Archbishop Rolly Tirona prays over Leni Robredo and Mar Roxas in Naga City. Image Credit: Facebook

Manila: Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) has not received a positive reply as yet from Congresswoman Leni Robredo when he asked her to be his running mate in the 2016 elections. This is despite their appearance together at a prayer rally, a military parade, and a road campaign in her hometown in Bicol, southern Luzon, sources said.

Both Roxas and Robredo wore yellow T-shirts when they were prayed over by Archbishop Tolado Tirona in Naga City on Friday.

Yellow was the campaign colour of outgoing President Benigno Aquino when he ran for the presidency in 2010, and former president Corazon Aquino when she was propped-up to power by a people-backed military mutiny that ousted former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Before Robredo accompanied Roxas in a car that he personally drove in a virtual campaign sortie on the streets of Naga City, she confirmed she has “not yet said yes” when Roxas officially asked her to be his running mate in the 2016 polls.

Offer was made

“The offer was made during a private meeting,” said Naga City Mayor John Bongat.

At the LP-organised event during the swearing in of new party members in Camarines Sur, Roxas and Robredo sat onstage like real presidential and vice presidential candidates. In speeches by their allies, vice governor Fortunato Pena, Congressman Salvio Fortuno, and former Iriga Mayor Madeleine Gazmin addressed Robredo as "vice president".

Fans also chanted “Mar-Leni,” a name they have chosen for LP’s presidential and vice presidential team in 2016.

Robredo wore a mysterious smile throughout her stage appearance with Roxas. She also accompanied Roxas at a regional military parade on Plaza Quezon Avenue.

Explaining why she and Roxas cannot yet publicly announce their political team-up, Robredo told Gulf News, “I’m still waiting for a spiritual answer from my husband Jesse. Voices urging me to accept the offer have increased,” she added.

“My children have not yet accepted LP’s major political plan.”

The economics graduate of the premier University of the Philippines and law graduate of the University of Nueva Caceres also cherished a second term or a senate seat in 2016.

She was a reluctant candidate of the third district of Camarines Sur in 2013, but the unprecedented support given to her popular husband, former interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo after his untimely death in a plane crash in 2013, buoyed up her budding political career.

Roxas has listened to advisers who told him to focus on Robredo and forget about Senator Grace Poe, another source told Gulf News.

Poe was wooed as LP’s vice presidential timbre before she decided this week to announce her bid as an independent presidential candidate in 2016.

Former actress turned Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, another LP leader, has also turned down Roxas’ offer to be his running mate next year.

Division?

Reacting to the Roxas-Robredo team-up, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said: “This will divide voters in the Bicol Region.”

According to Salceda, who is Roxas’ campaign leader in Bicol, Sen. Poe’s vice presidential candidate, Senator Chiz Escudero, is from Sorsogon, also in Bicol.

Civil society groups launched a signature campaign to convince Robredo to accept LP’s offer after she told ABS CBN (TV) earlier: “I think the vice presidential post is too important and big for someone like me who is just starting in politics.”

Private pollsters said she ranked 26th among senatorial candidates in the 2016 polls.