MANILA, Philippines - Even if Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II eventually loses in the vice-presidential elections, incoming President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said his running mate will still have a role to play in his administration.
Aquino disclosed that he has plans for Roxas should the latter not be proclaimed by Congress as the winner of the May 10 vice-presidential polls.
Roxas and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay are in a close fight for the vice presidency, with former President Joseph Estrada's running mate ahead by around 800,000 votes.
The winner will be determined and proclaimed by Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers, which starts next week.
“Whether he wins or he doesn’t win, meron na ring kaming usapan na rin,” said Aquino.
He admitted, however, that he would have to officially wait for 1 year due to the constitutional ban on appointing candidates who lose in a preceding election.
Okay if GMA tags along
Aquino also said that he would agree to have President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo present at the traditional turnover of the country’s leadership during his inauguration.
When asked if he would ride in a vehicle with Mrs. Arroyo for the turnover, Aquino smilingly said: "Ilang minuto lang naman po iyong biyahe siguro!”
Aquino became a staunch critic of the incumbent president after his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, called on Mrs. Arroyo to resign in 2005.
This was after an embattled President Arroyo admitted and apologized for talking to an election commissioner linked to fraud in the 2004 elections, also known as "Hello Garci." Arroyo won a close fight against the late actor-turned-presidential bet, Fernando Poe Jr.
Aquino also said that he is now preparing the composition of his Cabinet. He said he will chose those with whom he has the “highest trust,” and those who went all-out to support his presidential campaign.
Meeting with US ambassador set
Aquino also announced on Thursday that a meeting with US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. has already been set, and that heads of state of different countries are already asking for schedules for phone conversations, even before he is formally proclaimed by Congress as the winner of the May 10 presidential elections.
In a press briefing held during a thanksgiving party with lawyers who supported him, Aquino said that a meeting has been set with Thomas. He did not, however, say when the meeting would be held.
A US embassy statement released a day after the elections lauded the Filipino people who “served their nation by volunteering at the polls, exercising their right to vote, and taking every step necessary to ensure all ballots were counted.”
The US embassy had said that it looks “forward to a smooth transition and, after June 30, to working with the new Philippine government to deepen the friendship and partnership between our two nations, and to advance our common goals for the benefit of the Southeast Asia region and the world.”
The Philippines is considered by the US government as a major ally in its battle against terrorism. US troops and equipment are deployed in Mindanao helping the Philippine military in the battle against local terrorists including those affiliated with Southeast Asia terror network Jemaah Islamiyah and those with links to al-Qaeda.
Substantial US investments and trade to the Philippines also weigh in on the interests of both governments.
A large bloc of Filipino migrants is also in the United States, and have been increasingly participative in local and national politics in the US.
Take oath with associate justice
Meanwhile, Aquino remained steadfast in his position not to take his oath as president before Chief Justice Renato Corona who was appointed by President Arroyo.
He said, however, that he would no longer be taking his oath before a barangay chairman as he initially planned.
“The smallest basic unit natin iyong barangay and the head of national government naman, there is so much symbolism in having that but of course we will conform,” said Aquino.
He said that if indeed it would be necessary, he confirmed he stands ready to take his oath before an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (SC).
“The one who voted against the Chief Justice [appointment] issue, the lone dissenter,” said Aquino.
In its March 17 ruling allowing President Arroyo to appoint Puno's replacement, only one SC magistrate, Conchita Carpio-Morales, dissented.
Two justices, Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Presbitero Velasco Jr., said the case was premature while Corona and 2 other magistrates, Antonio Carpio and then Chief Justice Reynato Puno, took no part in the vote. -- With reports from Jenny Reyes and Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News