory," he said. - reports from Adrian Ayalin and Doris Bigornia, ABS-CBN News