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Roxas to Luzon mayors: Remember when we worked together

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – At a time when coalitions are supposedly crumbling and politicians are switching sides, the presumptive standard-bearer of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) had one wish to the mayors of Luzon: don’t forget me.

Borrowing a line from the song “Handog” by Filipino artist Florante, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II told members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP): “Hindi ko po alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa akin sa darating na mga linggo or buwan. Hindi ko rin po masasabi kung susuportahan ninyo ang bandila ng ‘Daang Matuwid’ o hindi. Subalit ang nais kong paratingin at iwan sa inyong alalaa ay minsan tayo ay nagsama at si Mar Roxas, tumotoo sa inyo…sa bawat isa sa inyo.”

(I don’t know what will happen to me in the coming weeks or months. I don’t know if you will be supporting the Liberal Party or not. But if there’s one thing I want you to know and remember is that once in the past, we worked together and that Mar Roxas fulfilled his promise to you…each and every one of you.)

That line – one of Roxas’ last in a nearly 30-minute-long speech – was met with applause by municipal mayors from Luzon who were in Vigan City for the LMP assembly on Thursday, July 23.

In room filled with over 700 mayors, Roxas laid out his past 3 years as secretary of the Department Interior and Local Government (DILG), which he said was one of the highlights of the decades-long career in public office.

Roxas has been a congressman, senator, and Cabinet secretary several times over but, he said, being the “big brother” of the local government chiefs is his proudest role to date.

2016 maneuvering

Roxas, also president-on-leave of the LP, is also the party’s presumptive standard-bearer for the 2016 elections. He has yet to declare his plans, however. Roxas and the party – as well as the parties it has coalesced with – are waiting for President Benigno Aquino III’s announcement of his anointed candidate in 2016.

The President earlier said he expects to make his announcement some time after his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.

Talks between the ruling party and its allies are still ongoing, even as the SONA is merely a few days away.

Aquino himself has been hosting joint and separate meetings with Roxas, survey frontrunner Senator Grace Poe, and Poe’s close friend, Senator Francis Escudero.

It is widely believed that the President is convincing Poe to be Roxas’ running mate come 2016. But a statement released by Poe on Tuesday, July 21, seemed to be hinting that these talks have come to a close.

Roxas refused to speculate on Poe’s statement, but said his main concern was for “Daang Matuwid” to continue beyond 2016. Unlike Poe, Roxas has been lagging behind in preference polls on 2016, placing 3rd or 4th.

In recent surveys, Poe zoomed past opposition leader and former survey topnotcher Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Gov’t ‘front liners’

In his speech before Luzon municipal mayors, Roxas reiterated what he said during the LMP’s national assembly in Manila: that local chiefs are the “front liners” of the national government.

“Your victories are my victories and your failures are my failures,” Roxas told the mayors.

Before the LMP gathering, Roxas was in Camp Elpidio Quirino in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, to lead the distribution of 32 police patrol jeeps to municipalities in the province. Roxas told reporters that the distribution of the new jeeps – similar to other government programs and procurements – were done without politics in mind.

Daang Matuwid” is the Aquino administration’s tagline for its transparency, anti-corruption, and good governance platform. Part of “Daang Matuwid,” said Roxas, is making sure political affiliations do not get in the way of government services.

But Roxas’ travels around the country to distribute police jeeps, attend multi-sectoral consultations, and oversee government projects have led some members of the political opposition to accuse of him of using government funds to further his own political interests.

But Roxas downplayed these accusations when asked by reporters. “Baka ikaw lang nagsasabi, wala naman akong nadidinig na ganoon (Maybe you’re the one saying that. I haven’t heard about those things.)

Pressed to react on the allegation, Roxas shot back: “I don’t have to. I’m doing my job.” –