Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla has joined Vice President Jejomar Binay in the roster of early contenders for the 2016 presidential derby.
Binay has been open about his preparations for the presidency, and has left the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to form a new party to strengthen his bid.
On Monday, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) announced it will field Revilla, the Lakas-CMD chairman, as its standard bearer.
Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the plunder complaint filed against Revilla at the Office of the Ombudsman will not stop them from making the senator their candidate for the country’s presidency.
Romualdez, Lakas-CMD president, said former President Joseph Estrada faced plunder charges “and yet he almost made it in 2010.” That just shows everything is possible in Philippine politics.”
Revilla, aside from being the chairman of the party, “was the number 1 senator [during the 2010 polls],” Romualdez told a press conference.
Estrada was convicted of plunder in 2007 after his ouster as president in 2001 following a People Power revolt.
He ran again for president but lost to Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2010. Three years he defeated Alfredo Lim in the race for mayor in Manila.
Revilla is among three senators charged in the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The others are Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
On Monday, Revilla filed a motion for voluntary inhibition against the special panel of investigators of the Ombudsman. The senator claimed that the investigators were biased because they dismissed the counter-charges he filed against his accusers.
Romualdez said they are not convinced that Revilla’s being linked to the pork barrel scam will hurt his chances in 2016.
Revilla, an action movie star before he entered politics, is the son of another veteran actor and former senator, Ramon Revilla Sr.
“I have been with Senator Revilla in provincial trips and he remains very popular regardless of the plunder case [leveled against him]. We in Lakas can stand on our own. We have been a political behemoth in the past and we hope to strengthen our ranks,” Romualdez said.
He renewed his call to the Aquino administration to stop attacking opposition lawmakers such as Revilla.
“The President’s allies are now exerting all efforts to demolish possible opponents of the ruling party. With the government moving on all fronts, perceived or vocal presidential and national post aspirants are being subjected to all sorts of controversies,” Romualdez added.
Binay is said to be eyeing Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos Recto as running mate.
The Vice President has not confirmed the reports. Santos, a former screen star, has said she is not keen on a national position because she wants to focus on her province.
The governor’s husband, Sen. Ralph Recto, said a Binay-Santos tandem is unlikely since Santos has no plans to run for higher office.
Recto told reporters his wife is planning to retire when her term as governor ends in 2016.
Binay has admitted that disunity was among the reasons he left PDP-Laban.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on Monday said Binay’s exit from PDP-Laban will not hurt the party because it is based on ideology, not on personalities.
Pimentel said that once Binay leaves, PDP-Laban will inform UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) that it is ending its coalition with PMP (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino).
“So we will now be free to also enter into other coalition arrangements with other political parties,” he said.
Pimentel, the president of PDP-Laban, said he expects Binay to official informing them of his plans to bolt the party.
Binay and Pimentel had a falling out in 2012 when the vice president agreed to include former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in UNA’s senatorial ticket.
Zubiri is a political rival of Pimentel, who supposedly benefited from the 2007 election fraud.
Binay said his children will join him in his new party.
Senator Estrada said he will not think twice if the Vice President asks him to be his running mate.
“First of all we are both part of the opposition, and I believe in him. He can deliver the basic services for our poor people,” Estrada said.
Estrada, the incumbent president of the PMP, said the party will always support Binay.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda refused to comment on Binay’s presidential plans, saying President Aquino “is occupied in governance right now.”
”Let me tell you that we are in the 849th day of our administration. There’s still those number of days for governance, so we have no comment on the formation of a new political party by Vice President Binay. Obviously, if that is true, that is his decision to make. We have no hand in there, so we have no comment,” Lacierda told reporters.
“Vice President Binay has never shied from saying that he wants to be president. And I think all of them are fully aware that they have responsibilities to perform, and I don’t think the fact that they are entertaining a presidential run would affect their performance in their respective capacities,” he said.
”I think it’s a mandate for all public officials to serve the public good, whether you are running for a higher office or not,” Lacierda added.
With A Report From Catherine Valente