President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday confirmed he is working on an alliance among the presidential candidates to stop survey frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte from winning Monday’s elections.
In an interview, Aquino said he had been talking regularly to administration Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Vice President Jejomar Binay and had exchanged text messages with Sen. Grace Poe, to discuss the possibility of joining forces to thwart the tough-talking mayor’s bid for the presidency.
Poe, however, quickly rejected Roxas’ personal appeal to consider the President’s move to form the coalition, saying she would not agree to any attempt by the LP to convince her to quit the race and support Roxas’ candidacy instead, if that is indeed his intention.
“Kung siya, gusto niyang umatras para naman mas lumakas ang aming pwersa, bakit hindi? Desisyon niya [Roxas] yun [If he wants to back out to further strengthen our forces, why not? It’s his decision],” she said.
But she added when asked if she views Roxas’ overture as an admission that Duterte will be hard to beat: “Ngayon kung sila ay nagkaroon ng duda, sinasabi ko sa kanila na ‘wag nila kong tignan na paraan nila para manaig sila sapagkat hindi din naman ako naniniwala sa kanilang pamamaraan ng pamamalakad ng gobyerno [If they (LP) are having doubt, they should not look at me as a way for them to dominate because I also don’t believe in their ways in running the government],” the senator said, reiterating that she will not back out.
Roxas made the appeal after the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that the trash-talking Duterte–who has promised summary killings and even public hanging of suspected criminals–was miles ahead of his rivals with 33 percent rating.
Poe landed second with 22 percent, while Roxas settled for third with 20 percent.
The senator said she has learned from her parents not to give up if she believes in what she is fighting for.
“I’m fighting for the Filipino people who are disillusioned with the government that is insensitive and inept, and then I will suddenly agree to support them? I don’t think that it is consistent with what I’m saying and fighting for, these past months,” she pointed out.
Poe added that she remains confident the people will make the right decision on Monday.
In confirming that he was trying to unite four of the five presidential aspirants, Aquino told CNN Philippines, “I’m trying to get all of these different voices from so many sectors together and, in that sense, perhaps help our candidates get together and have that united front [against Duterte].”
He explained that he fears the consequences if Duterte “does exactly what he intends to do.”
The Davao City mayor has repeatedly dangled before the electorate the possibility of a return to strongman rule to curb criminality and stop corruption.
Aquino said an alliance among Duterte’s four rivals would improve the chances of winning by just one of them.
“Mayor Duterte has about 30 percent, so that’s mean he doesn’t have the rest of 70 percent. In any democratic system, it is the majority that decides for everybody. Therefore, it behooves eveybody to try and get together,” the President added, referring to the latest SWS pre-elections survey.
The final major opinion poll ahead of the May 9 vote had Duterte running away from his opponents.
“Instead of thinking about what we shall do if everything he says is exactly what he intends to do, why don’t we remove that problem or that threat, or that insecurity by uniting the 70 [percent]and defeating the 30 [percent]. The whole point is, any two of them uniting, if it’s Mar or Grace that unite, we have more than 40 percent. That defeats the 30 percent,” Aquino said.
In inviting Poe to a dialogue, Roxas said, “I call for unity. I call for decency. I call for democracy. I call for the rule of law. I call on Sen. Grace Poe. Grace, mag-usap tayo [Grace, let’s talk].”
“I will adjust my schedule to your convenience. Sabihin mo lang kung saan at kailan at darating ako [Just tell me where and when and I will be there]. This is for unity. This is for our country. This is for our future,” he added.
Roxas said citizens of goodwill from all walks of life are worried about Duterte’s rise and his penchant for raising the specter of dictatorship.
“We now face the possibility of a leader coming to power who cares nothing about honesty, integrity, transparency, responsibility, or even just basic decency. Sa harap ng lahat ng ito, responsibilidad ng sinumang nagnanais na mamuno ng ating bansa na pag-isipan ang interes ng pangkalahatan, pag-isipan ang pangangailangan ng ating bansa [In the face of all these, it is the responsibility of anybody who would want to lead the country to think of the common good and the needs of our country],” he noted.
“Sa tingin ko naman, sang-ayon ang lahat: Mas mahalaga ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa, kinabukasan ng ating mga kababayan, kaysa political career ng kahit sinomang politiko o kandidato [I would say everyone would agree: The country’s future is more important, the future of our countrymen has greater weight over the political career of a candidate],” Roxas said.
He did not clarify who between him and Poe should shelve his or her presidential bid as he refused to answer questions after the hurriedly called news conference.