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Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Almost 3 years after being appointed chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Manuel Roxas II admitted to municipal mayors that it was a role he was hesitant to take.
“Wala po akong karanasan o hindi po ako dumaan sa pagiging mayor o konsehal o sa pagiging barangay official. Kaya hindi ko po talaga alam yung detalyo kung papaano kayo paglilingkuran,” Roxas told mayors at the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) general assembly on Wednesday, April 15.
(I had no experience – I was never a mayor, a city councilor, or a village official. I didn’t know the details of how I can serve you.)
The solution, Roxas said, was to serve as local chief executives’ “big brother.” It was the same term that Sandy Javier, LMP president and mayor of Javier, Leyte, used to describe the DILG secretary.
“Ang bawat bayan, alam naman natin kulang-kulang ang resources, mga paraan para matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga kababayan natin, so 'pinorma ko ang DILG na siyang masasandalan nila, matatakbuhan nila,” Roxas later explained to reporters on the sidelines of the event at the Manila Hotel.
(Each town typically is in want when in comes to resources and ways to adress the needs of our countrymen, so I shaped the DILG so that it would be something mayors could rely on or run to in times of need.)
In a 30-minute address that was a mix of nostalgia and updates on patrol car and firetruck procurements, Roxas thanked mayors for their hard work.
“Ang inyong tagumpay ay siyang accomplishment ko. Kung matagumpay po kayo ay matagumpay din po ang panunungkulan ko. Maraming salamat sa pagkakataon na makapagserbisyo po sa inyo,” he said.
(Your victories are my accomplishments. If you are victorious, that means my term is victorious too. Thank you for giving me the chance to serve you.)
No politics, but thank you
Although it was a gathering that saw more than 1,000 municipal mayors, President Benigno Aquino III, and other key public officials gathered under one roof, Roxas repeatedly downplayed politics in his speech during the event.
“Makikita na sa ating approach na hindi kailangan na padalahan ninyo ng resolution si Mar Roxas. Hindi kinakailangan na maging kapartido po ninyo si Mar Roxas, hindi kinakailangan na magka-chaleko po tayo, wala po tayong pipiliin,” said Roxas, presumably referring to a resolution passed by the league in “support for and encouragement of the leadership and governance” of the DILG chief.
(You’ll see that in our approach, you don’t need to send a resolution for Mar Roxas. You don’t need to be in the same party as Mar Roxas. We don’t need to wear the same party colors, we don’t make decisions based on that.)
Roxas again downplayed the resolution in a chance interview with reporters after his speech. “Sa totoo lang, baka it’s (Truthfully, it might be) in the mail. I haven’t seen the resolution,” he said in jest.
Turning serious, Roxas said the resolution was “heartwarming.”
“Nakakataba ng puso na maramdaman na sinasang-ayunan nila ang uri ng panenerbisyo natin sa kanilang itong nakaraang mga taon na ito,” he said. (It’s heartwarming to know that the municipal mayors agree with the kind of service we’ve been offering the past few years.)
Javier earlier told reporters that mayors were quick to throw their support behind Roxas, citing the help he’s offered them the past few years.
Roxas was supposed to run for president in 2010, but slid down to make way for President Benigno Aquino III. Instead, he ran for vice president and lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Binay has set his sights on the presidency in 2016. He is so far the sole candidate with clear plans and a machinery to run a presidential campaign.
The LMP resolution, which was penned and passed during a gathering of LMP Mindanao members in Pampanga, stopped short of endorsing Roxas as the next president and did not mention the 2016 elections.
Samboan Mayor Joseph Raymond Calderon, one of the LP’s stalwarts in Cebu province’s second district in the south, said as much, emphasizing that the LMP is “non-partisan.”
Calderon, however, added that Cebuano town mayors will be throwing their support behind whoever is the standard bearer of the Liberal Party. Majority of the province’s 44 town mayors are members of the ruling party.
When asked if personally he will be supporting Mar Roxas as the standard bearer for the LP in 2016, Calderon replied: "As a party member, I will support kung kinsa ang ma standard bearer sa party." (I will support whoever is named the party's standard bearer.)
Roxas himself evaded questions about 2016. “Tatapusin muna natin ang 2015 bago dumating ang 2016 (Let’s finish 2015 before we can even think of 2016),” he told reporters.