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Very bad idea

I WAS abroad the other week when I heard that P-Noy had appointed Mar Roxas as his chief of staff. To say that I found it a little distressing is to say that I found the tsunami that hit Japan mildly disquieting.

It’s a very bad idea. For several reasons.

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The first, and most obvious, is what the media have already seized upon, which is that it ups the ante on the family feud between the two camps in Malacañang, the so-called Balay and Samar, that have been at it since P-Noy was proclaimed winner of the elections. And Roxas was proclaimed loser in them.

It threatens to stall government, if it hasn’t done so already. The public caught a glimpse of it last year during the hostage crisis, with the finger-pointing that arose in its murderous wake between the two camps. In that case particularly within the DILG and the Communications Group, the effect of which was to expose the President to harm in the form of attacks from abroad with his people not particularly caring to shield him from it. I said then that you know what happens when a man’s arms are tied to two horses pulling in opposite directions: He is quite literally torn limb from limb. That was the fate government seemed to have set for itself.

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Roxas’ appointment as chief of staff drives it to extreme, and absurd, lengths. The commentators are right: That brings Roxas and Jojo Ochoa, the current executive secretary, into open confrontation. A thing that should grind government to a halt, if not indeed as the image of two horses pulling in opposite directions proposes, tear it apart. P-Noy wants Roxas, he should just fire Ochoa. He wants Ochoa, he should just ignore Roxas, or appoint him ambassador to Timbuktu. Ne’er the twain shall meet, or greet.

Having both of them to run things is a recipe for disaster.

The second reason is that Roxas will drive P-Noy’s government into more trapo directions than before. The original contending groups weren’t Samar and Balay, it was the volunteers and the politicians in P-Noy’s campaign. For reasons that are more mysterious than the ways of heaven, P-Noy seems to have bought Mar and his Liberals’ claim that they brought him to power. The same group that never saw he was the real presidential candidate, the same group that never grasped the power of Edsa, the same group that nearly cost him the election because of it.

Roxas certainly never did. To this day, he not only refuses to see that he lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay, he refuses to see that he lost the presidency to P-Noy. Then and now, Roxas never believed the campaign was fueled by Edsa, and paid the price for it. How could he? He was neither an activist nor a member of the Yellow Force then. And winning on the strength of Edsa would have meant he owed P-Noy and not the other way around. He realized his folly at the 11th hour, trading blue for yellow to try to turn things around, alas, too late.

All this bears tremendously on the direction of P-Noy’s government. Strangely, P-Noy himself seems unable to fully appreciate the power of People Power, and not only has not sufficiently credited it with his victory but has not sufficiently used it afterward. It’s an awesome waste of a precious gift. He is the only one who can summon People Power, none of his people can. Yet he has not harnessed it or conscripted it in his war against corruption. He has not harnessed it or conscripted it in his war against want. Though personally honest and well-meaning, his framework remains traditional. It’s what his government can do for the people and not what his government can make the people do for themselves.

Roxas’ official entrance into Malacañang—he has been there unofficially all this time—solidifies that framework and gives it a trapo spin. It puts government in the hands, or at the mercy, of the Liberal Party which, despite its pretensions to the contrary, is as trapo as the rest of them. Trapo is as trapo does: Its lack of vision then and its lack of vision now is proof of it. Its allergy to Edsa then and its allergy to Edsa now is proof of it. With Roxas there, expect government to devote its energies only to creating the conditions to make him president in 2016.

You want to hold on to the spirit of voluntarism, don’t join government, join Gawad Kalinga.

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That brings me to the third reason, which is that Roxas may have been too late to turn things around and get voted into power but he hasn’t been too late to turn things around and get shoved into power. With not very savory prospects for the country. You have a president who is so laid-back and regards power as a burden, quite apart from an opportunity, and you have a chief of staff who is so aggressive and regards power as an entitlement, quite apart from a destiny, you are going to have trouble. Big trouble.

The campaign already showed that though Roxas was willing to become second fiddle in theory, he wasn’t willing to become second fiddle in practice. He himself believed he made a mistake stepping down when he was leading the vice presidential race and P-Noy’s numbers were falling down, forgetting that his presidential bid never got any traction until he threw his lot with P-Noy. Neither losing nor the constitutional ban on losers getting a post in government until after a year has deterred him, going all the way to Washington last year as part of the presidential entourage and passing himself off at the UN as a member of the official delegation. It adds whole new dimensions to aggressiveness. Again, for reasons that are more mysterious than God’s ways, P-Noy can’t seem to say no to him.

The way things are, Roxas might not even have to wait for 2016. Showing with finality that you don’t need to win an election to run a government.

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TAGS: Aquino, Government, Mar Roxas, opinion, politics
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