MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday announced the appointment of Manuel “Mar” Roxas as the new secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Roxas, who was appointed as chief of the Department of Transportation and Communications on June 7, 2011, takes over from the late Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash in Masbate on August 18.
In an exclusive report, the Philippine Daily Inquirer broke the news about Roxas’ appointment.
In a televised press briefing in Malacanang, Roxas acknowledged that he has “big shoes — or, rather, big tsinelas — to fill.”
“Transparency, accountability, people empowerment were the hallmarks of the leadership of Secretary Jesse. Ito ang ipagpapatuloy natin.”
Aquino said that both Robredo and Roxas “share my complete trust.”
Abaya replaces Roxas
Aquino also announced that Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya will replace Roxas as head of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Aquino said that Abaya was “fully aware” of the tasks of the DOTC.
Aquino urged the Commission on Appointments to confirm the two officials, saying that they cannot assume their posts without their confirmation.
The Commission on Appointments failed to confirm Robredo despite Aquino’s repeated nomination of his ally and partymate at the Liberal Party.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is confident that Roxas and Abaya have what it takes to lead the DILG and the DOTC.
‘Mold of integrity’ or ‘obvious strategy to maximize power’
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told INQUIRER.net that he saw Robredo’s “mold of integrity” in Roxas. Believing that a member of the LP should head one of the most powerful agencies in the government, Gonzales said that if one were to look for an official who could effectively serve as Aquino’s bridge to the local officials, it was definitely Roxas who was fit for the job.
He said that Abaya, LP’s secretary general, was an excellent choice to lead the DOTC once Roxas moved on to the DILG.
“Roxas’ managerial and political skills and experience should prove useful at the helm of the DILG. In a sense, Secretary Roxas will be getting out of his usual comfort zone as a technocrat well-versed in economic issues but we are confident he can do well at his new position,” added Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.
This was echoed by Marikina Representative Romero “Miro” Quimbo who felt that Roxas was the “most qualified” to replace Robredo. He said that the LP president’s “knowledge of the inner workings of the national government and an intimate exposure to the LGUs and its requirements” made him a good choice.
“We need someone who will hit the ground running,” he said.
Quimbo said that although Abaya’s move to the DOTC was a “loss in the House,” it was also “a great gain of the executive. He is one of our most brilliant members. He can easily handle DOTC [and]… his unquestionable integrity makes him another perfect team member for the Aquino cabinet.”
Abaya is on his third term representing the first district of Cavite. Gonzales said that it might take some time before Abaya could sit as head of the DOTC, even after his appointment has been announced.
Abaya chairs the House committee on appropriations which has been deliberating on the proposed P2.006 trillion national budget for 2013. Committee level hearings are expected to end by next week but the budget still has to hurdle deliberations at the plenary.
Gonzales said that Abaya has to see the proposed national budget’s approval on its third reading before moving to the DOTC. The leadership of the House will look for a possible replacement for Abaya but Gonzales said that as elections were nearing, Belmonte may watch over Abaya’s district once the Cavite lawmaker assumes his Cabinet position.
Despite the influx of well-wishers, news of Roxas’ appointment to the DILG did not sit well with Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Teddy Casino who said that their group viewed the development with apprehension. “Considering his leading position in the Liberal Party and his plans to run for high office in 2016, this will definitely further politicize the position.”
Roxas and Abaya’s being picked out from LP was an “obvious” strategy by the ruling party to “maximize their being in power by making sure the powerful portfolios are given to partymates,” said San Juan City Representative Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.
“Not to undermine the capability of Secretary Roxas and Representative Abaya but I think the appointment is obviously for the strengthening of the LP’s position in the coming 2013 and 2016 elections,” he said.