Mar Roxas No. 1 pick as secretary of DoTC
Aquino still convincing ex-senator, says officialBy Daxim L. Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer MANILA, Philippines—If President Benigno Aquino III would have his way, his defeated running mate in last year’s elections would run the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC).
A senior government official told the Inquirer on Sunday that former Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas remained the President’s No.1 choice to become the next transportation and communications secretary—a post to be vacated by Jose “Ping” de Jesus, who has resigned from the Cabinet effective June 30.
Mr. Aquino is still trying to convince Roxas to accept the post, according to the official, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak openly to the media on the issue.
The Inquirer tried to contact Roxas for comment, but there was no reply from the former senator to text messages.
The official said Mr. Aquino was surprised on reading a news report that Energy Secretary Rene Almendras would be moved to the DoTC, saying the President had not even talked to Almendras.
Roxas is the President’s “top choice” to head the DoTC, said the official, who is privy to information about the selection process.
It was unclear whether that meant that the chief of staff role earlier reportedly offered to Roxas was no longer on the table.
DoE in the dark
In its own statement to the media, the Department of Energy (DoE) said the selection of Cabinet officials “is a prerogative of the President, hence we defer to the Palace announcements on the matter and would rather refer you to the President’s communications team.”
The DoE added: “On our part, we have not received any information indicating a transfer to another agency or office. The President thus far has given his trust and confidence in the secretary as energy chief, and we shall continue to live up to the standard of excellence and dedication that public service warrants.”
Other names that had been floated as possible DoTC head included Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) chief Joel Villanueva, and Oscar Orbos, who served as transportation secretary under the administration of the late Corazon Aquino, the President’s mother.
A Malacañang source identified with the so-called “Balay” faction raised the possibility that efforts to get Roxas appointed as DoTC chief were actually meant to keep him away from the halls of power in Malacañang.
The Palace source said appointing Roxas as chief of staff would be viewed as a threat to the “Samar” faction, to which Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa belongs.
The Balay group is named after the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City, owned by Roxas’ family. The group is headed by Roxas.
The Samar faction is said to be led by the group of Vice President Jejomar Binay. The group is named after the street in Quezon City where the main election campaign headquarters of then Senator Aquino was located.
The two groups have purportedly remained at odds since last year’s elections, in which Binay beat Roxas for the vice presidency.
‘Mini Hyatt 10’
Sen. Joker Arroyo described as a “mini Hyatt 10” the impending departure of De Jesus and his three undersecretaries from the DoTC.
The “Hyatt 10” refers to the 10 disgruntled senior officials of the previous administration who resigned their posts at the height of the election fraud scandal involving then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The question now is whether this would evolve into a second Hyatt 10,” Senator Arroyo told the Inquirer by phone.
“I really think this is big because can you imagine the whole department, the upper echelon resigning?” he said. “That is something. So what would follow? Is this a prelude to a second Hyatt 10?”
Sen. Franklin Drilon, a close ally of the President, has a different information on the future that awaits Roxas.
He said Roxas heading the DoTC “was not in the equation.”
“I know that before Secretary Ping de Jesus resigned, the decision was already made that he (Roxas) would become chief of staff,” Drilon said. With reports from Abigail Ho, Christian V. Esguerra and Inquirer Research