CANDON, Ilocos Sur—Administration candidate for president Manuel Roxas II on Monday said his opponents ganged up on him during Sunday’s debate in Cebu, proving that he was “the man to beat” in a tight race.
“I think you can see. In every survey, Mar Roxas is the one who is leading,” he told reporters in Filipino—even though none of the major polling organizations have put him in the top spot. “It’s Mar Roxas whom they gang up on, so that shows they’re all afraid of me.”
Roxas took a heavy beating Sunday from his rivals, Senator Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on various issues raised against the administration, including the slow response to Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ and the Mamasapano massacre.
At one point, Duterte called him a “pretentious leader who couldn’t handle stress” and also referred to him as “a fraud,” “a weak leader,” and “a moron.”
On Monday, Roxas said Poe attacked him during the debate because she was disappointed that President Benigno Aquino III did not endorse her.
“Senator Grace tried to establish that the President didn’t trust me, but for me there’s one simple question. Why am I being endorsed by the President?” Roxas told reporters during a campaign stop.
“I think Senator Grace is just disappointed because she dreamt of getting the endorsement of the President. I think you can see from the words of the President that I’m the one whom he chose,” he added.
During the second presidential debate on Sunday, Poe asked Roxas if his lackluster performance as former head of the Transportation and Interior departments was the reason he was kept in the dark in the planning and execution of the bungled Mamasapano operation in 2015.
She also suggested that the President’s presence during the Zamboanga siege was a sign that President Aquino did not trust Roxas.
“The President had to go to Zamboanga to make sure the operation was carried out efficiently. If he trusted the people leading at that time, why did he have to go there?” Poe said.
Aquino paved the way for Poe’s career in public service by giving her an initial post in the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and giving her a slot in the Team PNoy Senate slate in 2013.
Before she ran for president, Roxas had unsuccessfully tried to recruit Poe as his running mate.
An opposition lawmaker on Monday slammed Roxas for defending the Aquino administration’s Bottom-up Budgeting, which was “intrinsically designed” to boost his candidacy.
“Mar Roxas and the Aquino administration is hyping the so-called grassroots approach to budgeting under the BUB program. However, looking at the regional budget allocation for BUB projects show that its ulterior purpose is to boost Mar Roxas’ candidacy through patronage politics,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said.
Ridon said the BUB program of the Aquino government will obviously benefit Roxas’ presidential bid as large BUB funds have been allotted to traditional bailiwicks of President Aquino and Roxas, such as Regions III (Central Luzon), which was given a total of P1.6 billion in BUB projects spread over several agencies in 2015, and P1.9 billion in 2015. This is also the case for Region VI (Panay), which received a total of P1.8 billion worth of BUB projects this year, and P2.1 billion for 2016.
Similarly, Ridon, a member of the leftist Makabayan Bloc, said vote-rich Region VII, where Cebu is located, got the largest chunk of the BUB budget. In 2015, Region VII received a total of P1.9 billion in BUB funds, which will only get bigger in 2016, with a total allocation of P2.3 billion, the highest allocation among all regions.
“These are only some examples that show how the BUB is designed to cater to vote-rich regions and traditional bailiwicks of the Liberal Party. Mar Roxas is essentially using BUB projects to woo local support. Even if DILG does not admit it, the figures speak for themselves—BUB is a tool designed for political patronage and muscle-building at the local level,” Ridon said. With Maricel V. Cruz
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