By Macon Araneta
FilAm Star Correspondent
The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the country’s second biggest political party most recently endorsed independent candidates Senators Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero for president and vice president, respectively.
Poe and Escudero thanked the NPC, which has around 250 members that included Senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Loren Legarda; 40 congressmen, 14 governors and other senators.
However, Poe and Escudero clarified they would remain independent candidates.
Both Poe and Escudero also ran as independent candidates in the 2013 elections. Poe was number one, garnering over 20 million votes, the highest ever in fhe country’s senatorial race. Escudero was number four in fhe same polls.
Poe and Escudero said this would boost their chances of winning the presidency and vice- presidency in the May 9 elections since they will get organizational support from the political party.
“There is a unique happiness and energy in the endorsement of the NPC,” said Poe who vowed to do her best to be a leader worthy of its trust.
“It’s an honor and a challenge to be backed by one of the most established parties in Philippine politics,” Poe said. As independent candidates, she said they do not have the machinery their rivals have. “This is a big help to us because the NPC has a big presence in various places in the country,” she also said.
Poe said she believes the party announced its endorsement ahead of the Supreme Court ruling to make a stand for the right thing. “Had the party waited for the court’s ruling, it would have appeared as not standing up for its position that the people should be given the chance to choose their leaders,” she said.
Poe’s spokeperson, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatcalian said they are extremely grateful to the NPC for endorsing her candidacy to become the country’s next president.
“She believes that together, she and the thousands of NPC members nationwide can propel the country to become more inclusive and help uplift the lives of our countrymen,” said Gatchalian.
“The endorsement of the NPC will serve as inspiration for Senator Poe to intensify her campaign and to further detail to the Filipino public her advocacy to establish ‘Gobyernong may Puso’,”he added.
Escudero said, “This would not affect our goals, our platforms, our plans for the country. We thank the NPC for joining us in our goals, not the other way around.”
NPC is the second largest political party in the country after the Liberal Party and is part of the administration coalition headed by President Benigno Aquino III.
It was founded by business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who ran and lost the 1992 presidential elections.
NPC officials led by their president, Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, announced during a press conference at the House of Representatives that the party had decided to adopt Poe and Escudero as its presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, for the May 9 polls.
Aggabao noted that majority of NPC members chose Poe and Escudero because of the pair’s platform of inclusivity and plan of building on gains instead of just maintaining the status quo.
“The party feels that in these past decades of division and partisanship, these candidates represent the best hope for a unified push for sustainable development. We chose them because they are clean, bold, hardworking and helpful,” he added.
He said the NPC vetted Vice President Jejomar Binay (United National Alliance), resigned Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (Liberal Party) and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban) before finally deciding to choose Poe as its presidential candidate.
He expected all NPC members to toe the party line, including Cojuangco’s son, former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, who is openly campaigning for Binay.
“He (Cojuangco) said he would follow the party stand, and we expect him to do just that,” said Aggabao.
According to the NPC stalwart, he believes the Poe-Escudero tandem can win, given the “size and heft” of the political party.
Both Poe and Escudero , who are leading their rivals in the latest voter preference polls, are running under the “Gobyernong may Puso” platforms anchored on rapid and inclusive growth, transparent government and global competitiveness.
NPC spokesperson Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga said the entire machinery and resources of the party, which is fielding 4,129 national and local candidates for the coming elections, will be used to advance the candidacies of Poe and Escudero.
Batangas Rep. Mark Mendoza, NPC secretary general and spokesperson, said the party members also considered other vice presidential candidates, including Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, but the majority went for Escudero.
He also divulged that party members like Cojuangco and Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles, who supported other presidential candidates, had all agreed on a united party stand before the selection of Poe and Escudero.
“They are just waiting for a clear directive from the NPC and this is it,” Enverga said.
Aggabao, a lawyer, said the NPC decided to make the endorsement despite the “precarious state” of Poe’s candidacy “to show that we believe that she has a strong case.” He said they know Poe will be able to hurdle her disqualification cases.
“We feel that if she’s able to hurdle the Supreme Court, she will definitely own the finish line,” said Aggabao.
“When the Comelec disqualified Grace, her number went down.But when the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) came out, they went up. If you ask us what will be the effect if she’s able to hurdle the disqualification cases, perhaps her poll numbers eill go through the roof,” added Aggabao.
Poe’s political fate hangs in the balance with the Supreme Court still deliberating on challenges to her citizenship and Philippine residency. A ruling is expected in the next few days.
The front runner in the presidential race is facing disqualification cases before the Supreme Court. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had cancelled Poe’s certificate of candidacy to run for President, consequentlyt disqualifying her from the presidential race.
The petitioners in Poe’s disqualificafion cases had insisted she was not a natural-born Filipino and she did not meet the 10-year residency requirement for candidates, the two requirements for those running for president as mandated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Poe had petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the Comelec.
The Senator was found abandoned in a Catholic church in Jaro, Iloilo, sometime in 1968. She was adopted by the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. and his wife, movie actress Susan Roces, and later became a US citizen after marriage but returned to the Philippines in 2005.
Reacting to the apparent challenge to its political machinery, the ruling LP said there seemed to be “confusion” in the NPC.
LP coalition spokesperson, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, said some NPC members who had declared support for Roxas, the administration’s presidential candidate, were not consulted about endorsing Poe and Escudero.
“I’ve talked to some of (Roxas’) supporters from the NPC and they said they had absolutely no knowledge of this ‘endorsement. Apparently, there’s some confusion within their ranks,” he said in a statement.
Communications Sec. Herminio Coloma Jr. eaid the formal endorsement by a political party of a set of candidafes should lead to sharper definition of the party’s stand on vital national issues and a higher level of discousre where the primary local points of of attention are platforms of governance instead of personalities. He said the Palace welcomed the NPC endorsement of Poe and Escudero.