Why Noy needs Mar

Speculations are that Mar Roxas maybe more of a “troublemaker than a troubleshooter once he gets a government post in the Aquino administration.” Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte retorted that Mar is not a troublemaker and that he has got fine expertise. Though Mar Roxas has no role in government yet, he has been seen in some of Aquino’s events. He served as the “unofficial adviser” on “business matters during President Aquino’s first working trip to the US in September.

”This article “Why Noy needs Mar – The importance of Vice Part 2” was written by ang_mungo and was originally posted on April 29, 2010. It is interesting to see the reasons why the President indeed needs Mar in his administration. Time to reflect back on the past.

Picking up from the article ‘The Importance of Vice’, perhaps it will be easy to see why I would find the candidacy of Manuel Roxas IIinteresting to tackle particularly from the perspective of how critical his candidacy is to the success ofBenigno Aquino III as a candidate and, if ever Aquino wins, as VP to the next President of the Philippines.  Does Noy need Mar or is it Roxas who needs Aquino?  Is it a symbiotic relationship or a parasitic one?  In one’s success a necessary condition for the other?  Since theoretically, a Presidential candidate is the one who chooses his Vice President, allow me to try to answer these questions by outlining what Roxas brings to the table and what made him desirable as Aquino’s partner:

Roxas is the more accomplished candidate. Among all the vice presidential candidates,  Roxas is the only one who has been in both the legislative and executive branches of government starting off as Representative of the 1st district of Capiz, before becoming Secretary of Trade and Industry  to President Estrada as well as President Arroyo, then being elected as Senator in 2004.  As legislator, he is known for landmark bills that have had major impact on the export industry, the civil service, education, and the public at large.  He also maintains very strong relationships with the business sector, what with the network he has built as a Wharton graduate and his experience as an investment banker.  Less than a year ago, Roxas was one of the country’s top presidential bets – clearly ready to go head-to-head with Manuel B. Villar against whom he would probably be a good match both in government service track record as well as business credentials.

Roxas has experience in the Executive branch. Having worked in DTI and, for a time, even overseeing the Department of Energy, he had direct interactions with two Presidents and their respective Cabinets. He’s had a hand in drawing up and implementing the government’s economic policy for at least three years and contributed to the smooth transition to the new government following Estrada’s impeachment.  As Vice President, it would be easy to give him a Cabinet portfolio of his own, even an entire Cabinet cluster to supervise.  It would not even be surprising if the next President appoints him to act as the Executive Secretary and be in charge of the day-to-day running of the bureaucracy. Roxas would naturally be able to navigate his way through the government bureaucracy and be a strong support to whoever is President.

Roxas gave the Liberal Party a future. For a time, Jovito Salonga looked like the Liberal Party’s last best hope given how lackluster the other party execs were.  The next most prominent member, Frank Drilon, having served two terms as Senator, spent the last three years in a private law practice.  Moreover, the conflict with Lito Atienza and the creation of two LP factions had apparently weakened the party at the local level.  Nevertheless, though Roxas was unable to unite the two LP groups, he still eventually became recognized as the Liberal Party’s hope to gain Malacanang.  As early as 2007, it was a foregone conclusion that LP was laying the groundwork for a Roxas run for the Presidency.  Prospects began to look dimmer with the poor showing of Roxas in the surveys vis-à-vis the Nacionalista’s Villar in 2009.  Dark luck though it may seem, the death of President Corazon Aquino provided the party with a stronger alternative in the person of Cory’s son. Perhaps in the Liberal Party’s mind, it was now or never for them, Malacanang or burst.  Apparently, Nacionalista must not be allowed to beat them at regaining the seat of power – last lost to President Ferdinand Marcos. And it did not matter whether it was Roxas or their new favored son, Benigno Aquino III who would be President, for as long as there was a Liberal President.  Thus, by September 2009, all Aquino needed to do was to declare himself and inherit a party initially made ready for the candidacy of Roxas.

