President Aquino confirmed over the weekend four more senatorial candidates in the 2013 elections of the administration’s coalition led by the Liberal Party (LP).
In addition to Movie and Television Ratings and Classification Board chief Grace Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., Aquino said the bets sure to be included in the slate are Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara.
“Grace Poe-Llamanzares is already in the ticket,” he told newsmen over coffee, when asked who would comprise the administration coalition ticket.
Aquino was still unsure though if Joel Villanueva, chief of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda), would be included in the senatorial ticket, owing to his low ratings.
“Of course, we have to respond to surveys, we have to respond to the feedback we get from the ground,” Aquino said.
“We want to make sure that the right timing happens for all of the candidates. You can’t rush things and in the same process sacrifice one candidate. So, maybe it’s not the right time,” Aquino pointed out.
On the other names on the slate, Aquino was tightlipped.
“Can we just wait until we finish everything? What makes the difference is when they file.”
Aquino was also not sure of the inclusion of his cousin Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and former senator Jamby Madrigal who, according to sources, are also being considered.
When asked about LP stalwart Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III who is House deputy speaker, he replied in Filipino: “Just wait, this is as far as I go.”
“The last time we were discussing there were still 13 or 14 names to fill the 12 (slots). And we’re still negotiating as to who will be included and conversely who will be excluded,” Aquino said.
“Give me just a little bit more time so we can really come up with the list that will not change. Unless, of course, they change in the interim,” he added.
But when asked about the chances of his perceived ally Sen. Francis Escudero, Aquino replied: “Next question.”
The President said all of the details with regard to LP’s coalition with the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) will be threshed out after discussions with the candidates, and the complete final list will be out third week of this month.
Aquino earlier said they have successfully trimmed down the initial list of 30 candidates to a “solid 13” now, but that they still needed to remove one name in order to reach the magic 12.
He refused to say, however, the total number of candidates the LP will be accepting from NP under Sen. Manny Villar and NPC of business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.
Sen. Pimentel III will come from PDP-Laban.
Technically, there will only be one LP candidate in the 12-man coalition – Tañada – but there still seems to be problems over his inclusion, as observers noticed Aquino has not endorsed him.
Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon will be the second original LP contender, but that is if he decides to leave the Bureau of Customs. He reportedly wants his father, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, to run for senator.
So far, among those who are sure to be included in the administration slate are: Angara (LDP), Hontiveros (Akbayan), and Pimentel (PDP-Laban).
From NP the expected candidates to join the administration ticket are: re-electionist Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, and Villar’s wife former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, who will be taking over the post of her husband.
Villar’s group is lobbying for the inclusion of former Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers in the ticket but reliable sources divulged that Aquino prefers Madrigal, a former colleague in the Senate before she lost in 2010 polls.
From the NPC camp, the guest candidates will be re-electionist Sen. Escudero and Loren Legarda. While Escudero has technically bolted NPC in 2010, he and Cojuangco have patched things up and are reportedly on good terms again.
Villanueva, son of evangelist Eddie Villanueva, belongs to party-list group Citizens Battle Against Corruption. Prior to heading Tesda, he was a colleague of Aquino in the opposition bloc at the House of Representatives.
Villanueva said that he is still consulting his family and friends on whether to run for senator.
“I am faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to run for a senatorial seat in 2013. I remain in consultation with my family, friends, and supporters and might be able to firm up plans by the end of the week,” he added.