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Mar Roxas minus the ‘razzle dazzle’

He had a “bad cold,” Mar Roxas said, so air kisses were all he could give the ladies of the “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel” media forum yesterday.

But he made up for it by distributing red roses as early Valentine’s Day gifts to the females in the room, deputizing “Mga Anak ni Mar” (Mar’s Children), Liberal Party members of Congress who came to the forum to cheer him on, to distribute the blooms.

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The Liberal Party candidate is in full campaign mode, obviously. But when asked why he sounded rather subdued and low-key (one would even say “depressed”) in his TV ads extolling the benefits of the “daang matuwid” (straight and narrow path), Roxas explained that he was done with “razzle dazzle.” “No amount of razzle dazzle can win the presidency for you,” he said. In his visits around the country, he observed that “people are not looking to be entertained. Instead, as a candidate for president, you are expected to tell them where the country is headed and what your plans are for making this vision come true.”

Roxas dubbed himself “Mr. Palengke” when he ran for the Senate in 2004, basing the image on his persona as trade secretary when he regularly visited public markets to monitor prices of basic goods. The approach apparently worked for he emerged at the top of the heap when the counting was over. In 2010, he was leading in all the voter preference surveys for vice president up until the last few weeks, when all of a sudden Jojo Binay’s numbers started climbing. This he attributed to the situation that the Aquino-Roxas team faced in the final stages of the campaign, when he virtually took over the national campaign and directed that all resources be turned over to Noynoy to ensure his victory, as then Sen. Manny Villar was fast catching up. The result? P-Noy eventually won by a comfortable margin, but Roxas was left trailing Binay.

* * *

Obviously, Roxas is not going to allow a similar scenario to take place again.

“It’s not wise to reuse the 2004 strategy,” he asserted, noting that “the Senate is a cheap vote; as long as you remain among the top five [during the campaign], there’s a good chance you’ll end up on top.” By contrast, he added, “the presidency is an expensive vote; the voter has only one choice”—and that choice will be made only after a careful scrutiny.

Roxas likened his situation to that of a longtime suitor, a familiar face, someone the object of one’s desire already knows well. Then suddenly, new suitors come a-wooing—“may barumbado, may foreigner…” (“there’s a hothead, a foreigner”)—and you are temporarily dazzled by them. But at the end of the day, you choose the one you know and trust.”

Asked who among his opponents he is most wary of, Roxas refused to take the bait and said he would much rather prefer “focusing on sending our messages to voters.”

* * *

“I had but a few believers when I was [rating] at 4 percent some months ago,” Roxas reflected. “You would have laughed at my chances against the others. But now look where we are. Statistically, I am in a very good place (tied with Binay and Poe, give or take the margin of error).”

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Clearly, he intends to stand by his record in government, especially the years he spent in the Aquino Cabinet. “Anywhere I go in the country,” he said, “I can point out projects and structures that helped the people, things that good governance and an honest government made possible.”

Asked if he intended to ever distance himself from P-Noy and the administration’s straight-path governance, he asserts: “Daang matuwid is not just P-Noy’s. It is a set of values that we all live by. Daang matuwid means making hard, tough decisions, like what the President did when he vetoed the SSS pension increase. If all the President wants is to score pa-pogi points with the public, then he would have signed the bill into law and left it to his successors—and future generations—to deal with the consequences.”

For his part, said Roxas, when he was interior secretary, he approved the granting of one brand-new police jeep to each of the country’s 1,490 municipalities, “no questions asked.” “I didn’t care if the mayor of the town was with the opposition or was supporting an opponent. All I cared about was making each municipality capable of meeting the needs of the people, from disaster response to curbing criminality.”

* * *

Roxas is certainly upbeat about the future, declaring that “in one generation, in about 35 years, the Philippines will rise from No. 38 among world economies to No. 16.”

But, he said by way of a reminder, this would be possible “only if we choose right.” He posed a rhetorical question: Do we move forward, full speed ahead, or do we make a U-turn, a wrong turn, or fall off the cliff?”

Governance, he asserted, “is serious business,” and despite the strides being made by his opponents in the opinion polls, they “will not win only by [using] sound bites.”

“We hold the future in our hands,” Roxas declared. For the first time in decades, he said, “we have the choice of continuing a legacy of good governance” and building on the foundations laid by a previous administration.

Most of the time, he recalled, every presidential election was marked by the determination of every candidate to put down the incumbent administration and promise the birth of a new style, a new paradigm of governance. In this year’s polls—and by choosing him, he seemed to say—voters have the chance to end the roller-coaster cycle of politics and bring the country to where it is rightfully headed. But only if we choose right.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Liberal Party, Mar Roxas
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