MANILA - One of Senator Grace Poe's strategists during her 2013 campaign said she does not need the endorsement of President Aquino or the backing of any political party to be a strong contender for higher office in 2016.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III, who was also Aquino's campaign manager in the 2010 polls, said it was clear from information about the President's meetings with Poe that he had failed to convince her to run as vice president under the Liberal Party (LP).
The President has met five times with Poe, a leading presidential candidate based on popularity surveys who has yet to make up her mind about running or not in 2016. But it appears she did not agree to be the running mate of LP's presumptive presidential bet, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
Osmeña believes Poe would run for president as an independent, and that the President would endorse Roxas.
He said Poe does not need the President's blessing.
"This is historical," Osmeña told reporters on Tuesday. "The endorsement of Cory (Aquino) made very little difference in the approval ratings of (Fidel) Ramos in 1992. The endorsement of Fidel Ramos had no difference in the ratings of Joe de Venecia in 1998. The endorsement of Gloria Arroyo had little difference in the results of Gibo Teodoro in 2010."
"The voters do not vote that way," said the seasoned campaign strategist.
Neither does Poe need to belong to a political party like the LP, despite the machinery it resources it can bring, Osmeña added.
"Your political party automatically forms when you're a candidate for president. Ang daming pupunta sa 'yo (Many would come to you)," he said.
Besides her numbers, Osmeña said Poe has the charisma, character, and competence required of anyone seeking the highest position in the country.
However, he said a possible issue against her would be her relatively short experience in government, which was why he earlier said she should run for vice president first.
VILMA, LENI FOR VP
Without Poe in the picture, the LP now faces the task of finding a running mate for Roxas.
Although he thinks the LP should not give up on Poe, Osmeña said the LP should start looking for other candidates for vice president. Among the strongest choices, he said, are two LP members: Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.
Osmeña described Robredo, the widow of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, as an "easy sell."
"She's easy to build up because she's got a wonderful image. She's highly intelligent. She's a lawyer. She's already had three years as a congresswoman. She's a very beautiful and charming woman," he said.
Osmeña said he has not decided whom to support in 2016, as most rumored candidates have yet to make their plans official. Only Vice President Jejomar Binay has so far declared an intention to run for president.
Although Poe is his friend, however, Osmeña said Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is a "very attractive candidate," one who is very popular among the masses.
"He has shown political will. Hindi natatakot (He's unafraid)," he said.
"They like him. He's like a male Miriam,” Osmeña said, referring to feisty Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. "Miriam is very vocal without an actual track record in administration. Duterte has always been in administration, local government, since 1986 when he was appointed mayor."
Widely popular for his anti-crime efforts that have made Davao among the safest cities in the world but also criticized for his alleged involvement in a death squad, Duterte has repeatedly said he will not run for president.
However, he has been going around the country and appearing on advertisements.
Osmeña said if he runs, Duterte would make the 2016 presidential race interesting and he would be a formidable candidate.