Aquino makes pitch for Roxas, Robredo in final LMP speech

MANILA, Philippines – If you want the reforms of the Aquino administration to continue, choose the tandem that has proven it can deliver.

This was the message of President Benigno Aquino III to local chief executives on his final appearance as Chief Executive at the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) on Wednesday, February 10.

Aquino took the opportunity to endorse the Liberal Party (LP) bets for the 2016 polls, saying that standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II and his running mate, Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, have proven their commitment to Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) – the Aquino administration's tagline for its anti-corruption and good governance promise.

"If you think that we were on the right path for the past 6 years, why change it?" Aquino asked.

While touting his administration's achievements, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) poverty alleviation program, Aquino also said that unless the right leaders are elected in the May polls, local government units (LGUs) may find themselves facing old problems that had been addressed under his term.

"Baka July 1, sinasabi natin, patay...babalik na naman tayo sa dating kalakaran. Wala na naman tayong tatakbuhan 'pag may problema tayo, at 'yung hindi tinutugunan na problema, lalaki lang nang lalaki. Hindi kailangang ganoon ang mangyari," he said.

(On July 1 you might end up saying, Oh no, we're back to how it was before, no one to turn to in times of trouble, and our problems just get bigger and bigger. That doesn't have to happen.)

He also told local leaders that it is their obligation to ensure that their constituents' lives get better, and that making the reforms under his administration permanent is key to doing that. (READ: #TheLeaderIWant: Mar Roxas on Daang Matuwid and decisiveness)

"Obligasyon nating lahat na binigyan ng pagkakataong maglingkod na siguruhing 'yung problema, hindi nananatiling parehong problema o lumalaki 'yung lumang problema. Dapat yata, habang umaasenso tayo, dapat nagbabago ang anyo ng problema, dapat nababawasan 'yung paghihirap ng ating mga kababayan na pinangakuan nating lahat na paglingkuran," he said.

(It is the obligation of all those called to serve to ensure that problems don't remain the same problems, or that the old ones get worse. As we progress, the nature of the problem should change. The suffering of our countrymen, the people we promised to serve, should be alleviated.)

For his part, LMP national president Mayor Leonardo Javier Jr was all praises for Aquino, putting particular emphasis on the CCT program and the Bottom Up Budgeting program, which allows civil society groups to participate in the budgeting process and identify which projects need national funding.

Under Aquino's term, Javier said local leaders benefited from the national goverment's support regardless of political affiliation. (READ: LGUs' IRA rose in the last 5 years – LMP)

Javier also told Aquino that his leadership, marked by "honesty and integrity," has inspired local leaders to do likewise.

Before ending his speech, Javier also threw support behind Aquino's chosen successor. 

"Kami ay buong tiwala sa inyong napupusuan na magpatuloy sa mga programa (Your chosen ones have our full trust)," Javier said, referring to the Roxas-Robredo tandem.

Crucial role of LGUs

Aquino's final speech before a crowd of local leaders saw the President trying to rally support for the administration-backed candidates.

Roxas, the former interior secretary who also wore several hats in his years in politics; and Robredo, a neophyte lawmaker who previously worked as a practicing lawyer with a focus on the marginalized sector, both still lag in surveys.

The two were present at the event.

The LMP general assembly came just a day after the administration tandem launched its campaign in Iloilo and Capiz, unveiling a platform that puts Filipino families front and center.

At the sidelines of the LMP event, Roxas said LGUs play a crucial role in supporting families and upholding their quality of life.

"Ang tagumpay ng ating bansa ay nakatuntong sa bawat pamilyang Pilipino. Malaking role ang ginagampanan ng ating local government officials dahil sila ang nasa frontlines. Lahat ng programa ng pamahalaan, ang dulo nito lahat sa implementasyon ay ang ating local government officials kaya malaking bahagi ang ginagampanan nila," Roxas said.

(The success of our country hinges on each Filipino family. Local government officials play a crucial role because they are at the frontlines. All of the government's programs end in implementation, which fall on local government officials.)

He added, "Kapag matagumpay sila, matagumpay din ang ating mga komunidad, at nabibigyan ng pagkakataong maging matagumpay ang mga pamilya."

(If they are successful, our communities are also successful, and families are given the opportunities to thrive.)

Support for Roxas?

While Aquino was vocal in pushing for the LP tandem, Roxas simply said it's up to local leaders to decide who would get their vote.

"Hindi para sa akin magsabi; siguro sila tanungin ninyo. Naranasan nila ang tatak ng Daang Matuwid, 'yung uri ng pamamahala ng Daang Matuwid na hindi pinipili, hindi pinupulitika, hindi pakitang-tao at hindi bumibitiw sa kanilang mga pangangailangan," he said.

(It's not for me to say; it's better to ask them. They experienced the mark of the Straight Path, the kind of governance that does not choose sides or political color, one that's not just for show and one that doesn't neglect their needs.)

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who was also at the event, echoed Roxas' statement, saying that the administration simply wanted to show that it was "serious" in strengthening local government units.

"At the end of the day, if our LGUs are strong, so is our economy," he said. –