MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, July 31, endorsed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as his preferred successor.
Speaking to Liberal Party members, allies, and supporters at the Club Filipino in San Juan, Aquino enumerated his basis for choosing his preferred presidential candidate. (READ: How much a factor is Aquino's endorsement?)
He then concluded: "Sa madaling salita, doon na po tayo sa siguradong itutuloy ang 'Daang Matuwid.' Ang paniniwala ko po, ang taong ito ay walang iba kung hindi sa Mar Roxas (In other words, let's go with someone who would surely continue the 'Straight Path.' I believe this person is none other than Mar Roxas)."
In his 21-minute speech, Aquino said that among the 3 people that he had "interviewed," Roxas proved to be the "most prepared" to be the country's next leader. He did not name the other two but was apparently referring to Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, whom he had also met in relation to the 2016 elections.
Aquino said that Roxas is the "most ripe" for the presidency, and was apparently referring to Poe when he said, "Maganda nga po sana, na ang mga kailangan pang magsanay ay talaga pong magkakaroon ng pagkakataong mahinog at maunawaan ang tunay na lalim ng pagkapinuno."
(It would be good if those who need to train more would get the chance to mature and understand the true depth of leadership.)
Roxas is the president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party while Aquino is its chairman. (READ: Liberal Party: Sustaining a rebirth)
'The sure thing'
In explaining his choice, the President said: "Tiwala ako na mulat din kayo, na napalaki ng nakataya para ipaubaya sa baka sakali – baka yung iba kayang ituloy ang sinimulan namin, baka 'yung iba kayang panagutin ang mga tiwali, baka yung iba maituloy ang pagangat ng ekonomiya at serbisyong panlipunan. Baka yung iba manatili sa tuwid na daan."
(I trust that you are aware that a lot is at stake, and you can't just leave anything to chance – maybe they would continue what we started, maybe they would hold accountable those who are corrupt, maybe they would improve on the economic gains and and delivery of services. Maybe they would remain on the straight path.)
As part of Rappler’s #PHvote “The Leader I Want Series,” Rappler looked at Roxas’ stand on issues the next president will have to zoom in on: corruption, social inequality, climate change and disasters, foreign policy, OFWs, and peace in Mindanao. (READ: #TheLeaderIWant: Mar Roxas' to-fix list for 2016)
Aquino said: "Ang sa akin lang, bakit tayo magpapaakit sa ‘baka’ kung meron namang sigurado? Number one, siguradong may kakayahan, sigaradong walang ibang boss kundi taongbayan, walang pinagkakakautangan ng loob, siguradong walang ibang interes kung hindi ang bayan."
(But for me, why would we be enticed by a 'maybe' when we have the sure thing? Number one, someone who's certainly competent, certainly with no other boss but the people, is not indebted to anyone, and certainly has no other interest but the nation's.)
'Time to know Mar'
Aquino also addressed Roxas' low popularity ratings, which he said would go up once he is "introduced well" to the people.
"Kung mababa man ang kanyang mga numero sa ngayon, ibig sabihin kailangan pa nating paghusayan ang pagpapakilala sa kanya (If his current numbers are low, this only means we have to work harder on making him more well-known)," the President said.
Based on the last presidential preference polls, Roxas is ranked third, after front runner Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
He said that unlike other politicians, LP members like Roxas were taught by their party elders not to toot their own horn.
"Kung mapapansin ninyo, laging 'tayo' ang tuon namin at hindi katulad ng iba na panay ako ang gumawa nito at ako ang gumawa niyan. Marahil hindi rin mulat ang mga tao sa nagawa at tunay na pagkatao ni Mar. Sadyang ganyan ang kapalaran ng mga nakatuon sa tunay na pagbabago imbes na sa mga photo opp at doon sa paglalagay ng mukha sa novelty items," Aquino said.
(If you'll notice, we always focus on 'we' unlike others who say, 'I did this, I did that.' Perhaps the people are not aware of the real character of Mar. That is the fate of those who are focused on real change, instead of photo opps and putting their faces on novelty items.)
Aquino said what many people don't know about Roxas is that he is the "father" of the multibillion-peso business process outsourcing industry in the country.
He also defended Roxas from criticism over his performance in Yolanda (Haiyan) operations, and the Zamboanga siege, both in 2013, saying Roxas did his best in both instances.
Aquino added: "Ang palaisipan sa amin, sa kabila ng mga nagawa ni Mar, sa kabila ng kanyang sakripisyo, para bang may industriya talagang nakatutok sa paghatak sa kanya pababa (What puzzles us is that inspite of what Mar has done, inspite of his sacrifices, there seems to be a cottage industry focused on pulling him down.)
He cited the video of Roxas' interaction with Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez over post-Yolanda operations, which was "edited" to put the Cabinet official in a bad light.
Aquino also cited the incident in Eastern Samar, where Roxas slid while riding his motorcycle en route to areas not reachable by a regular vehicle, as Typhoon Ruby had blocked off major roads.
He wondered aloud why the accident became fodder for criticism, when Roxas was just doing his job.
Prior to Aquino's formal endorsement, there was a video presentation on some of his achievements in agriculture, infrastructure development, and other sectors – stressing the importance of continuing the administration's reforms. – Rappler.com