Feud between Palace factions may quiet down
MANILA, Philippines—With former Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas finally taking the helm of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. cementing his position in the Cabinet, lawmakers agree that the feud between their respective factions would also simmer down.
“Now that he (Roxas) has a big turf himself and big problems to tackle, if I were in his shoes, (I’d first take care of the) responsibility given to me,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters
Roxas is identified with the so-called “Balay” faction in the Cabinet, and Ochoa with the “Samar” group. Balay (Visayan for house) is the headquarters of the Liberal Party. Samar refers to the street in Quezon City which was the campaign headquarters of then presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III.
Belmonte, who was with Roxas in a get-together of Liberal Party officials at their Balay headquarters in Quezon City on Monday night, said that Roxas was in a good mood the entire evening, although he did not say anything about taking the transportation department post.
While Roxas did not get his preferred post of Palace chief of staff, Belmonte said this would not stop the former senator from giving advice to the President because of his experience and expertise and their close ties.
“Now that both of their roles in the Aquino administration are clearly defined, I think the rivalry between the two groups will quiet down,” Manila Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo said.
Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said Roxas’ acceptance of the DoTC portfolio would mean less time in the Palace and less friction with Ochoa.
“The tension will diminish for sure because Roxas will be too busy once he assumes the post and will not have time to engage in politicking,” Magsaysay said.
Deputy Speaker Danilo Suarez said Roxas’ appointment to the DoTC would put an end to Palace intrigues as Roxas had always been seen as a threat to Ochoa’s post.
“I think he will just focus on shining in his new post just like he did when he was secretary of trade and industry,” Suarez said. Roxas headed the Department of Trade and Industry during the early part of the Arroyo administration.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said Roxas’ appointment would “prevent day-to-day confrontations between an executive secretary and a chief of staff that come from different factions.”
Casiño said that with the pressing issues at the DOTC—the merger of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Digital Telecommunications, the Stradcom financial mess, the MRT-LRT fare increase, and the public-private partnership program—Roxas would not have time to dabble in politics in Malacañang.
Conflict of interest
Both Magsaysay and Casiño said Roxas could face questions about conflict of interest as DoTC head, considering that his family has interests in business process outsourcing companies and his wife, Korina Sanchez, works as news anchor for ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.
“He has to divest his shares in the BPOs that he owns,” Magsaysay said.
Casiño said Roxas should come clean early on in his family’s business interests.
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