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‘Mar using personal funds for ads’

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV, file

MANILA, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, as the administration presidential candidate, is using his own money for television and radio advertisements.

Two lawmaker-allies yesterday responded to a statement of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate asking if public funds were used for Roxas’ ads.

“Secretary Mar is so decent, circumspect and honest that he will not use taxpayers’ money for his political advertisements. I think my colleague in the minority is barking up the wrong tree,” Rep. Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty said.

She said Roxas “can very well afford to fund his presidential campaign, including his radio-TV ad placements.”

The administration candidate belongs to the Araneta-Roxas family that owns the Araneta complex in the heart of Cubao, Quezon City.

Lopez is part of a group of members of the House of Representatives supporting Roxas’ presidential bid. She and her colleagues belong to different political parties.

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Lopez said it is unfair for anyone to insinuate that her candidate is using taxpayers’ money in his campaign and advertisements.

“Secretary Mar is Mr. Clean. He has never been accused of misusing public funds,” she said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also defended the administration candidate over questions of the fund sources of the TV ads of Roxas.

Lacierda shielded Roxas from allegations he may be using government funds to bankroll his TV and radio ads, saying Roxas comes from a wealthy family.

“Secretary Mar Roxas started the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry,” he said.

“As then secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, he started the BPO industry. What we didn’t realize was that he prohibited his own family from engaging in the BPO business,” Lacierda added.

“He did it honestly, with integrity; he prohibited his own family from engaging in that business. Do you think that he will, in his 20 years of experience, taint his name? Has he ever been accused of using government funds for a campaign?” he asked.

Lacierda said the Bayan Muna party-list lawmakers should be more objective in taking notice of Roxas’ radio and TV ads.

“There are so many ads but it seems they are waiting for the ads of Roxas to come out. What about the ads of other people? They are also government officials,” he said.

“Now, having said that, Secretary Mar Roxas has never used his personal – his position to advance a gain for his own family. Do you expect he will do this?” Lacierda remarked.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said critics should ask Vice President Jejomar Binay and other candidates if they are using public funds.

He said that in the case of Binay, the Vice President’s office has a budget of more than P200 million, courtesy of taxpayers.

His budget includes P23 million for travel and P87 million for financial assistance and subsidy, he said.

“Is he using those funds for his presidential bid? If he goes to Mindanao to campaign, is he paying for his trip out of personal funds or is it the Office of the Vice President that pays for his travel?” he asked.

Erice said Binay could use his financial assistance fund to give money to those who promise to vote for him.

“He has that advantage over his opponents, and I think he will not hesitate to use it,” he said.

He recalled that when Binay ran for vice president, there were reports that he invited local government officials from the provinces to travel to Metro Manila for rest and recreation, billeting them at the Makati Friendship Hotel, which is owned by the Makati City government.

On the other hand, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said the ruling Liberal Party (LP) would only wage a positive campaign in securing public support for Roxas.

Sarmiento, secretary-general of the LP, also called on other presidential aspirants to refrain from using black propaganda, dirty tricks and political mudslinging.

“It’s just sad that some people are using name-calling and foul personal attacks to bring down their perceived political rivals,” Sarmiento said.

“We at LP are not only committed to reform the old and corrupt system of governance, but we are working hard to also change our prevailing political culture,” he said.

Sarmiento said Roxas and the LP team “will campaign based on what we have done and what we intend to do.”

‘False flag’

Sarmiento added the ruling party had nothing to do with the filing of the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe, who is seen as a strong presidential contender in 2016.

He said the disqualification case filed by Rizalito David was obviously a “false flag” to provoke hostility between the LP and the senator.

Sarmiento said those behind the suit are trying to pin the blame on Caloocan Rep. Erice as LP political affairs chairman because after the filing, a text blast quickly followed naming him as the one who gave the filing fee to David.

Sarmiento said Roxas’ campaign would focus on the things that he had accomplished both as a public servant and as President Aquino’s most trusted wingman in running the government.

He said Roxas’ presidential bid should not also get in the way of the government’s anti-corruption campaign, despite efforts by some political personalities to draw a connection between the 2016 elections and their legal woes due to alleged involvement in various cases of graft and corruption.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, for his part, said the LP should secure the tandem of Roxas and Poe to avoid political constraints of having a minority president.

Salceda said he expects a four-cornered fight in the presidential race with Roxas, Poe, Binay and Davao City Rodrigo Duterte.

“Mar Roxas and Sen. Grace Poe should work together,” Salceda said.

“If Sen.r Grace Poe does not run for president, one half of Mar’s problem is already solved because Sen. Poe and Roxas have the same pychographic market segment, such as the straight path and against corruption, among other things.”

“But if Sen. Grace Poe runs for president, it will be a hard and difficult campaign for us and the party,” he said. –Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Celso Amo

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