Mar in a bind

It must be quite difficult to be Mar Roxas these days.

On the one hand, he is now the Liberal Party’s anointed standard bearer for the 2016 elections. The president has made the official announcement. There was really no doubt that Roxas would clinch it especially after PNoy praised him to heavens during the State-of-the-Nation Address.

Here is the guy who gave way so Noynoy Aquino could run in 2010. He waited six long years for his turn to contest the presidency. And it is not in the president’s personality to disregard a loyal friend. No, PNoy would not sideline Roxas again.

And Mar badly needs the administration’s machinery and resources for the campaign. Without these, I doubt very much if he would be able to put up the machinery from local to national. As a Roxas, perhaps he has the financial resources for the campaign BUT is he willing to use his own money especially since his numbers are quite low compared to those of Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay? Without the president’s endorsement, if Mar still goes ahead and runs, would the financiers gamble on him?

So with the endorsement, Mar has good reason to celebrate.

That is the good news.

On the other hand, the President and LP have bound Roxas as PNoy’s clone.

When during the SONA PNoy absolved Roxas from any responsibility for the MRT mess and squarely put the blame on the private partner of government, the President has actually told Roxas that this is the line you should take when answering this problem. If in case Roxas would want to attack the problem differently, how is he going to do it? The President gave him the line to follow. Will, or can he deviate from it?

The President and LP are packaging Roxas as the one who will continue this administration’s programs. Paraphrasing what PNoy said, a vote for Mar is a vote for “Matuwid na Daan”. Roxas is supposed to be PNoy II even if some in their ranks have said that he will be a “better and improved” version.

I see this as a problem for Roxas.

One, even for messaging purposes, “Matuwid na Daan” is way over the heads of many of us. It is abstract and too general. It does not really say anything. It is not something that ordinary people can identify with especially at a time when even the president’s friends’ image is significantly diminished because of the big problems we have now.

Remember NoyNoy’s “Walang Mahirap kung Walang Corrupt”? It hit the mark because it was easy to grasp, people readily identified with it especially at that time when ordinary people were infuriated with corruption. It is specific, to the point.

 “Matuwid na Daan” is not. It can mean anything and everything that one cannot put a finger to it.

If Roxas wants to experiment and use another message (and I hope he will), he better hurry. The question is, will he do it knowing that his friend, the President, and his party has already packaged him?

Beyond messaging, I hope the LP understands that the people want to know the real Mar Roxas. I have said it before and will say it again, academic qualifications-wise, Roxas is the most qualified among all names being floated for the presidency.

I also believe that Roxas is a decent guy. But sometimes, I think he is too decent to a fault. Others call this as having no backbone. How can he explain that the Mamasapano operations that killed 44 of our valiant Special Action Force men was planned and implemented without his knowledge? How could he accept that the President, his friend, trusted a suspended PNP officer more than him when the PNP is under his own department? Is Roxas a push over? Is being PNoy’s shadow really acceptable to him?

Where is the Mar Roxas, the Mr. Palengke, who vigorously campaigned and won as the number one senator just a few elections ago?  Whatever happened to that Roxas? Is he playing safe, too safe in the name of political ambition? He should be warned that this could spell his defeat. Will the real Mar Roxas step forward please?

The guy has a lot of catching up to do on the “prove-yourself-to-the-people” department. His waiting time for the chance to run should have been used to make the electorate see what a Roxas presidency will look like.

This staying in the shadows of PNoy and “daang matuwid” will not work. IF during the remaining months of PNoy another major problem occurs and the administration is unable to handle it well, Roxas, as the anointed one, will surely get the flak.

I have heard people say that their dislike for VP Binay is not enough reason to vote for Roxas. They are waiting for the LP standard bearer to show them that he is worth their votes. Otherwise, they say that their vote will either go to a third candidate or if no one is acceptable, that they will just not vote for the top position.

Roxas’ numbers will increase for sure. After PNoy’s endorsement, the propaganda machine immediately went to work. But the packaging so far misses to address this need for Mar Roxas to be seen as a strong leader by himself and not the shadow of anyone.

Roxas is in a bind. He needs the LP, the machinery, resources, and whatever is left of PNoy’s clout. However, he also very badly needs to show independence, political will, and other strong leadership qualities.

I hope he is able to achieve this so people will see him as a real choice, and not just the extension of PNoy.


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