Foes believe 2013, 2016 elections behind appointmentsBy Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Did President Benigno Aquino III have the 2013 and 2016 elections in mind when he appointed two members of his Liberal Party to head two strategic government departments?
San Juan Rep. Jose Victor Ejercito on Friday alleged that the twin appointments of Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas and Cavite Rep. Joseph E. A. Abaya to the local government and transportation and communication departments were made to firm up the ruling party’s position in the coming elections.
“An LP member positioned in such a key government position as the DILG is crucial for their party’s ambitions for 2013 and 2016,” said Ejercito, who is aiming to run as one of the senatorial candidates of the rival United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
President Aquino’s party “is apparently maximizing their being in power by ensuring that powerful portfolios are given to their party mates,” he said.
“Not to undermine the capability of Roxas and Abaya, but I think the appointments are obviously for the strengthening of the Liberal Party’s position in the coming 2013 and 2016 elections,” he said.
Ejercito claimed there was no shortage of talents to replace the late Secretary Jesse Robredo and Roxas, who will be replaced by Abaya at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
“The LP anyway does not have [a] monopoly of competent, honest, and incorruptible leaders that are fit for the position,” he said, citing Vice President Jejomar Binay, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos as possible DILG chiefs.
He also mentioned Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, with whom he claimed to “have a personal issue.”
But Lacson, who was considered a front-runner for the DILG post, himself welcomed the appointments. “The choices for the DILG and DOTC posts cannot be more perfect,” he said on Friday.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, the chair of the Senate committee on public order and a member of UNA, said he was withholding judgment on the wisdom of Roxas’ appointment as Robredo’s performance would be a tough act to follow.
Earlier, Honasan said the DILG—with its control over the national police and administrative supervision over local government officials—needed a nonpartisan secretary, especially on the eve of the 2013 elections.
But Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., of the Lakas-CMD, expressed confidence that Roxas and Abaya “are both committed and competent to implement programs and measures to accomplish the government’s promises to the people.”
Revilla said the DILG and DOTC are among the primary agencies of the government vital to the promotion of public safety.
“It is important that those who will be holding these posts enjoy the full trust and confidence of the President to attain the administration’s goal,” he said.
Welcomed by party faithful
The LP party faithful expectedly welcomed the appointments of their party president, Roxas, and their secretary general, Abaya.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, the LP vice chair who is a member of the congressional Commission on Appointments, assured Roxas and Abaya of “immediate facilitation” of their confirmation by the CA.
Robredo never obtained CA confirmation in the two years that he served as interior secretary.
Drilon said Roxas shared Mr. Aquino’s vision to carry out reforms in local governments.
He cited Abaya’s leadership ability as shown in his performance as chair of the House committee on appropriations that examines the government’s budget proposals.
According to House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, his party mates Roxas and Abaya have “the strength of character, integrity and administrative capability to handle their respective jobs.”
Gonzales said Roxas would serve as an “effective bridge” between the President and local officials. “If we are looking for somebody who has the same mold of integrity that Secretary Robredo had, Mar Roxas would be it,” he said.
In Roxas City, Capiz, leaders welcomed the appointment of their favorite son as DILG chief.
Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco said the DILG needed a dedicated and honest person like Roxas to lead it.
Roxas City Mayor Angel Alan Celino said Capiceños should be happy with the decision of Mr. Aquino to appoint Roxas as the successor of Robredo who died in a plane crash in Masbate on Aug. 18.
“I think the President would not designate him if the son from Capiz did not fit the position,” said Tanco who is an LP member as is Celino.
Continue Robredo’s reforms
Harvey Keh, lead convenor of Kaya Natin! movement, said Roxas can expect support from the movement.
“Secretary Mar is a good choice with proven competence and track record. I hope he will continue the reforms initiated by Secretary Robredo,” said Keh.
Fr. Ed Panlilio, former governor of Pampanga and a Kaya Natin cofounder, said Roxas was a “very good choice.” Roxas has the commitment and integrity to pursue the administration’s tuwid na daan (the straight and narrow path) program, he said.
Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, president of the Pampanga Mayors’ League, said Roxas confronts “high expectations set by Secretary Robredo’s good performance at the [DILG].”
Ma. Amelia Tiglao Cayanan, president of Kapampangan Manalakaran Inc. civil society group, said Roxas has “proven what he is capable of doing as head of different departments.”
“Like Secretary Jesse, Secretary Mar is not into politicking. He has been appointed to serve several government posts and he’s made sacrifices already,” said Mayor Gloria Congco of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, noting Roxas’ decision to give up his presidential run in 2010 giving way for Mr. Aquino’s victory.
In Angeles City, Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, a Cabinet member of the previous Arroyo administration, said he and his allies would support anybody who would continue the plans and undertakings of Robredo.
“Anyone who wishes to follow what Secretary Jess (Robredo) had started like the Local Governance Performance Management System and Seal of Good Housekeeping, and the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi for the local government units, will definitely get our support,” he said.
So glad it is Roxas
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said he was “just so glad” that Roxas is the new interior secretary.
“It is like bringing back to life Secretary Jesse,” Tan said.
The chief peace negotiator of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal, said he hoped Roxas “would not be antipeace this time.”
In 2008, Roxas was among those who called for the non-signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the MILF.
During the 2010 elections, some Muslim leaders campaigned against Roxas.
‘Privilege of the doubt’
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the President’s new appointees—Roxas, Abaya and Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno—should be given the “privilege of the doubt” as they settle into their new jobs.
“We just put our trust in the appointing officer. We just wait and see,” Palma told reporters yesterday.
Palma said it is within the President’s right and discretion to choose whoever he wants in his administration.
Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said Roxas “will not politicize the DILG.” He urged those who believe in Robredo’s leadership “to give Roxas a chance to prove his worth and I hope he will be neutral and can unite the people under his leadership.”
PNP, DILG rally behind Roxas
The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the DILG welcomed the appointment of their new chief.
PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome said Roxas brings with him a wealth of executive experience and professional competence to administer and manage the operations of the bureaus and attached agencies of the DILG.
“We welcome Secretary Roxas as the new secretary of the DILG. We will support him. We will work with him. We will cooperate to attain his goals and objectives in the department,” he said.
As chair of the National Police Commission, Roxas was in the best position to continue the reforms initiated by Robredo to “promote a new culture of good governance, transparency, public accountability and people empowerment in the PNP,” he added.
“I urge the 148,000-strong men and women of the PNP to rally behind our new leader and patriarch in the DILG-PNP-Napolcom family,” he said. Reports from Philip C. Tubeza and Kristine L. Alave, Metro Manila; Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Jun Malig, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Felipe Celino, Inquirer Visayas; Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao