MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) is any indication, President Benigno Aquino III seemed to have made up his mind on who should succeed him in 2016.
Towards the end of a nearly 2-hour speech on Monday, July 27, Aquino thanked his Cabinet members, thanking them for their service. But one particular Cabinet Secretary was given a bigger chunk of the President’s speech than most: Interior Secretary and presumptive Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II. (READ: Full text of Aquino's 6th SONA)
“Nasa loob o labas ka man ng gobyerno, hindi tumigil sa panlalait sa iyo ang mga kalaban ng Daang Matuwid. Dahil nga may bilang ka, dahil talagang may ibubuga ka, nagpupursigi silang ibagsak ka,” said Aquino.
(Inside and outside the government, the criticisms against you from those against ‘Daang Matuwid’ are aplenty. Because you have what it takes, they exert all efforts to bring you down.)
“Palibhasa hindi nila kayang iangat ang sarili, kaya pilit ka nilang ibinababa. Sa patuloy nilang paninira, ang mga kritiko mo na rin ang nagpapatunay na takot sila sa angkin mong integridad, husay, at kahandaan sa trabaho.”
(They are unable to bring themselves up so they put you down. In trying to destroy you, these critics only prove that they’re afraid of your integrity, skill, and good work.)
The President added: “Mar, pinatutunayan mo: You can’t put a good man down. Tulad ng pagtitiwala ng nanay at tatay ko, magtiwala kang alam ng taumbayan kung sino ang tunay na inuuna ang bayan, bago ang sarili.”
(Mar, you’ve proven that you can’t put a good man down. Like my parents' trust, you should also trust that Filipinos know who really put country before himself.)
Roxas said he was "very thankful" for the President's statements.
"Para na ring sinabi sa akin ng dad ko na pasado ako (It's as if my father told me I passed). It's both a professional and personal affirmation," said Roxas, who first served as transportation secretary before he took over the interior and local government portforlio.
Aside from being a Cabinet member, Roxas is also one of Aquino's most trusted political advisers. (READ: Aquino's inner circle)
"I thank [the President] for his gracious words and more so, for the opportunity he gave me to walk this journey with him and to serve and be of help to our people and country," said Roxas in a text message.
Although he has yet to announce his plans for 2016, it is assumed that Roxas will be running for president as the ruling LP’s bet.
Roxas, the party, and its allies are still waiting on Aquino to announce his anointed candidate in the days after the SONA. (READ: Aquino on 2016: Roxas is ‘top of the list’ but…)
The interior secretary was supposed to run for president in 2010 but slid down late 2009 to make way for Aquino, who at that time surged in popularity following the death of Aquino’s mother, former president Cory Aquino.
Roxas ran as vice president but lost to Jejomar Binay in a tight race that Roxas eventually protested before the electoral tribunal. Binay is now the leader of the political opposition and will be running for president under his own United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).