Mar gives way to Noynoy
- Aurea Calica () - September 2, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II made the “supreme sacrifice” and announced yesterday that he would give way to Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party in the 2010 elections.

 “Ito na ang pinakamabigat na desisyon sa buhay ko. Maniwala man kayo o hindi, ginawa ko ito para sa bayan, para sa inyo (This is the toughest decision of my life. Believe it or not, I did this for the nation, for all of you). I do this for unity in support of change. And if that means somebody must make the sacrifice, it must be me. Ako na (It’s me),” Roxas told a press conference at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan, which was organized by the Liberal Party (LP).

Roxas, the current LP president, declared that he would now support the presidential candidacy of Aquino, who is also an LP official and son of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino who recently passed away. 

Wearing his signature blue shirt, Roxas was teary-eyed and emotional as he read a prepared statement that still surprised many despite speculation for several weeks that he would give way to the younger Aquino, whose popularity is rising a month after the death of his mother.

Roxas said his decision was the product of serious talks with Sen. Aquino and that he would like to make the sacrifice for the sake of the country.

“Over the weekend, Noynoy and I had many long conversations. Masinsinang usapan. We agreed. Let us forget about ourselves for a moment. This is not about us; this is about our people and our country. This is about our common dream. The dream of our parents,” Roxas said.

“But let us not remain a country of dreamers. Tama na ang pangarap. Gawin na natin, ngayon (dreaming should end. We should do it now). Today, I am announcing my support for the candidacy of Noynoy Aquino for President in 2010,” he said.

Roxas was cheered by the audience composed of his family members, LP leaders and members led by party chairman emeritus, former Senate president Jovito Salonga, and supporters.

Sen. Roxas’ mother, Judy sat and listened silently to her son, while the senator’s fiancée broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez also appeared sad and emotional but managed not to cry unlike the cousins and other relatives of Roxas.

He flashed the Laban sign as the audience chanted: “Mabuhay si Mar!” “Go Mar!” and “We love you, Mar!”

Some of his staff were stunned because they said only Roxas and Aquino knew what they would say before the media.

“Noy (Sen. Aquino) has made it clear to me that he wants to carry the torch of leadership,” Roxas said.

Roxas said the passing of Aquino’s mother, former President Aquino, has reawakened a passion among Filipinos.

“I acknowledge this as fuel to bring us to the realization of our dream: Good will triumph over evil. “To you Noy, I say: I began the campaign to sow the seeds para sa pagbabago at reporma (for change and reforms). You must now be the one to grow them in the arena of leadership,” Roxas added.

While he did not make it clear whether he would run as vice president of Aquino, Roxas stressed: “Hindi kami maghihiwalay ni (we will not be divided) Noy. I will stand with him,” Roxas said.

“At sa aking mga kababayan, sa mga nagtiwala sa akin: Mahal na mahal ko po kayo. Mahal na mahal ko po ang ating bayan. Hindi rin tayo maghihiwalay. Itutuloy natin ang pagbabago sa ating bansa. Itutuloy natin ang laban para sa reporma!” Roxas said.

“Kay Noy, at sa aking mga kababayan: Country above self! Bayan bago sarili! Hindi ko kayo pababayaan! Lalaban tayo!” Roxas said.

Putting “country first before self,” Roxas said, was the legacy of his grandfather, former President Manuel Roxas.

“Our nation is in trouble. Leadership is bankrupt. Institutions are in disarray. People are hungry. Noynoy Aquino and I share the same outrage over the mess we are all in, the same way we share the solution—clean, honest, selfless public service,” Roxas said.

“Marami at matindi ang mga problema ng bansa. Kailangan nating ayusin. Matindi ang kalaban (The country has many serious problems we need to resolve. The opponent is strong). We need a determined force for good far stronger than the festering evil around us. We need to fight just as our own fathers fought dictatorship, and just as both died believing that good will conquer evil,” he said.

“Noynoy and I want to make a difference, but we also know that we need to unite to achieve what we want,” Roxas further said.

He said that as LP president it was within his power to preside over a potentially divisive process or to make the party a bridge for the forces of change.

“I choose to lead unity, not division. Bilang pinuno ng aking partido, magdedesisyon ako. Mahal ko ang Partido Liberal. My grandfather (former President Manuel Roxas) founded it. My father led it during the most difficult times of martial law. Sa harap ng peligro, sa kabila ng napakaraming tukso—hindi siya sumuko. He inspired me—to stay the course, to fight the good fight, to pass the test of true character. To believe,” Roxas said, referring to his father, former senator Gerardo Roxas.

 ‘This is his day’

Sen. Aquino said he was also surprised that Roxas made the decision in such a short period of time.

He said the two of them have been having long talks and that he himself was already close to making a decision.

“If you admire him (Roxas) now, you’ll admire him more this time. This is his day. Let us give this day to him,” Aquino told The STAR before Roxas made the announcement.

