SEN. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday said the Liberal Party (LP) has included Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo among the potential candidates who would lead the opposition’s slate in next year’s national and local elections.
Pangilinan, who is the LP president, said Robredo’s name has been high in the party’s list of standard bearer wannabes.
“Siya ay mataas na opisyal ng partido at pinakamataas na elected official ng partido (She is a ranking official of the party and the highest elected official of the party) so she (Robredo) is also being considered,” Pangilinan said in an online interview.
The senator, however, was quick to clarify that Robredo has yet to make a decision on whether or not to seek the highest elective post.
“She herself has said na wala (pa) siyang desisyon (dahil) marami pang pwedeng mangyari (She herself said that she has yet to make a decision [because] many things can still happen) … in the meantime, we will just focus on how we can help address the (COVID-19) pandemic and the economic crisis,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said the Liberal Party has not yet started discussing the 2022 elections, adding that a caucus to pick the party’s presidential candidate has not even been scheduled.
“I understand there are some groups that are already discussing 2022, that’s okay. Let them start,” Pangilinan said amid reports that President Duterte has allegedly started talking politics with his Cabinet secretaries, supposedly expressing preference to have nine of them join the senatorial derby.
Unconfirmed news reports said the President has said that Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Presidential Peace Process Adviser and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez would be good choices for the administration’s lineup.
Pangilinan said the Liberal Party has not even scheduled a caucus where party members will explore and consider who would carry the banner of the opposition in next year’s polls.
Pangilinan said LP members and allies have their hands full with extending assistance to people who were hit worst by the economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Sa atin naman (For us), I think ultimately, 2022 is really all about voters, so tayo sa Liberal Party, tuloy-tuloy lang ang ating recruitment sa baba, at pag-tulong sa ating komunidad para malagpasan itong COVID (We in the Liberal Party are continuously recruiting new members at the grassroot levels. We have also been helping communities non-stop o overcome the impact of COVID-19),” he said.
Ibarra Gutierrez, who is Robredo’s spokesman, played coy, refusing to comment on Pangilinan’s statement.
Gutierrez said the Vice President “is currently focused on working to help our fellow Filipinos overcome the challenges of the pandemic and the long quarantine.”
“This is the need of the moment and her priority right now. Everything else will be addressed at the proper time,” he said in a statement.
In a Pulse Asia survey released last month, Robredo emerged as favored only by eight percent of the 2,400 respondents.
The respondents’ first choice was Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte with 26 percent preference, followed by Sen. Grace Poe and former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who both got 14 percent. Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso was preferred by percent of the respondents while Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao was wanted by 10 percent.