Roxas accused of using aid-giving to campaign for 2016
MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was roundly criticized on Monday, for appearing to use the government’s rehabilitation of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan)-stricken areas to boost his candidacy in the 2016 presidential elections where he has been touted to be the ruling Liberal Party’s standard bearer.
Roxas last week went on a three-day swing through storm-hit areas to distribute some P1 billion in financial aid and grace the groundbreaking for a bridge and building in Visayan provinces brought to their knees by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall in recorded history.
“Mar Roxas and his LP minions just could not wait to promote themselves for 2016, even using the Yolanda reconstruction efforts as their election platform. They think their ‘President Mar’ branding is cute, even if uttered before Yolanda victims still reeling from the effects of the storm,” said Renato Reyes of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Reyes noted that even Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, the LP secretary general, played his part. Abaya joined Roxas in his provincial tour, and at one point addressed him as “President Roxas.”
Reyes, however, quickly explained to his audience that he was referring to Roxas as the president of the LP.
“Transportation Secretary Abaya is doing more campaigning than actual work in so far as the MRT commuter woes and the questionable PPP contracts are concerned,” said Reyes, alluding to the metro rail problems in Metro Manila and the government’s public-private partnership program that cannot seem to get off the ground.
Reyes said the administration officials’ display was “pathetic and insensitive” and they should stop using the reconstruction efforts to promote their political agenda.
Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives, said that even if Roxas’ activities were part of his job as interior and local government secretary, political color could easily be ascribed to his visit due to his double role as a government official and stalwart of the Liberal Party.
The system of distributing relief aid has become politicized, he added.
“People will always look at it that way, as a political activity. If it’s Vice President [Jejomar] Binay giving out housing, it would be the same,” he said.
De la Cruz said the distribution would have been less of a political show had all the key officials involved in the reconstruction efforts after Yolanda taken part in the events. Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson should have played a central role, he said.
“What is [Lacson] rehabilitation czar for?” he said. “I did not see his shadow there, so how can you say this was not some sort of pre-campaign operation?”
De la Cruz said the administration might also be using Roxas’ distribution of massive amounts of aid to make it appear that it was not insensitive to the plight of the Yolanda survivors, especially after President Aquino made a comment recently that if the survivors could afford to go to Manila to protest the slow distribution of aid, they should be able to fend for themselves.
LP member and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, however, was quick to come to Roxas’ defense, saying there was no political color in the interior secretary’s actions but that they were part of his job as the national government’s link to the local government units.
“It’s not to advance his political interests but the interests of the victims of Yolanda,” Evardone said.
“Secretary Mar should ignore his critics and just do his job as the point person of President Aquino on LGU matters,” he said.
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