SENATE President Franklin Drilon downplayed the possibility of a split in the Liberal Party (LP) should President Benigno Aquino Jr. name Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd as the administration-backed party’s standard-bearer in 2016.
Drilon, vice chairman of the LP, said the party remains “solid and supportive” of Roxas.
“I do not see a split down the road. The LP is united behind Secretary Roxas. I can assure you, there will be no split down the road,” he told a television interview.
Drilon was responding to a question on whether the LP is united behind Roxas, who has not been doing well in surveys conducted by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS).
Roxas has been trailing first-time Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay in the pre-election surveys.
According to Drilon, President Aquino will make public his choice after he delivers his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27 and he expects the President to name Roxas.
“Well, given all the circumstances, I think it is a reasonable expectation,” he said referring to the chances of Roxas being endorsed by Aquino.
Drilon noted that the endorsement of Aquino would definitely have an effect on Roxas’ ratings, considering that the President has the highest acceptance rating compared to previous Presidents.
Unlike with the previous administration wherein the endorsement of the President does not guarantee support because of negative perception, Aquino’s endorsement would have positive effects on the rating of the candidate being endorsed.
“The endorsement of the President cannot pull him [Roxas] down, it will only pull him up. That is difficult to dispute,” Drilon said.
He added that is also reason why some aspirants like Vice President Jejomar Binay have been seeking the President’s endorsement .
“To say that the President’s endorsement at this stage has no value, is wishful thinking,” Drilon said.
But political analyst Ramon Casiple sees the opposite and that many of the members of the party are likely to abandon the Liberal Party once the President decides to stick with Roxas as his bet in 2016.
“They [LP] won’t have a strong candidate in 2016, so the tendency is its members will look for stronger candidates and abandon the party,” Casiple said.
LP secretary-general Mel Sarmiento said they will rally behind “another LP leader” in the 2016 elections as he dropped hints that they are going for Roxas.
“LP members will stick together and rally behind another LP leader to ensure continuity on the reforms and programs that were set in place by President Aquino,” he added in a statement.
Sarmiento said Aquino and Roxas as LP leaders ‘[have]brought our country to unprecedented heights in terms of the economy, social services, and governance.”
“We will stick to our principles [in the 2016 elections],” he added. “We need to install another Liberal leader in the country to continue the reforms of daang matuwid [straight path].”
Officials of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) said at least 80 percent of their members are supportive of the tandem of survey frontrunner Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, the party president, and the spokesman, Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Mayor Rex Gatchalian, however, clarified that it is not yet the party’s official stand.