Sen. Aquino is expected to make an announcement today.

Liberal Party stalwart and former education chief Florencio Abad said Roxas’ decision was a result of personal talks between Sens. Roxas and Aquino.

“It was his personal decision para umusad lang ang usapan (so the talks would proceed),” Abad told reporters.

He, however, said there would be talks among the LP members on who will be Aquino’s running mate.

“Nasasaktan din siya (Roxas) about rumors that he is getting in the way of Noynoy. Nagbigay siya para mamatay na ang mga speculations,” said Abad who acted as campaign manager of Sen. Aquino in the 2007 elections.

Abad said it was a very difficult decision for Roxas who has been preparing for the 2010 presidential elections for the past two years.

Liwayway Vinzons-Chato, an LP member, said she has already an inkling of Roxas’ announcement.

“That’s a challenge to all parties of the opposition to unite,” Chato said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said last night that the withdrawal of Sen. Roxas would have a negative impact on the opposition.

Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio described Roxas’ announcement as “a very interesting development.”

“It will definitely complicate matters further for the opposition more than it will affect the administration coalition,” Claudio said.

Erap willing to withdraw presidential bid

Former President Joseph Estrada said last night that he is also willing to consider withdrawing his plan to run for president if all opposition parties would unite behind a single candidate to ensure victory over the administration-backed presidential bet.

Estrada congratulated Roxas for his sacrifice and decision to withdraw his presidential bid in favor of Noynoy Aquino.

“If everyone like Sen. Mar Roxas sacrifices for the country and the opposition parties would unite behind a single presidential candidate, I would also withdraw (my candidacy),” Estrada said.

“But this is just the Liberal Party. There are many other parties involved here. But if everyone else does the same thing (that Roxas did), I will give this a lot of thinking (to withdraw),” Estrada pointed out.

He clarified that he thinks the young Aquino is also qualified to aspire for the presidency.

Estrada said he did not expect Roxas to withdraw his presidential bid at this stage as he noted the latter has been campaigning very early on.

“I recognize his (Roxas) leadership. His showing at the Senate has been very good. So I admire him,” Estrada said.

Estrada earlier disclosed that he first talked to Roxas to convince the latter to consider his proposal for the opposition parties to support a common presidential candidate as the best way for them to prevent a repeat of the 2004 presidential elections when the opposition parties were divided and fielded different candidates that resulted in the re-election of President Arroyo.

Another opposition presidential aspirant Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay said he is optimistic that the opposition will be able to rally behind a common candidate after the withdrawal of Roxas and there is now more reason for opposition parties and personalities to sit down and address the issue.

“I have nothing but the highest respect for Sen. Mar. Roxas. He has sacrificed his personal goals for a higher interest. I am sure this has been a difficult decision for him, but he has shown admirable humility,” Binay added.

Opposition senators welcomed Roxas’ decision to give up his presidential bid and support Aquino.

“(It’s) Good for Mar, still a tough fight for Noynoy,” said Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

In a statement, Sen. Jamby Madrigal welcomed Roxas’ decision, which she deemed as important for the party’s unity.

“I am happy to hear that the LP has stayed united and I commend Sen. Roxas for his unconditional sacrifice for the country. I pray that God may continue to guide Sen. Noynoy Aquino in his final decision,” Madrigal said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who urged Aquino to lead the unity talks within the LP, also lauded Roxas for his decision. 

Pangilinan had also expressed support to Noynoy if he runs for president.

Sen. Manny Villar, Nacionalista Party presidential bet and a front-runner in the poll surveys, was at the Iglesia ni Cristo central temple in Quezon City, paying respects to the late Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo when Roxas made his announcement at Club Filipino.

His staff officer said Villar would not issue any statement yet on Roxas’ decision.

NP spokesman Gilbert Remulla welcomed the entry of Sen. Aquino to the presidential race.

“In the same time we congratulate Sen. Mar Roxas for showing character and integrity in accepting the challenge of giving way to Sen. Aquino,” Remulla said.

He said the NP is in the middle of the preparations for the 2010 polls.

Sen. Joker Arroyo urged opposition leaders to unite behind a single presidential candidate for 2010. 

He said the present crop of presidential timbers should follow the example of opposition leaders in 1985 when they agreed to field Cory Aquino as presidential candidate in the 1986 elections that eventually led to the EDSA People Power revolution that toppled then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Enteng Romano, lead convenor of the Black and White Movement, salutes Roxas for his statesmanship and selflessness.

“I can only imagine how agonizing it must have been for Sen. Mar to make his difficult decision,” he said.

Alex Lacson, head of the Tuloy pNOY movement, said the group had launched a campaign to support Sen. Aquino’s candidacy for president.

“People from as far as Batangas and Pampanga, most of whom have brought their families, drove to the Aquino residence on Times St. in Quezon City yesterday to drop their present letters to Aquino to run for president.  – With Marichu Villanueva, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Patricia Esteves, Eva Visperas

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