Current Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas is the Liberal Party’s official candidate for the 2016 Presidential Elections. That has always been the plan or promise made to Roxas by his party-mates so he would agree to step aside and postpone his own plans to run for the Presidency back in 2010 to give way to then Senator Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino.
You can call it a twist of fate or bad luck but while the death of the country’s so-called “democracy icon” and former President Cory Aquino in 2009 catapulted the son BS Aquino to the most powerful position in the country, it was the beginning of the end for Roxas’s dreams to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become the country’s next President.
At that time, many saw Roxas’s move to give way to BS Aquino as a sign of weakness or lack of conviction. For if he truly had a vision and plan for the country, he would not have easily given up running just because his party-mates thought BS Aquino had more chances of winning. A man with conviction would have found it unacceptable that his party-mates had asked someone who was reluctant and someone without any platform to run for the Presidency.
Compromise is the word that comes to mind when I think of Mar Roxas. He doesn’t mind compromising his own principles for his own ambition. This was also evident in the way he handled the Mamasapano massacre of 44 government special action forces officers by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Despite being excluded by BS Aquino from Oplan Exodus – an operation that involved the arrest of foreign and local terrorists suspects by elite forces of the Philippine National Police who were under his jurisdiction, Roxas kept his real thoughts to himself and went along with the excuse that the clash was simply a “misencounter”.
Like I said before, for someone who was kept out of the loop of a major operation, Roxas acted strangely forgiving of BS Aquino and seemed to have moved on very quickly from the “oversight” even when a video of him being briefed by SAF head Director Getulio Napeñas for the first time about the tragedy obviously upset him. Some expected Roxas to resign from his DILG post as a statement of indignation but it was apparent that he didn’t want to speak ill of the President or do something that would “anger” BS Aquino for fear of losing what he thinks is a valuable endorsement from the incumbent in the next Presidential election. In other words, the Mamasapano tragedy also exposed Roxas’s desperation, which is quite pathetic to say the least.
A lot of people have been wondering why Roxas still wanted BS Aquino’s endorsement in the first place. An endorsement from BS Aquino, who has become some sort of a lame duck in the twilight of his term, won’t make a difference to his low popularity ratings in the Presidential polls. Besides, it’s not like the voters still believe in “Daang Matuwid” or Straight Path slogan. Some people think the path is leading the country exactly to where the previous administrators had gone before. This is evident in the way patronage politics in government is still holding the country backward. It’s not like BS Aquino can transfer what they claim is the “Cory magic” to any member of the Liberal Party, especially Roxas. It’s not transferrable and whatever magic they think they still possess, is gone. He may have been “anointed” as BS Aquino’s successor but Roxas is on his own in dealing with the people’s perception of him.
Here are some of the reasons why I think it would be hard for Roxas to fix his bad image to the voting public and therefore, hard to win the Presidency in 2016:
1. Mar Roxas doesn’t have the “it” factor.
In the Philippines, the “it” factor is whatever it is that appeals to the emotional crowd. To win the crowd, you need some kind of story the audience can cling on to. It’s either you are grieving, an orphan or a rags-to-riches story. In the case of BS Aquino for example, it was the death of his mother Cory Aquino that endeared him to the crowd.
Roxas just doesn’t have that something that would appeal to emotion. He also tries too hard to get people to like him but ends up coming across as fake or not genuine in his attempt to “care” for them. His public relations stunts showing him doing what is supposed to be his staff’s job like directing traffic only proves he is not good at delegating and doesn’t trust his men to do the right thing.
2. Mar Roxas is not his own man.
As evident in the way he handled the Mamasapano tragedy, he is prepared to hide the truth even in the face of injustice just to avoid any conflict with whoever he thinks can help him achieve his goal – BS Aquino and his allies. Likewise, Roxas doesn’t mind being tossed around and left in the dark by his own party mates even after he “sacrificed” his own ambition to keep the Liberal Party in power.
3. Mar Roxas is hot headed and cannot handle stress well.
A few incidents have been recorded of Roxas getting frazzled and incoherent under stress. First, there was one where he reduced himself to arguing with CNN’s foreign correspondent Andrew Stevens during the height of super typhoon Yolanda about the number of uncollected body bags left on the road. Next was the video of Roxas berating Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez about the “requirements” the Mayor had to abide by before the central government can provide help to the devastated town. The footage provided enough proof that Roxas is not fit to be in a position of power. His penchant for insisting he is right even when he is wrong can spell disaster for the country.
Aside from those mentioned, Roxas was caught swearing at a rally against former President Gloria Arroyo back in 2008 – something conservatives think is behavior unbecoming of a Presidential candidate.
4. Mar Roxas is married to Korina Sanchez — a potential gaffe machine.
Who can forget the time Korina earned the ire of CNN’s Anderson Cooper during the height of super typhoon Yolanda? Cooper challenged Korina to go to Tacloban after she criticized the foreign correspondent for supposedly reporting inaccurately about the situation in Tacloban. It was not surprising that majority sided with Cooper since Korina was reporting the news from the studio while Cooper was reporting from ground zero – a more realistic vantage point. More importantly, Korina behaved unprofessionally when she used her position in the media to defend her husband DILG head Roxas against criticism from the international news organization that rescue operations were very slow. That was just one faux pas of many others and there are quite a number of them.
Unfortunately, Korina comes across as someone who cannot put her own emotion under control and could prove a public relations liability for her husband over the course of his term if he becomes president.
Roxas’s supporters say he has “integrity”. Clearly, they are simply talking about the way he deals with his own allies. Sure, Roxas can be loyal to people who are on his side the way fraternity brothers are obliged to be loyal to each other no matter what. Unfortunately for others outside of his circle, Roxas can be as tough as the nail he used to fix that school chair in one of his PR stunts. To put it another way, Roxas can be nice to deal with if your name is Aquino but a bully if your name is Romualdez.
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