This time six years ago, then-Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas III launched his first infomercial for his long-anticipated 2010 presidential bid. The 30-second ad shows Roxas riding a pedicab driven around by a young boy. Upon hearing the boy’s life grievances, Roxas memorably said: “Anak, itabi mo. Ako na.” At the end of the clip, he is seen driving the pedicab himself, a not-so-subtle hint of his ambition to be the main “driver” of the nation.
At that point, Roxas was widely regarded as a leading presidential contender thanks to his famous last name, his family’s vast wealth, as well as his wide network of political allies in Liberal Party (LP). His impeccable educational credentials as well as his long-term relationship with veteran broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez were also seen as his assets. But alas, the hype failed to live up to the reality.
Instead of being praised, Roxas’ commercial was widely mocked for being inauthentic. More importantly, Roxas failed to gain any traction against the survey leaders at that time – then Vice President Noli de Castro, and Senator Manuel Villar and Loren Legarda.
Shortly after the death of former President Corazon Aquino, calls for her only son, then-Senator Benigno Aquino III, to run for president snowballed. Even from within his own party, the message for Roxas is clear: back-off. Needless to say, the Aquino-Roxas ticket happened mostly because of political opportunism and not because of Roxas’ so-called “sacrifice.”
Despite being pegged as the heavy favorite in the vice presidential race, Roxas managed to squander a 30-point lead on his way to a narrow loss to then-Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.
Nevertheless, Aquino remained committed to reviving the political career of his former running-mate by giving him two successive cabinet posts (transportation and communication secretary from 2011 to 2012 and interior secretary from 2012 to present). However, Roxas’ poll numbers remained very pitiful.
His poor management of the relief efforts in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda was universally criticized even by the international press. The fact that he was kept out of the loop during the planning and execution of the bPNP-SAF operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao put him in a bad light as well.
When pitted in surveys after surveys against Binay, Roxas is projected to lose by a mile. With just four months to go before the filing of candidacies, this is understandably giving jitters to LP members. Since “all politics is local,” a weak standard-bearer will drag down candidates at the bottom of the ticket.
You don’t have to look deep in history to understand this. During the 2010 national elections, members of the ruling Lakas-Kampi coalition eventually defected to LP or Villar’s Nacionalista Party because of their standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro’s low survey numbers.
Of course, it is also in the best interests of Aquino to have someone from his party succeed him. This assures the continuity of his projects. Also, being replaced by his preferred successor may save him from future prosecution for wrongdoings that may have happened during his presidency.
Now, just like in 2009, there is a growing clamor for Roxas to step aside and give way for Poe to be LP’s adopted standard-bearer. Aquino himself is now open to this idea. It is not an exaggeration to say that Poe owes her political career to Aquino.
The president gave Poe her first formal government experience by appointing her as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. Two years into her term, he invited her to be part of the administration’s 2013 senatorial slate. By accepting Aquino’s offer, Poe turned down a similar invitation from former President Joseph Estrada, her father’s bosom buddy. She emerged number one in that senatorial race.
Judging by the results of recent pre-election polls, there is no doubt that Poe poses the greatest challenge to Binay’s presidential dreams. The question now is, will Roxas once more give up his ambitions (maybe for good this time) to give way to a more popular but less experienced candidate?