MANILA, Philippines – They were in yellow and they were chanting his name.
But Manuel Roxas II, standard-bearer of the administration, knew that not a few in the crowd had doubts on his chances of winning in 2016.
“Sa araw na ito, namamanhikan ako sa inyo (Today, I seek your commitment),” Roxas told a hall full of supporters on Tuesday, August 4, during a “gathering of friends” in San Juan City.
“Mahalaga sa akin na sumagupa tayo sa laban na ito, hindi lang dahil sabi ni PNoy, hindi lang dahil magkapartido tayo, pero dahil totoong naniniwala kayong magkahanay ang mga paniniwala natin – na totoong type din ninyo ako. 'Yung mga mahusay manligaw 'yan ang pumapalpak,” he said.
(It’s important for me to know that you’re in this fight not just because the President said so or because we’re in the same party, but because you know that we believe in the same things. That you truly want me to be your standard-bearer as well. That’s the common mistake of those who think they’re good at courting people.)
Speaking before over 1,500 politicians – lawmakers, governors and mayors – Roxas acknowledged the elephant in the room: that unlike other contenders, his numbers weren’t that promising. (READ: Mar Roxas: The long road to endorsement)
"Mababa pa ang numero natin," he said. (We have poor survey numbers.)
Leading presidential preference surveys is neophyte senator Grace Poe. At second is opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay.
‘Suplado daw ako'
Acknowledging doubts surrounding his winnability, Roxas said, was important to make the months ahead a little easier. (HIGHLIGHTS: Aquino endorses Mar Roxas for 2016 elections)
“Hindi magiging madali ang laban natin. Alam ko, may mga alinlangan ang ilan sa atin. Gusto kong pag-usapan nang diretsahan ang mga alinlangang ito, dahil kung hindi, baka maging marupok ang paninindigan at tiwala natin sa isa’t isa,” said Roxas.
(This will not be an easy fight. I know many of us have doubts. I want to talk about those doubts because if I don’t, it might weaken our principles and trust in each other.)
Roxas also didn’t shy away from the criticism thrown against him: of his supposed inability to connect with the masses.
He continued, “Mga kapatid, brother to brother: Suplado daw ako, that's okay. You can smile. Elitista, at minsan nagmamagaling, o malakas masyado ang dating. Nanghihingi ako ng paumanhin kung nabigyan ko kayo ng dahilan para isipin ito. Umaasa ako na sa mga susunod na buwan, makikilala ninyo ako na higit, nang kung paano ako kakilala ng mga madalas kong kasama. Ang puso ko po ay bukas, ang puso ko ay malinis, at sinsero at nais ko po na magkasama po tayo ng mataghaap sa Daang Matuwid.”
(Brother to brother: They say I’m a snob, that’s okay. You can smile. I’m an elitist, I pretend to be better than I really am, or come off too strong. I ask your forgiveness if I’ve ever given you a reason to feel this way. I hope that in the coming months, you’ll get to know me better, the same way I got to know the people I’m usually with nowadays. My heart is open, clean, and sincere and I want us to journey together along the Straight Path.)
Numbers, if LP stalwarts are to be believed, shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of the campaign. It will not be about the man but rather, the idea of “Daang Matuwid,” the current administration’s tagline for its transparency, good governance, and anti-corruption drive.
Seen during the Tuesday gathering was the President, Cabinet secretaries believed to be seeking national posts, and two women supposedly being considered to be Roxas’ running mate.
'Baka matalo itong si Mar'
It wasn’t too long ago when Roxas last bagged the nomination of the same party founded by his grandfather, former president Manuel Roxas.
All geared up and ready to run for president, Roxas however slid down late 2009 to make way for Aquino, whose popularity surged following the death of his mother, EDSA Revolution icon and former president Cory Aquino.
“Noong 2009, kasama ko na rin ang marami sa inyo. Nagtrabaho tayo para ipanalo si PNoy, at para rin sa sarili kong kandidatura sa pagka-Bise Presidente (In 2009, many of you here were with me. We worked together to ensure Aquino’s victory and mine as vice president),” said Roxas.
But if preference surveys were to be believed, Roxas was a shoo-in for the vice presidency until a month or so before the elections, when Binay’s numbers surged.
“Hindi ako pinalad noon. Ngayon mismo, alam ko, hindi magiging madali ang ating laban. It may be an uphill battle. Mababa pa ang numero natin (I wasn’t luck then. Even now, I know this fight won’t be easy. My numbers quite low),” said Roxas.
“Hindi ko rin maaalis ang pagtitimbang at mga kalkulasyon ninyo sa pulitika: Baka si ganito, paburan ako sa susunod; baka si ganyan, mas matulungan ako sa sarili kong mga plano. Idagdag ko na rin ang iniisip ng iba sa inyo: Baka matalo itong si Mar,” he added.
(I won’t be able to erase the calculations and considerations you’re making when it comes to politics: this person might favor me next time; this other person might be able to help me better. Let me mention one more thing many of you are thinking: Mar might lose.)
Roxas continued: “Lahat ito, baka. Pero mayroon tayong natitiyak: Nasa tama tayo nakatuntong sa maayos para sa ating bansa. Kaya nga di hamak na mas matibay ang kumpyansa ko ngayon; tahimik at panatag ang kalooban ko,” he said.
(These are all speculations. But we are sure of one thing: We are on the right path to improve our country. And that’s why my faith and confidence is stronger now. I am at peace.)
Supporters hope Aquino’s endorsement and Roxas’ announcement will boost those numbers and give Roxas the momentum until election day.
“This is not about me nor [Aquino]. This is about all of us being a part of something bigger than each and every one of us. This is about 100 million people counting on us to give them good leadership and a good future,” said Roxas.
But are Filipinos ready to vote for an idea? – Rappler.com