Roxas is the more astute strategist and deal-maker. Many people forget how Roxas’ background as an investment banker may have prepared him really well to deal with the ambiguity and complexity of Philippine politics.  All one needs to do is to observe how timely his decisions were to move from Congressman to Secretary to Senator and how seamlessly he is able to change his colors from administration to independent to opposition with nary any question on his integrity or his motives.  His alliances have always been the most practical and the ones that would meet the least negative reactions from the electorate.  True, his magic looks like it left him during the early part of his campaign, what with the Padyak ads, Wowowee appearances and the uncomfortable-to-watch romance with Korina Sanchez, but by and large, he redeemed himself by choosing a cut-loss strategy that had all the benefits that his campaign and his party is reaping today and none of the costs associated with it except to his own ego.

Roxas strengthens the NoyMar tandem. At the end of the day, the NoyMar tandem is formidable if only because one successfully covers most of the other’s greatest weaknesses.  Where one lacks credentials, solid track record, and executive experience, the other, as explained above, more than compensates for it.  Where Aquino is seen as spur-of-the-moment in decision-making (a 3 day retreat does not count as much of a discernment period), Roxas is well-prepared, more calculated, and goal-driven.  Where one is very adept at selling a vision, the other obviously has the chops to turn this vision into a practical reality. The relationship is not one-sided.  Where one is perceived as unable-to-connect with the general public, the other basks in the halo of the goodness and massive popularity of his father, mother and sister.  While Roxas has supporters of his own, it has increased tremendously as a result of his partnership with Aquino.

Of course, I say “most of their weaknesses” because there remains one weakness that the NoyMar tandem has to struggle with, one that created the opening for Jejomar Binay as a contender: neither has the ability to empathize with the Erap-masa, since both are exclusive-school bred, long-standing eligible bachelors (Roxas only recently married), and rich younger sons (Aquino while the only son, is not the eldest) of De Buena Familias.  Binay, despite the accusations, is a natural partner to Aquino, considering that his own political career was launched by the support of Cory Aquino who has once been said to affectionately refer to him as her “Rambotito” (little Rambo).

All told, it’s quite apparent why Aquino insists that Roxas is his best partner.  Given all of the above, a government under Aquino may very well end up as unready and inept as his critics predict if he does not have Roxas to proverbially hold his hand and keep him steady.  One of the challenges to Aquino early in the campaign was that he was not running the show.  Perhaps it is partly due to the nature of the organization he inherited and the mettle of his own running mate.  Or maybe he has really not had that chance to acclimatize to his role and was just gearing up to take over from Roxas.  Even so, Roxas’ disappearing from the limelight helped the Aquino campaign by focusing the attention on the Presidential candidate himself and making questions about who is actually on top fade into the silence.

The outcome, though, seems to favor Roxas more than it does Aquino.  For one, his survey ratings have soared, making him take a greater share of respondent preference in later polls than Aquino himself.  Roxas already had his own “fan base”, but it was small compared to votes Aquino drew for him as he has become the default choice of most Aquino supporters.  His sliding down to VP made some people more comfortable with him and added even more to his base.  One theory proposed to explain Roxas resurgence says that it is precisely because of Aquino’s obvious weaknesses that he has become strong.  Without him, Aquino may fail, therefore, a strong, reliable back-up is required.  An Aquino-Legarda or an Aquino-Manzano combination is practically inconceivable, even if those Veeps had rated higher survey-wise.  An Aquino-Binay combination on the other hand, while popular with the poor, would turn the Aquino’s candidacy starkly into an Erap candidacy – pro-masa and powered by popularity but substantially bereft of depth.  On the other hand, partnered against any other Presidential candidate, whether Villar, Estrada or Teodoro, Roxas remains not only an acceptable option but maybe even be THE desired Vice President that any self-confident politician would like to have.

This brings us back to the question: Is it Mar who needs Noy to win the popular vote? Or, is it really Aquino who needs Roxas to give his candidacy the credentials that it sorely lacks?  Taken separately, would Aquino really stand the judgment of the people on his own merit?  On the other hand: Why is Roxas passing the bar of public opinion as the next President-in-waiting while similarly designed and marketed President-wannabe Villar seems to be failing? Why are the characteristics of Roxas integral as a Vice President candidate but is given less attention when applied to the Presidency? The difference, though not immediately obvious, seems simple.  The standard people use in selecting their President must different from what they use for the Vice President.  This, despite realizing that, in truth and in fact, whoever becomes Vice President effectively gets the nod of the people to take over the reins of government should the President be unable to continue his Office due to death, incapacitation or impeachment.

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