Roxas on DILG: Big ‘tsinelas’ to fillBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“It’s only right that the leader of the country’s oldest party should deal with the politicians,” President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday as he announced the appointment of Liberal Party president Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as the new secretary of the interior amid criticism that it was a preparation for the 2016 presidential election.
“Secretary Roxas will be able to demonstrate that he’d advance the country’s interest, rather than the party’s interest,” Mr. Aquino said.
Roxas had accepted the appointment, and acknowledged in a talk with reporters that he had very big tsinelas (slippers) to fill, referring to the style of leadership of Jesse Robredo, who went about solving problems wearing rubber slippers and whom he is replacing at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“On jueteng, on drugs, on kidnapping, illegal logging, the President’s orders . . . are clear. And I’ll do my job [and] arrest the people behind these crimes,” he said.
In accepting his nomination, Roxas said he was heeding the call of the President, the captain of the ship of the Republic, to “help bring the ship to its destination.”
Mr. Aquino also announced the appointment of Cavite Rep. Joseph “Jun” E. A. Abaya, secretary general of the Liberal Party, as Roxas’ successor in the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). Both officials thanked the President for trusting them.
“By appointing Mar and Jun, we’re confident that we’d make more progress on the right path,” Mr. Aquino said in a speech announcing the two appointments at President’s Hall in Malacañang.
Speaking to reporters after the announcement of his appointment, Roxas denied he would spend the next four years preparing for the 2016 presidential election.
“I don’t give it much thought,” he said. “I know I can only succeed, and [I said this] to the President, I will only be successful and I can only succeed whether at DOTC or now in DILG if all thoughts of 2016 or any other electoral position were removed from my mind,” he said. “And that’s what I intend to do.”
‘It’s common sense’
He said 2013 and 2016 were mere “dates” to him and he would rather focus on pushing President Aquino’s agenda, and pursuing the reforms initiated by Robredo in the local governments, such as transparency, accountability and people empowerment.
In his speech, President Aquino appealed to the Commission on Appointments to confirm the nominations of Roxas and Abaya at the soonest possible time so they could buckle down to work. Since they were appointed while Congress is in session, they could not immediately assume their posts.
The President indicated that politics was not the motivation for his decision to move Roxas to the DILG, seen as the power center in the administration’s consolidation of forces for next year’s local and congressional elections and the 2016 presidential election.
Although he says he is not running in 2016, Roxas is seen as the Liberals’ potential standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential election after Mr. Aquino steps down.
“We’re part of the party. This administration is pushing our own agenda. But more than that, when we say expediency, it’s as if we’re saying he was just given the post for the intended benefits, and he’s not qualified,” Mr. Aquino said, responding to criticism that Roxas’ appointment was a political move.
“If I’m going to appoint an alter ego who can’t do the job, I’ll end up doing the job [myself],” he said. “It’s just common sense,” he added, explaining why he couldn’t appoint a potential burden to the presidency to a line department.
Partner in government
Mr. Aquino said Roxas could do the job and still be his partner in government.
Mr. Aquino confirmed that he told Roxas he was on top of a very short list of candidates for Robredo’s replacement when they flew to Masbate province to oversee the recovery operations on Aug. 19, a day after the plane crash.
Mr. Aquino said Roxas and Robredo shared his “complete trust.” Both were hardworking, quick to accept responsibilities, highly committed, and willing to learn new things, he said.
Roxas has been there with him from the start, Mr. Aquino said. Roxas had no second thoughts when he asked him to be his vice-presidential running mate in 2010 and later, after Roxas’ electoral defeat, to head the Department of Transportation and Communications, Mr. Aquino said.
“I fully trusted him. Whatever happened, I know Mar would continue our advocacies, and when the time comes for us to ask him to go to any battle, he won’t fail us,” the President said.
“We have no other wish but to quickly reap the fruits of change that we’ve sown. With Secretary Jesse Robredo’s passing, we were apprehensive that the seeds sown and the truthful governance by Jesse would go to waste,” he said. “I have issued many orders to Robredo, both sensitive and confidential, that’s why we need an individual who will water and nurture our agenda,” he said.
“One person who is capable to act and heed the call of service, and serve as bridge to ensure that from the national police to the local government, we’re treading the same direction. It’s only right that the leader of the country’s oldest party should deal with the politicians,” he added.
The President said he was giving Roxas free rein to choose his team at the DILG and the heads of agencies under his new department.
Mr. Aquino’s answer to questions on whether Roxas would handle both local government and peace and order wasn’t clear. In the past, Robredo handled only local government. Undersecretary Rico Puno oversaw the Philippine National Police.
When asked by reporters whether he would retain Puno, Roxas replied, “I assume that all coterminous positions would now be vacant.”
Mr. Aquino said he ordered Roxas to improve services in the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
He said Roxas should concentrate on improving conditions in the jails, which are in a “state of disrepair,” and strengthening the capabilities of local governments.
The President said he also ordered Roxas to pursue the “seal of good housekeeping” and financial disclosure reforms initiated by Robredo.
“We’ve also mentioned the crackdown on private armed groups as part of the main responsibility of our national police in the run-up to the elections next year,” the President said.
Roxas said he would concentrate on his new job instead of thinking about 2016.
He said it was his critics’ problem if they thought his appointment would cause division in the Cabinet, referring to the rivalry between him and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“I didn’t force myself into this position. I didn’t apply for it,” he said. “Those questions are better addressed elsewhere to those who are saying there are political motivations,” he added, referring to questions about the criticism of his appointment as a political move by the President.
First posted 1:51 am | Saturday, September 1st, 2012