Roxas, Abaya of LP frontrunners for DILG post, say LP insidersBy Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Congress was abuzz, on Thursday, with talk that Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas was poised to take over the Department of Interior and Local Government, while Cavite Representative Joseph E.A. Abaya would move over to the Department of Transportation and Communication.
Both Roxas and Abaya are main movers in the Liberal Party, the party led by President Aquino. Both served as pallbearers during the state funeral of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and both had been highly tipped to succeed the latter.
At least three LP members in the House of Representatives said the President had made up his mind to move Roxas to the DILG to sustain the gains made by Robredo who expanded the LP’s membership among governors and mayors.
Roxas has not replied to calls on whether or not he would accept the DILG post if offered by President Benigno Aquino.
Abaya, the chairman of the House appropriations committee, had been mentioned as a front-runner for the DILG post and declared he would accept the job if offered by the President.
Abaya graduated from the US Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland. He is a direct descendant of Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the first Philippine Republic. Abaya is on his third and last term in Congress.
Others whose names had been bruited about, like Vice President Jejomar Binay, were quick to end speculations about their appointment to head the DILG. Binay, who pulled a surprise win over Roxas in the May 2010 elections and may run for president in 2016, said he had no interest in the post.
He suggested though that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, whom Aquino appointed DILG officer in charge during the search, would be qualified for the post having been a top Quezon City Hall executive for years.
A Malacañang official belonging to the Liberal Party said the LP top brass had lobbied the President to make the ruling party’s control of the DILG a priority over problems on criminality and the spread of illegal numbers game jueteng in view of next year’s midterm elections.
The same official said that giving priority to local government politics over security and illegal gambling matters tipped the scales against another DILG candidate, Senator Panfilo Lacson, whose second consecutive term would expire in 2013 (after which Lacson cannot seek Senate reelection for at least six years, or a full Senate term. Lacson, a former director general of the Philippine National Police, has also been rumored to take over from Robredo, based on his vast experience in fighting crime.
An LP member of Congress, who refused to be identified for not having been authorized to speak for the party, said LP leaders had made a strong pitch to the President to keep the DILG in the party’s hands during lunch in Naga City shortly after Robredo was laid to rest.
The LP held a meeting at its Quezon City headquarters known as “Balay” Wednesday night where new members from several provinces were sworn into the party. An LP member present said the DILG vacancy issue was not taken up then as party leaders had already talked to Mr. Aquino in Naga the day before.
But Iloilo Representative Jerry Treñas, an LP member who attended Robredo’s interment, said Aquino and other party leaders merely had lunch and talk of Robredo’s replacement never came up.
“There were many guests at the lunch, including Cabinet members. No discussions were made on LP matters including the question of would be the next DILG secretary,” said Treñas in a phone interview.
Abaya and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr., another LP stalwart, did not reply to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s calls.
Tags: Department of Interior and Local governments , Department of Transportation and Communications , government appointments , Joseph E. A. Abaya , Liberal Party , Mar Roxas , Philippine Government , Politics