MANILA - Majority of the members of the country's second largest political party, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), are ready to provide Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero with a machinery should they decide to run for higher office in 2016.
The NPC is the administration coalition's senior political partner in the House of Representatives with at least 40 congressmen, 14 governors, 22 city mayors, 217 municipal mayors, and 2 senators.
Its chairman emeritus is President Aquino's uncle, former Ambassador Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco.
NPC President Deputy Speaker Giorggidi Aggabao said "the operative fact is for Senator Grace Poe and Senator Escudero to announce their candidacy. Until now, we don't know [if they will run]. Only at that time will NPC come out to say we're with them or with other parties."
Aggabao also said that around 80% of congressmen are for Poe and only 20% for other candidates.
Aggabao added, "obviously the party has to meet as a political party…Based on my talk with many members of the NPC, if I were to use that [80% for Poe] as a gauge, many members are rooting for Poe-Escudero…I think si Senator Poe and Senator Escudero are both independent."
Aggabao described Escudero as closet NPC. Escudero quit the party in 2009. "If the party does decide to support Senator Poe and Senator Escudero, the apparatus would be there to support them."
Aggabao added, Poe is capable as well. "If you look at her assets, she has them, she'll make a good president with no or minimal liabilities."
NPC national spokesperson Rex Gatchalian pointed out Escudero's personal relationships and friendships with party members remain.
Grace Poe's father, Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), was the NPC candidate in the 2004 elections and FPJ campaigned for many NPC members in that election.
"Those are historic relationships," he said.
However, Gatchalian said the party has yet to make an official decision.
"If you're waiting for us to make an announcement, it's not going to happen. The party is still in the consultation stage…You've been hearing opinions, let me just point out...these are personal opinions. Part of the consultation process is letting members speak out," he said.
Escudero said in a text, "I am sincerely thankful for political parties and camps who have expressed support should Senator Grace Poe and I decide to run in 2016. However, I have yet to make a final decision on this matter. Nasa punto pa rin po ako ng pakikipag-usap, pag-iisip at pagninilay-nilay kung ako ay tatakbo o hindi."
Poe said separately, "I appreciate such vote of confidence and expression of support by NPC stalwarts now and in case I pursue any political plans in the near future. NPC is a formidable political force that can boost the chances of anyone running for office. Many of them supported FPJ in 2004."
Gatchalian emphasizes the elections are still 9 months away.
NO MOVE VS BELMONTE
Gatchalian also stressed they are standing by the Speakership of Feliciano Belmonte, who has been making public statements perceived to be supportive of Poe and critical of LP presumptive standard bearer, Mar Roxas.
"The party is solidly behind the leadership of Speaker Belmonte. We've seen how he deals with members of the party. He gets things done," he said.
Aggabao added, "we do not have any firm knowledge whether there's going to be move to declare positions vacant. If there's any such move, all we're trying to say is the NPC stands behind Speaker Belmonte. We think any move to unseat him is counterproductive. We're going to our last session, we should be off to a very productive start. Any move to unseat the Speaker will overshadow bills that have to be passed…we're not bolting the coalition."
Belmonte is LP executive vice chair and honorary chairman of the National Unity Party.
TOEING THE LINE
The statements of NPC come after Poe and President Aquino met for the third time Monday.
Gatchalian expects party members to toe the line when a decision is made on who to support. His brother, Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, has been floated as a senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jojo Binay.
Aggabao mainatined they are not bolting the administration coalition as they share the agenda of President Aquino. He, however, hopes the party decision will be respected.
"What we're hoping if at some point magka-difference sa kandidato pero di naman sa agenda, if at some point, magkaiba ang kandidato para sa presidente, sana marespeto ang desisyon ng NPC," he said.
Gatchalian also stressed that Danding Cojuangco's son, former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco merely expressed his personal preference when he backed Binay.
"Nakausap ko si Cong. Mark Cojuancgo. He is very clear [when he said] that this is my personal preference but [he said] I will also listen and respect the party decision. 'Di lang naman sila, a lot of members of the NPC are rooting for different candidates."
Gatchalian added, "when the party makes a decision, we expect members to toe the line."
"It's not just Sherwin, a whole bunch of NPC members are rooting for VP Binay. I expect Sherwin to toe the party line. He told me and all other members said we will toe the party line," he said.
ISSUES VS GRACE POE
Aggabao also believes the issues raised against Poe with regards to her citizenship and residency can be overcome.
"My perception is this: we have an activist Supreme Court. We've seen that in many decisions. My feeling is, if they see Senator Grace Poe is on top of the heap and is soaring in poll surveys, they will listen to the people. At the end of the day, issues pertaining to her citizenship are not very difficult hurdles," he said.
Gatchalian laughed off claims he will be Poe's campaign spokesman. "I'm flattered but I speak for the NPC, and I remain to be."
Gatchalian also defended questions on Poe's experience.
"Experience comes in different shapes and forms, she's had private sector experience," he said.
Aggabao added they have not spoken to Danding Cojuangco .
Aggabao admits Poe's survey lead is her advantage over Mar Roxas.
NATIONAL UNITY PARTY
Meanwhile, the National Unity Party (NUP), another administration coalition partner, said they are also still undertaking consultations among their members.
Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno said, "NUP has not made any decisions yet on the presidential or vice presidential candidates we will support in 2016. After all, we are as yet still unsure as to the final list of candidates. As a party, we will discuss all candidates as soon as we know for sure who they are....So we have yet to get the party pulse given recent developments."
Asked about any coup plots against Belmonte, Puno said, "Aba wala akong naririnig na ganyan. We have been on break."
The NUP was formed in December 2011 by a group of Congressmen and Governors, mostly from Lakas-Kampi party and other political parties. It got its Comelec accreditation as a national political party in October 2012.
In the House of Representatives, NUP has been an active member of the LP-led majority coalition under Speaker Belmonte since its inception. NUP congressmen head a number of House Committees including Labor, Public Order and Safety, Electoral Reforms and Games and Amusement. It has one member in the Commission on Appointments and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, and a Deputy Speaker.
The present key officers are: Chairman-Rep. and Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno.
President-Gov. Albert Garcia Vice President for External Affairs-Rep. Elpidio Barzaga.
Vice President for Internal Affairs-Rep. Karlo Nograles Treasurer-Rep. Antonio Lagdameo.
Secretary General-Reginald Velasco.
NUP has also designated Regional, Provincial, City and Municipal chairmen all over the country.
NUP has over 1,500 elected local officials, consisting of City and Municipal Mayor, Vice Mayor and Councilors.