MANILA – Although President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III endorsed Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas as his preferred successor, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. clarified that the Cabinet members were still free to choose whom to support in next year’s presidential elections.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier stated that the Cabinet was ‘solidly behind’ Aquino’s ‘anointed’ candidate in the coming national elections but Coloma clarified that the President never imposed anything to them, especially when it came to election decisions.
“On the question of whether each cabinet member has freedom to choose his candidate, of course, the answer to that is yes,” Coloma said.
“We all know the President. He has never forced us to do anything. His approach is giving justification, giving an opportunity to understand his policies and programs,” he added.
Coloma believed, however, that the Cabinet was united with a common goal – ensuring that the next President would continue the good reforms Aquino started.
“What I know is the Cabinet is united in supporting, sustaining the programs of the administration because that is their sworn duty. Each member of the Cabinet is considered the alter ego of the President so their actions are part of fulfilling their duties,” he said.
Meanwhile, there have been speculations that some Cabinet members were considering supporting other possible presidential candidates in the 2016 general elections.
While majority were likely backing Roxas, others seemed to be inclined to vote for Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay or Senator Grace Poe instead.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro, for his part, decided to remain politically neutral since his department will be working closely with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in next year’s elections.
“Among the Cabinet, I should be the one who is colorless. We are the partner of COMELEC because of our election duties. I think it is more important that we, together with the COMELEC and the public, ensure that the elections will be clean and credible,” he said.
“I decided not to appear in political gatherings so that our election duties will not be colored. Our elections to be viewed as fair,” he added.
Luistro also asked that social services would not be linked to politics or the coming elections.
“If we stop building classrooms because we fear that it might be interpreted as politicizing, the people will be shortchanged… Maybe other government programs can wait but health, education and social services should be beyond politics,” he said.