Couple of things
The first has to do with Mar Roxas. He’s been busy the last few days making his presence felt in Leyte and the other places devastated by “Yolanda.” Since his arrival in Leyte last Thursday, he has distributed P1 billion to the typhoon-stricken areas. That is not the end of it, he said. There’s more to come, the government having earmarked P4 billion for them under the Grassroots Participatory Budget Process, a new program.
That’s all very well, except for one thing. Why is he doing those things?
Roxas is not the rehabilitation czar. P-Noy appointed Panfilo Lacson rehabilitation czar after the government took a lot of brickbats for a widely perceived paralysis in the face of a daunting task. Indeed, after Roxas made things worse by demanding that Alfred Romualdez, the mayor of Tacloban, resign first to clear the way for him to clear the rubble.
Roxas is not the crisis czar. There is no one appointed so, though he has asked to be appointed so. P-Noy has not appointed him so. In what capacity he is planning the resuscitation of Leyte and the other prostrate towns, and signing off money for it, only he can say. It’s certainly subject to legal challenge.
Roxas is not the president. Hell, he is not even the vice president.
Roxas is, in fact, the DILG head. He used to be the DOTC head, in which capacity he managed to bring transportation and communication programs to a standstill. In which capacity as well, he managed to do nothing about Al Vitangcol, whom the Czech ambassador accused of trying to extort money from a Czech firm, a thing that took place under his watch. He became DILG head after asking for the position after Jesse Robredo died. To say that he has carried on the brilliant legacy of his predecessor is to say that Socrates Villegas has carried on the brilliant legacy of Jaime Cardinal Sin.
Robredo was well-loved. Roxas is, well, I leave you to formulate the equation on your own.
Which brings us back to Roxas overseeing the rehabilitation of Leyte and environs. He is interior and local government secretary: Why in God’s name is he the one doing it?
There might have been some justification for it in the beginning. In Yolanda’s immediate aftermath, Tacloban became a no man’s land. The depictions of Tacloban as teeming with zombies, people walking around aimlessly with vacant expressions, swiftly gave way to depictions of Tacloban as teeming with desperate folk and thugs, the first raiding the supermarkets and drug stores for food and medicine, the second raiding pretty much everything else for things to sell. The city needed policing, but there was no local police to do it. The cops themselves had their hands full coping with their own losses. The DILG had reason to go there.
That reason isn’t there anymore. Tacloban has settled back into reasonably peaceable times. Yet the DILG head is still there.
Just as well, there might have been some justification for it at the beginning. It wasn’t just houses and animals and people that had been swept to the sea by the storm surges, it was the local government, too. There was barely a trace of it left, which might have justified the need for the national government to take over temporarily, even if it did not necessarily justify forcing the mayor to write in triplicate his acknowledgment of his powerlessness and entreaty for the government to step in.
That isn’t there anymore either. There’s a functioning local government in Tacloban. The DILG exists to strengthen local governments, not to weaken them. Who better to know the conditions on the ground, as the government itself kept saying when it was trying to justify congressmen having pork, than the people on the ground? Roxas wants to rehabilitate Leyte? He should give the rehabilitation funds to the Leyteños.
Why doesn’t he? The answer can be found in the words of his abject stooge, the current DOTC head, Joseph Emilio (Jun) Abaya, who accompanied him to Leyte and praised him thus: “Thank you, President Mar Roxas.”
It’s all about 2016, and Roxas is campaigning even now.
Hope springs eternal. So does delusion.
The second has to do with Manny Pacquiao. I really wish he’d just be an ambassador of goodwill rather than a politician. I really wish he’d just spend his time inspiring his countrymen with what he has done in the ring than depressing them with what he has done in the circus, also called the House. His political pursuits do not represent a promise, they represent a threat. Particularly so with the company he keeps. Not the least of them Chavit Singson, who refuses to leave his side before and after the fight. I have yet to see a photograph accompanying the various articles about the fight that doesn’t have him there beside Pacquiao. Lito Atienza used to do that, too, during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time, but he bit the dust a long time ago. It’s just Singson there now.
He is not the coach, he is not the trainer, he is not the cut man. He is not anything that remotely represents having to do with boxing. Other, of course, than gambling, which is the one vice that dogs boxing like muggers do solitary figures in the dead of night. You wonder what kind of values he can impart to his protégé. You wonder what lessons in politics he can teach his ward.
It’s as a boxer that Pacquiao means the world to this country. It’s as a Filipino who has stormed the world in some human endeavor, rising from abject want to unparalleled glory—his feat of demolishing the most feared fighters of his time, indeed his feat of conquering English, or wrestling it down, during interviews, which speaks of heroic striving more than the first, is truly one to admire. It is truly one to inspire.
You want to go from that to just being a politician?
That’s jumping from the sublime to the paralytic.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.