Ex-Secretary Mar Roxas is the first candidate for president in the post-Edsa era to run on the promise of specific program continuity, and he is not shy about it. At the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Wednesday, he gave many answers that were based on a common premise, namely, that he was continuing President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” approach to governance.
Other candidates have campaigned on the basis of promised reforms, of course; but no one, not even Fidel Ramos in 1992, could present himself or herself as the avatar of continuity. Whether this is a winning strategy for Roxas—Mr. Aquino’s losing vice presidential running mate in 2010 and his survey-challenged preferred successor in 2016—remains to be seen.
It helps that President Aquino is the most popular president since the advent of regular political polling; having recovered from the decline in his approval and satisfaction ratings earlier this year, a drop caused by the Mamasapano tragedy, he is finishing his term with enviable ratings. Promoting the continuity of the so-called straight path is a logical attempt to translate those high numbers into votes.
But it has also become clear that Roxas does in fact believe, heart and mind and soul, in Mr. Aquino’s “daang matuwid.” His invocation of the administration mantra was a nonironic recurring feature of his responses at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum. Whatever one may think of the straight path approach to governance itself, or indeed of Roxas himself, it seems clear that he has embraced the “daan,” that the path is part of his personality.
At the forum, he described the President as “the moral force” of the straight path, without apologies and with no reluctance.
He seized the opportunity to define the elements of “daang matuwid” again and again, pivoting in the direction of the straight path almost regardless of the question.
He even answered the question about the extent or depth of support of the President’s sisters—“You are sure of the President’s full support, but what about his sisters?”—in a manner that was both straight to the point (“the short answer is yes”) and an invocation of the straight path yet again.
“When we filed our COCs [certificates of candidacy], Ate Ballsy and Viel were there. Pinky also on another occasion has showed her support, as well as Kris; we had a conversation. So I’m comfortable that the President and his family support ‘daang matuwid,’ and Mar, and Leni [Robredo, his candidate for vice president],” Roxas said.
Based on his answers, it seems that the reluctant politician, who left his career in investment banking and joined Philippine politics only after (and because) his brother died, thinks that reasonableness, the sincere but not necessarily exciting balancing of interests, is part of the “daang matuwid.”
His response to the question about tax reform, for instance, was measured, deliberate.
“Obviously all tax measures should be subject to review,” he said. “I just don’t think it is wise to review tax measures in the heat of the political atmosphere of an election.”
“If this degenerates to just pa-pogian [a contest to look good], then let’s not tax anyone anymore. It will become a dive to the bottom. Somebody will say 20-percent tax; the next one will say 10-percent tax, or 5 percent, or just zero,” he added.
Even his response to related questions about the sorry state of traffic in Metro Manila was calibrated, a weighing of the negative and the positive.
He acknowledged the dismay millions of Filipinos feel day to day: “I know the frustration and anger [of motorists and commuters] as they see the hours wasting away. By the time they get home it’s already late.”
At the same time, he directed attention to what was being done. “Yes, traffic exists but there are also solutions that are on the way,” he said.
He noted that connectors to the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway were already under construction. “All the vehicles that are on Edsa today will have 12 additional lanes to use once these things are up,” he said. He also said he would look into the decongestion of main roads by reviewing the franchises of buses.
“Ours is the only city in the world with multiple bus lines operating in the same route.”
Again, a seemingly reasonable position, but not without its vulnerable points. Why, for instance, did the Aquino administration take a long time to put these solutions in place?
But for better or worse, this is the government Roxas represents, this is the program he wants to continue, and this is the candidate he chooses to be.
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