PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III anointed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as the standard bearer of the Liberal Party during a ceremony at the Club Filipino in San Juan City.
“To my bosses, I tell you today: In my opinion, the one who has shown exemplary work and true integrity, the one fully ready to continue the straight path, is none other than Mar Roxas,” said Aquino at the end of his speech delivered in Filipino.
The Cory C. Aquino Kalayaan Hall was jampacked with Aquino and LP supporters, many of them wearing yellow t-shirts. More than a thousand people attended the ceremony, which lasted until after noon.
People chanted “Roxas Na!” in between the speeches of the President and Roxas throughout the ceremony.
Some Cabinet members were present, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Joel Villanueva, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda were also present.
Also at the ceremony were House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Roxas arrived in the Club Filipino at about 10 a.m., while Aquino followed before 11 a.m.
Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte Mayor Rommel Arnado, during his speech, referred to Roxas as “Pangulo” (President).
Under the President’s straight path policy, poverty in his bailiwick had dropped from 79 percent to 47 percent in just three years, Arnado said.
Arnado said he will back the candidate who will continue the reforms implemented by Aquino, and described Roxas as “intelligent, capable, humane, patriotic, and most especially religious.”
“We do not want to go back to a crooked and rocky path,” he said.
“The real next president of the Philippines, is President Mar Roxas! The victory of Mar Roxas is a victory of us all,” Arnado said.
In his speech, Aquino recalled the EDSA Revolution of 1986 that catapulted his mother to the presidency.
“We gather today in Kalayaan Hall in Club Filipino, a private establishment that has been part of many significant moments in our history. This is where my mother was sworn in—where she took an oath to begin fulfilling the promise of EDSA. To those who have, for so long, treaded the straight path with us, you might also remember that this is where I first said: The Filipino can hope once more. Now, I stand here with the Liberal Party, and with other groups such as KOMPRE, People Power Volunteers for Reform, Change Politics Movement, the Urban Poor Alliance; partylists such as Akbayan, YACAP, Angkla, CoopNatco, Ateacher, ABS, and Append, as well as friends from NUP and NPC,” said Aquino.
Aquino said they assembled in the Kalayaan Hall to talk about the next chapter in their journey along the straight path.
Aquino also vowed to ensure that the 2016 elections remain clean, peaceful and credible.
During his speech, the President also referred to his meetings with Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, although he did not name them and described them merely as “allies in pursuing the straight path.”
“In my view, these three people could form a truly formidable team. At this point in time, success has eluded us in this endeavor. We reached an understanding; it seems like we have similar goals, but our means of achieving those goals are not exactly attuned to one another’s,” said Aquino.
But he said what was at stake was far too important to leave to chance.
“Why must we allow ourselves to be attracted to ‘maybe,’ when we can be certain? Someone who, we’re certain, is more than capable; someone, we’re certain, has no boss other than the Filipino people, who, we’re certain, owes no debt of gratitude to any other, someone, we’re certain, has no interest other than country before self. We will go with whom we can be certain will continue the straight path, and I believe that person is none other than Mar Roxas,” Aquino declared.
Aquino said it was Roxas who started the business outsource processing industry (BPO) in the country in year 2000, but did not say that this work was done under the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo.
In all this time, however, Roxas forbade his family from applying to set up special economic zones for the BPO business.
“His own family–who have long been businessmen–he convinced not to take part in an initiative he began as a government official. Here, and in many other instances, the integrity of Mar Roxas is clear,” Aquino said.
Aquino also said that Roxas will not leave until the situation is stable. “Whether in Zamboanga, Bohol, or Leyte, even when communications were cut off because of Yolanda, I know that everything is in good hands and that he does not need to wait for orders, just to ensure that all needs are met. Let me remind everyone: he did not go to these places on vacation. He was there at a time of crisis; he needed to ensure that all those in the evacuation center would be able to eat, and that all other immediate needs were met,” he said.
“What’s puzzling to us: in spite of everything that Mar has done, in spite of his sacrifices, it’s as if there’s an entire industry dedicated to bringing him down. In Leyte, all he wanted to do was follow the rules; but these people Mar was talking to, all of whom just wanted to engage in politics, even edited a video just to ruin his name. Another example: At another time, roads could not be passed by cars, so Mar chose to ride a motorcycle to reach the areas that needed assistance; when he slipped, he was criticized,” said Aquino, while the big screen showed a photo of Roxas slipping while riding a motorcycle.
Aquino also took a swipe at his critics for questioning his administration’s accomplishment.
“I wonder: Is this part of the job description of a good leader–that, even when you exert all effort to do good, those in opposition will only ever see the bad? What so many don’t know is that at night, when the media’s asleep, Mar himself is the one at the wheel, driving around communities to check on whatever else needed to be done,” Aquino said.
He also said those in the Liberal Party, particularly in his generation, were not comfortable with boasting about their achievements, although he had spent a large portion of his State-of-the-Nation address doing that.
Aquino also criticized traditional politicians for keeping their constituents poor so that they could help them then collect on their debt of gratitude during elections.
“It is clear who, of all the choices, deserves to be our next leader. And if his numbers are low at this point in time, it only means that we need to do even more to make him known to all. Again, we are being called to prove that the Filipino is worth fighting for,” he said.
In his speech, Roxas said he accepted the challenge to continue, expand and fight for the straight path.
A teary-eyed Roxas told the crowd at Club Filipino that President Aquino’s endorsement meant a lot to him, saying that it is like passing the challenge of continuing the principles of Aquino’s parents, Ninoy and Cory; and continuing the principled leadership started by his grandfather President Manuel Roxas, his father Senator Gerry Roxas and his brother the late Capiz Representative Dinggoy Roxas.
“With this endorsement, you are passing on to me what they (Aquino’s parents) have fought for,” Roxas said in Filipino.
In his speech, Roxas vowed not to tarnish their names or that of Aquino’s.
Roxas said he has repeatedly told his son, nephews and nieces: “You have an obligation to serve. Prioritize what is collective rather than personal.”
Roxas thanked the President for pushing his straight path policy.
“I have never met a President who sacrificed so much for the country. I have never met a President who has been able to inspire so much confidence,” Roxas said.
“PNoy allowed us to imagine again what the Filipino is capable of.”
“In this endorsement, you have passed on the dreams and aspirations of every Filipino. To our bosses, I won’t tarnish the trust you’ve given me,” he said.
Roxas then urged the people to pursue their dreams.
“I wish for the Filipino people only what I would wish for myself. After all, who are we if not our dreams?”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who has said he will run for vice president next year, said Friday he was certain that Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto would be Roxas’ running mate in 2016.
“It is my fearless forecast. They already have an arrangement,” he said.
The vice presidency would be a four-way fight in 2016 among him, Santos-Recto, Escudero, and another candidate from the United Nationalist Alliance.
“People would like to think that Senator Trillanes is an individual politician. I am just the face of the (Samahang) Magdalo. We have a collective decision. We are ready to offer our brand of service, hence our decision for me to run,” he told a forum Friday. “With or without a presidential candidate, I am running.”
But Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said his wife was not interested in seeking a higher position next year and said she might retire from politics when her term ends on June 30, 2016. – With Rio N. Araja and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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