Leyte town mayor backs Roxas’ Senate bid: ‘He was always there to help’

Mara Cepeda
Leyte town mayor backs Roxas’ Senate bid: ‘He was always there to help’
Palo town Mayor Remedios Petilla credits ex-DILG chief Mar Roxas for helping her town rebuild after Super Typhoon Yolanda

MANILA, Philippines – A town mayor in Leyte on Tuesday, April 23, vowed to push for the Senate bid of Otso Diretso candidate Mar Roxas in her province, as she  recalled how much he had helped her municipality and the province when Super Typhoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas in 2013.

Mayor Remedios “Matin” Petilla made the statement in an interview with reporters after she met Roxas, who was in town to campaign.

“We will help him. And we hope that everybody will put him back in the Senate kasi (because)…he is a big help to the local government especially when he was DILG secretary)…. At the time that we most needed help, he was always there to help,” she said.

Petilla is on her third and last term as local chief executive. She had stuck it out with the once-dominant Liberal Party (LP), but her son, reelectionist Governor Dominic Petilla, had jumped ship to the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.  

Roxas was headed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) when Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas in 2013. More than 6,000 lives were lost, thousands went missing, and towns were washed away in the wake of the disaster.

Roxas was one of the Cabinet officials who flew to Leyte ahead of Yolanda’s landfall and led relief efforts. The former DILG secretary, however, continues to be criticized for supposedly not doing enough to help Yolanda victims and for allegedly misusing funds meant for rehabilitation efforts. He has since debunked these allegations. (READ: Roxas tells Leyteños: Don’t believe lies about Yolanda

‘Greatest help’

Petilla defended Roxas against the allegations and said the Otso Diretso senatorial bet helped her town and the rest of Leyte rebuild after Yolanda.

“Palo and the province of Leyte would just like to thank him, Mar Roxas, for everything that he did even before, during, and after Yolanda. He was [the] greatest help we had. And everything that we have now – lahat na itong mga repairs namin, construction, infrastructure namin (all our repairs, construction, and infrastructure) – we were able to put back as quickly as possible because of the help of national government through Mar Roxas,” said Petilla.  

In a separate ambush interview, Roxas said he and Petilla discussed their experiences during Yolanda when they met on Tuesday.

“Tulad ng lahat ng mga nandito, akala namin hindi kami mag-survive sa lakas ng hangin, sa lakas ng ulan, bagyo, sa taas ng tubig ganon. Sa awa ng Diyos nakaraos din. Pero of course marami ang namatay at iyan talaga ang napakasakit,” he said in a separate ambush interview.

(Like eveyone here, I thought we would not survive because of the strong winds and rain, and the massive flooding. With God’s grace, we got through it. But of course a lot of people perished and that’s what is most painful.)

“Gayunpaman, unti-unti nakatulong tayo makabangon ang Leyte, ang Tacloban, ang Palo, ang Tanauan (Be that as it may, we were able to help bit by bit to rebuild Leyte, Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan),” he added.

Roxas remained in the so-called winners’ circle in the latest Pulse Asia survey in March, or candidates with a statistical chance of winning if elections were held during the survey period in March.  But he was at 11th to 17th ranking, with 31.3% of respondents saying they would vote for him – lower than his previous ranking.

He attributed the fall to the 20 days he spent in the United States together with his family, to be with his newborn twins Pepe and Pilar who were born in the foreign country through a surrogate. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.