Roxas’ disconnect with voters
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2016 - 10:00am

Other than being the anointed presidential candidate of the administration in power, the political pedigree of former Interior Secretary Manuel Araneta Roxas II, or Mar for short, gives him an edge over his rivals. He is after all the son of one of the country’s most respected and widely admired lawmakers, the late Senator Gerry Roxas. And most especially, he is the namesake grandson of the late Philippine President Manuel Roxas.

This is not to mention Roxas belongs to the few elite, old rich families in the Philippines. Thus, his previous official moniker “Mr.Palengke did not fly with the masses whose income class could barely identify with him.

If he makes it to the presidency, Roxas would be the third politically pedigreed elected leader of the country. The first was former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal; and, outgoing President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III, only son of the late President Corazon Aquino.

We had Roxas in a roundtable forum with The STAR editors and reporters for almost three hours last Friday night at our editorial office in Port Area, Manila. Roxas is the next featured candidate coming out tomorrow at The Star’s “So you want to be president?” series.

Roxas is the presidential standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) that carried to the presidency then neophyte Senator Aquino six years ago. This, after Roxas, as LP chieftain, gave way to Aquino and slid down instead as his vice presidential runningmate during the May, 2010 elections.

He ran but lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay. He is again facing Binay as one of his four rivals for the country’s coming May 9 presidential elections. Turning 59 years old a few days after the election (May 13), Roxas takes up the torch passed on to him by P-Noy to carry on to the next level what they at LP started in the government. 

President Aquino named Roxas – not his family’s ally Binay – as his “anointed” successor. It was viewed as a grateful gesture of P-Noy for the personal sacrifice made by Roxas of his presidential ambition in 2010. 

P-Noy chose Roxas to continue their “daang matuwid” platform of government. As a battle cry of his campaign, Roxas vows to sustain and improve on what he and P-Noy started together in 2010. That is, if he wins the presidential race next month. 

Both P-Noy and Roxas believe the “daang matuwid” of LP will again wield its magic to win the presidency.

Apparently, Roxas counts on necro-politics to also work its magic with the candidacy of the widow of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Camarines Sur congresswoman Leni Robredo whom he convinced to run with him as his vice presidential runningmate.

Roxas, however, remains in the middle rung among the five bets in the pre-polls surveys. In fact, the two major opinion polling firms in the country – Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Station (SWS) – validate each other’s results of voters’ preferences.

It goes without saying Roxas is hounded by the failures and shortcomings of the outgoing administration of President Aquino to live up to public expectations and campaign promises in 2010. But official mouthpieces at Malacañang and LP campaign headquarters argue the Roxas-Robredo tandem get added boost from the continued double-digit trust and approval ratings of President Aquino.

Despite denials to the contrary, the candidacy of Roxas has been obviously weighed down by the negative things about the administration’s “daang matuwid,” which among other things, carried the slogan: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

But a mobile survey done by SWS and Bilang Pilipino last March 9 showed that 59 percent of respondents agreed that “daang matuwid” is about clean and honest service of government. Fifty-five percent of respondents in the same survey chose Roxas when asked who among the candidates are being promoted by “daang matuwid.”

Thus, an election watchdog calling themselves as “Kontra Daya” questioned last week the use of a campaign slogan “daang matuwid” as nicknames of Roxas and Robredo affixed in their respective names in the printed official ballots to be used in the May 9 elections. Kontra Daya “reflects the ruling party’s desperation to get votes even if it means resorting to voter deception” by banking on a program of government funded by taxpayers’ money.

The two LP bets registered as their nicknames the LP slogan in their respective certificates of candidacy filed last October before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

James Jimenez, Comelec official spokesman, however, clarified candidates were allowed to choose the names and nicknames that will be included in the official ballots.

Actually, this furor erupted following the start of the overseas absentee voting last April 9. Various posts online and in social media accounts have questioned “daang matuwid” appearing below the names of the two administration candidates in the official ballots.

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal similarly opined the technicality under the election laws of the country on the use of “daang matuwid” does not qualify as nicknames for Roxas and Robredo. During LP’s show of force at Club Filipino last Friday, Larrazabal noted, no less than P-Noy himself cited only Roxas-Robredo tandem can continue and pursue reforms under “daang matuwid.”

It was the premise of my question to Roxas during the Comelec-sanctioned presidential debate held in Cebu last March 20 where I was among the panelists from The Star-TV5-Bloomberg-Freeman-RMN. I asked Roxas to give at least three shortcomings or failures of the P-Noy’s “daang matuwid” and how his leadership of the country would be different from the Aquino administration.

In the two-minute limit given to each candidate, Roxas enumerated poverty, transportation and infrastructure. His time was up before he could answer the second half of my question. When we had him solo at The Star roundtable last Friday night, he laid down the specifics of his plans, policies and programs from day one to the next six years of his administration.

A cerebral leader, Roxas is, more often than not, misunderstood on how he approaches or addresses an issue, a problem, or situation.

Roxas is a great communicator. But it remains a puzzle why the LP presidential bet has a disconnect to win over larger number of voters.

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