Who will it be?

If you were President Aquino, what would you do? Endorse an apparently sure winner in Senator Grace Poe or stick to your ever-loyal supporter who has stood by your side and sacrificed for you in Secretary Mar Roxas, even if he is not doing very well in the surveys?

It is not an enviable position to be in and the President is clearly between a rock and a hard place.

From all indications, the choice on who will run for president to represent the administration will be announced by the President himself during his last State of the Nation Address on Monday. That leaves him a few more days to make a crucial political decision. The suspense is pulsating. It is putting his political coalition on edge. 

The Liberal Party, for one, is agonizing because there is no unanimity on whom to support. Although the majority of the party appears to be loyal to Secretary Roxas, there is a pragmatic segment advocating for the selection of Senator Poe. How to navigate through this political traffic will show the stuff that President Aquino is made of.

For the President, his stated wish is to endorse someone who can continue his so-called reform program. This would have been a no-brainer if Secretary Roxas is up there in the surveys – but he is not. He is in the middle of the pack. Senator Grace Poe who emerged from the Mamasapano hearings as a new political darling and the new front runner is now clearly affecting the unity of the administration’s coalition. Even in the Liberal Party, there is a split.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte has openly said that Senator Poe is unstoppable; this riled the Roxas loyalists in the Party. Senate President Frank Drilon has not been heard lately as to his preference although he stated a few months back that there is only one candidate from the Liberal Party for president and that is Roxas. Whether that is still the case is not known because he has not made any clarifications recently.

The reason for supporting a candidate is not the same for all the major actors in the administration. For Senator Drilon and Speaker Belmonte, they naturally are thinking of what would happen to them if the candidate they support would lose. There is, after all, life after President Aquino bows out of office. Senator Drilon would like to continue to be Senate President and Speaker Belmonte would also like to finish his nine-year congressional term as Speaker. Their personal relationships with Secretary Roxas are therefore secondary to their political health.

This is not however, the same with the President. He and Secretary Roxas are friends. The good secretary gave up his presidential ambitions and has always been there for him. This is something the President cannot simply ignore no matter how high the ratings of Senator Poe. There is such a thing as loyalty after all.

But President Aquino has some personal considerations to ponder also. He will have to think of the lawsuits that will surely be filed against him and other high ranking officials in his government if the opposition wins in the 2016 elections. This is undoubtedly a powerful consideration in his choice of a candidate.

Although there have already been many pronouncements by people claiming to be in the know as to who will be endorsed, we really do not know what is going on in the mind of the President right now. My best guess is that his heart is for his friend and wants to find a way to endorse him. Trouble is, he has to find a way to convince those powerful doubting Thomases in his coalition who are routing for Senator Poe.

This kind of position shows a fundamental flaw and weakness in the political philosophy of the coalition. It is not built on the strength of political principles but on expediency. It shows a coalition that really has no backbone. If the Liberal Party for instance really believes in the integrity, qualification and leadership of Secretary Roxas, the party as a whole should work hard to strengthen the position of their prospective leader and not leave it all to him to do the work. It has to be a party and not an individual effort.

Choosing a candidate based only on the strength of surveys is also not a sure thing because surveys are sometimes fickle. Surveys are also not always accurate as shown in the last British and Israeli elections. Besides, in the case of Senator Grace Poe, she and her supporters are pressing ahead as if there is no problem about her citizenship and residency. It may very well be that she is fully qualified to run but as it currently stands, the situation has not been clarified to the satisfaction of all. This could still potentially derail her political ambitions. As things are shaping up however, the number of candidates hangs on who President Aquino will eventually endorse.

If the President endorses Secretary Mar Roxas, there will be no problem in Senators Poe and Escudero running as independents. If Senator Poe gets the endorsement, that leaves Secretary Roxas hanging – unless he still runs regardless of whether he gets the endorsement or not, as many of his party leaders are urging him to do. 

Vice President Binay will then lead the opposition while Mayor Duterte will be the fourth candidate.

There may be others, but we will know all these this October. Meanwhile, the plot thickens.

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