COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2015 - 10:00am

As then congressman from the lone district of Capiz, Rep. Manuel Araneta Roxas II distinguished himself at the legislature as a fresh face when he first entered politics in 1993. An economics graduate from Wharton University, Roxas first tried his hand as investment banker in the US.

But as fate would have it, Roxas had to return to the Philippines when his older brother, then cancer-stricken Rep. Gerardo Manuel “Dinggoy” Roxas died at age 33.

Thus, Roxas recalled this period in his life and turned teary in his acceptance speech after President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III formally anointed him to be the administration-backed candidate for the May, 2016 presidential elections.

For now though, Roxas remains as Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary until P-Noy names a new one. It better be sooner than later as this would not help any the candidacy of Roxas whose integrity is at stake if he tarries in his Cabinet post any longer than necessary.

No words yet who would be the vice presidential runningmate of Roxas. P-Noy sounded like a spurned suitor when he extolled Roxas at the expense of Senators Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero whom he earlier had meetings with to convince them on a modus vivendi in next year’s elections.

To his credit, Escudero already resigned as chairman of the powerful Senate committee on finance and the congressional oversight committee on public expenditures, both of which would tackle the proposed 2016 budget of the government coinciding with next year’s presidential elections.

As Roxas reminisced on his foray into politics, flashbacks also flooded my memories how P-Noy’s “anointed” one waited for God’s perfect timing. This after giving way to P-Noy the first time he wished to run for the presidency in 2010.

While covering the Senate during those days, it was then Senate president Edgardo Angara who first introduced a very shy Roxas to reporters. Angara was profuse in his praises of Roxas as someone who has very high qualifications more fit for the executive branch. 

As chief of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), Angara wanted to recruit Roxas to their party. But Roxas is among the few blue-blooded Liberal Party (LP) headed at one time by his late father, Sen. Gerry Roxas. Despite diminished ranks of LP in Congress, Roxas politely declined overtures by the LDP president.

After Angara ran but lost as vice presidential candidate during the May, 1998 elections, he made sure such a highly qualified leader like Roxas must join the Cabinet of newly elected President Joseph Estrada. Thus, Roxas was among the first appointees of ex-President Estrada to his Cabinet as Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It was during his first stint at DTI when Roxas started the initiatives to bring about cheaper medicines in order to make them affordable, especially for indigent patients. When he returned to Congress as a senator in 2003, Roxas authored the Cheaper Medicine Law.

It was also his DTI stint during the Estrada administration when Roxas laid down the groundwork for the Philippines being transformed into a business process outsourcing (BPO) hub in this part of the world. Estrada continues to publicly credit Roxas for making the Philippines the world capital for BPO. 

When Estrada was ousted from office in January, 2001, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo brought back Roxas to the DTI as member of her Cabinet. It was during the Arroyo administration when Roxas became known for the moniker “Mr.Palengke” as DTI chief who went around the wet markets to check on the prices and quality of food and other consumer products.

Roxas succeeded to bring the image of DTI secretary as not just concerned with promoting the country to big markets abroad as BPO center and investment destination but also to wet markets that matter most to the common masses.

But Roxas also was the first to jump out when Estrada came under barrage of accusations on jueteng payola and other indiscretions in office. Roxas resigned from the Cabinet a month before Congress started the impeachment proceeding against Estrada.

Despite being abandoned by Roxas, Estrada never took this personally against his erstwhile Cabinet member. Now mayor of Manila, Estrada has been openly and very vocal in praising Roxas for having the vision of a true leader, citing the BPO and other initiatives the latter worked on in Congress and in the executive branch.

The latest words from Mayor Estrada, in fact, I heard him saying on television interviews last Friday about Roxas being among the three presidential candidates he would consider to support in next year’s elections. The other two candidates in Estrada’s list, of course, are goddaughter Sen. Poe and his “kumpare” Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Roxas is now on his way to finally live up to his own family’s pedigree. Namesake grandson of the late President Manuel Roxas, he tells people to just call him Mar (the first letters of his full name).

He turned 58 years old last May. His anointment day coincided with his mother’s birthday July 31 which also fell on St.Ignatius Day. Incidentally, it was also once in a “blue moon” event that night last Friday.

P-Noy declared his full support and confidence Roxas would earn the Filipino voters’ trust to lead them to the next stop of the “daang matuwid” they started together. In the presence of his broadcaster wife Korina Sanchez-Roxas, mother Judy Araneta-Roxas, and 21-year old son Paolo, Roxas accepted P-Noy’s challenge.

Roxas could not help but turn emotional in the course of his acceptance speech. He got lost for the right word to describe how he intends to live up to the challenge of “daang matuwid” that P-Noy wanted him to continue.

If by God’s grace he is elected into the presidency,  Roxas vowed – apologizing in using his native Ilonggo tongue – he would be “ulikid.” It was, according to him, the pet word of his late maternal grandmother Esther Araneta-Roxas who fondly told everyone he is her ulikid, or the boy who always looked back to see to it she was not left behind while they walked together.

Roxas vowed he would remain to be ulikid or someone who sees to it no one would be left behind when he leads the country to desired vision for greatness of the Filipino nation.

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