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MANILA, Philippines – Administration 2016 standard-bearer and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II dismissed allegations from the rival camp that he was – and is – using government resources to further his campaign.
“Sasabihin nila kung ano sasabihin nila (They will say what they want to say),” said Roxas on the sidelines of an event in San Juan City attended by close to 1,500 local officials supporting his bid for the presidency.
The event, attended by congressmen, mayors, and other local officials, did not use a single centavo from the government’s coffers, Roxas clarified.
A surprise guest during the gathering was President Benigno Aquino III, who on July 31 declared Roxas his bet for the presidency in 2016.
“Itong hall na ito, puno ito ng tao bago pa nalaman na darating ang Pangulo. So para sa akin, huwag nating bahiran ng kung anong intriga,” added the interior secretary.
(This hall was filled with people even before they knew the President was coming. So as far as I’m concerned, let’s not put intrigue.)
Over the weekend, the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is set to be the opposition’s standard-bearer, criticized Roxas for getting “undue advantage” as the administration’s bet.
Binay’s spokesman, lawyer Rico Quicho, singled out Palace spokespersons Secretary Edwin Lacierda and Undersecretary Abigail Valte as allegedly serving as Roxas’ mouthpieces.
Resignation on hold
On Monday, August 3, Roxas handed over his resignation to the President but Aquino put it on hold, pending the proper transition of duties.
“This is important to me,” said Roxas, referring to his plans of stepping down to avoid accusations of using his Cabinet post to improve his political standing.
Roxas continued, “Sabi naman ng pangulo: oo, naiintindihan ko pero kahit naman sa private sector merong two weeks or one month notice. So sabi ko, of course naman, hindi kita iiwan sa ere pero mahalaga rin naman para hindi magkaroon ng bahid ang ating katayuan na bumitiw na rin ako sa tamang panahon.”
(The President said: Yes, I understand your predicament but even in the private sector, they have two weeks’ or one months’ notice. I said, ‘Of course, I won’t leave you hanging’ but it’s also important for me to resign at the right time to avoid smearing my position.)
As interior secretary, Roxas has oversight of the police, fire, and jail agencies, as well as all local governments in the country. Among the department’s projects he has to see through, Lacierda earlier said, was the distribution of new police jeeps throughout the country.
Senator Ralph Recto, an ally of the Liberal Party, came to Roxas’ defense when asked about the Cabinet secretary’s resignation.
“His bags are packed and he’s ready to go. But what can he do? There’s a hold departure order from the President. He just can’t go AWOL and hit the campaign trail without clearance from his boss,” said Recto.
The senator said that instead of being an advantage, holding a Cabinet post while being the administration’s standard-bearer “drags [Roxas] down.”
“So he gains no advantage in prolonging his stay at DILG. On the contrary, it wreaks havoc to his timetable of organizing his campaign, given the distractions of Cabinet work,” he said.
Recto, husband of Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto, said to be in the running as Roxas’ vice president, also dismissed concerns that running a campaign would distract Roxas from running the department properly.
Roxas did not say when he would be done easing out of his post as DILG chief and declined to name his possible replacements.
Sources close to the Palace, however, earlier told Rappler that LP Secretary General and Western Samar Representative Mel Sarmiento will be taking over the department soon.
In a chance interview with Rappler, Sarmiento said he “did not know” where the reports were coming from but added it was not in his character to turn down “whatever assignment is given me, as long as it’s in the service of our people.” – Rappler.com