LP torn between Mar Roxas, Grace Poe

Not even House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the chair of the LP parliamentary caucus, knows for sure.

On Tuesday, Gonzales admitted that he himself could not say whether the LP would remain intact as its leaders grappled with the question of whether to go with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas or Sen. Grace Poe in 2016.

“Only time will tell, but political history will tell us, based on past events, that parties separate and break up because in the setting of Philippine politics, you cannot avoid that,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting on the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House of Representatives.

His statement appears to reinforce speculations of a growing rift within LP on who to choose between Roxas, the sentimental favorite, and Poe, the rising upstart.

Crossing party lines

Gonzales said politicians crossing party lines became inevitable as a result of the multi-party system instituted in the 1987 Constitution, “unlike before when it was very difficult to be a political butterfly.”

On the Poe and Roxas question, he said the LP was still on a wait-and-see mode.

“As a member of the LP, I’m waiting for the decision of the President because we heard the President say that Mar, as the president of LP, was first priority. But then we also heard a pronouncement he is open to fielding a candidate of the administration not necessarily from LP,” Gonzales said.

“That’s something for the LP to resolve,” he added.

Gonzales said he was not part of the selection process, and had not been consulted by the party.

“I don’t know about the Speaker [Feliciano Belmonte Jr.] but I have not been asked,” he said.

Gonzales said Roxas remained the “sentimental choice” but ultimately, it was up to the party leadership to decide based on “all available information that will guide us”.

Another LP member, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, however, said there was little chance that Roxas, the presumptive LP candidate, would slide down to vice president and give way to Poe’s candidacy.

“His opponents want to portray him as a weak presidential candidate. His detractors want to convince the voters to shun a ‘non-winner.’ Again, I think this can easily be demolished by Roxas’ track record as an incorruptible leader,” he said.

“Indeed, the starting gun for 2016 has already been fired,” Evardone said.

On Friday, Roxas was off and running in Leyte. He led the distribution of P449 million in rehabilitation funds to 26 municipalities ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.

Speaking with local government officials and residents, Roxas reiterated President Aquino’s previous assurance that the national government would continue funding rehabilitation programs in all areas flattened by the devastating weather disturbance.

‘Yolanda’ survivor

Roxas, himself a Yolanda survivor, inspected several infrastructure projects in Leyte which were funded by the Rehabilitation Assistance on Yolanda (RAY), a comprehensive recovery program being implemented by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Among those he visited were the newly constructed public market and civic center in Dulag municipality, which were completed using P10.6 million in RAY funds.

“I did not leave you then, I will not leave you now. I will always be on your side,” Roxas told residents during his visit in Dulag town.

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