Aquino set to anoint Roxas on Friday

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas

MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III is poised to formally anoint Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as his chosen successor and standard-bearer of the Liberal Party on Friday at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan City, according to the secretary general of the party.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento confirmed in a text message that the much-awaited and -speculated event would take place at 9 a.m. Friday, coinciding with the birthday of Roxas’ mother Judy Araneta Roxas, and St. Ignatius’ feast day.

“It’s going to be a simple affair, but everyone will be there, not only government officials,” said Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, LP’s political affairs chair.

He said another event would be scheduled next week for the formal declaration of support of governors and congressmen “to give it more attention.”

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he was not aware of the schedule, but that he would be there “for sure.”

“[Roxas is] the most qualified person for the presidency,” he said in a text message.
Belmonte said Roxas checked all the boxes in terms of “achievement, track record, qualifications, and integrity.”

Senator Roxas’ allies Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas and Yacap Rep. Carol Jayne Lopez said that LP members would confirm on Wednesday whether the much-anticipated endorsement would be held on Friday.
“We’re still waiting for confirmation. What I know is an announcement will be made between July 29 and July 31. We’ll probably know for sure (today),” Treñas said.

“We’re sure that Mar is the one. We’re just waiting for the best date and time,” Lopez said in a text message.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Roxas said he did not wish to preempt the President.

“If he passes the ball to me, I will not only dribble it, I will dunk it for daang matuwid (straight path),” Roxas said, repeating remarks to reporters after the President’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.

Club Filipino is deeply entwined in the country’s political upheavals, such as the inauguration of President Corazon Aquino on Feb. 25, 1986, in the aftermath of the Edsa People Power Revolution; then Ilocos Norte Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson’s jueteng exposé which led to the ouster of President Joseph Estrada in 2001; and then Senator Aquino’s announcement on Sept. 9, 2009, of his bid to run for President.

Two highly placed sources told the Inquirer that Mr. Aquino “will likely” endorse Roxas’s presidential bid.

“The President will likely make public his decision to pass on the torch of the ‘daang matuwid’ to Roxas on Friday,” one source told the Inquirer, referring to the Aquino administration’s anticorruption slogan.

The second source, who was privy to the preparation, said Roxas would also formally declare his presidential bid immediately after Mr. Aquino’s endorsement.

“Secretary Roxas will declare his readiness to take on the challenge of continuing the reforms initiated by President Aquino,” this source said.

He said the date would also coincide with the birthday of Roxas’ mother, Judy Araneta Roxas, who had openly made known her son’s presidential bid.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said he had not gotten any official invitation, but had heard it would be on Friday.

“I still don’t know. I only know what you know. What I heard was Friday,” he said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, another LP stalwart, said it would either be “Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.”

There were reports that the Liberal Party made a reservation at Club Filipino in San Juan City from July 28 to 31, in preparation for Roxas’ anointment as the LP standard-bearer.

“I also don’t know if that is the case, because I’m not involved in the preparations,” Abad said. “It’s really between Secretary Mar Roxas and the President who should know that. And if that is the case, I’m in no position to say, I’m sorry.”

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, LP political affairs chair, said the President’s endorsement should happen before the weekend.

“I think this week will not end before the President officially endorses Roxas,” Erice told Radyo Inquirer 990 AM.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, LP secretary general, only said: “Will text you once we get confirmation.”

During his speech on Monday, Mr. Aquino lavished praise on Roxas who slid down to Vice President in 2009 to give way to Mr. Aquino’s run.

“Whether you are in or out of government, the enemies of the straight path have not stopped criticizing you. Because you count, because your words matter, they have continued to do their best to put you down; through their constant attacks on your character, your critics themselves have proven that they are afraid of your integrity, skill, and ability to do the job,” he said.

“It’s only because they have nothing to boast of that they’re trying to bring you down. Mar, you are proving: You can’t put a good man down. Just as my mother and father had faith, so too should you have faith that our countrymen know who truly puts country before self,” the President said.