Manuel "Mar" Araneta Roxas II

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“Bayan muna bago sarili”. This was Manuel “Mar” Roxas II’s mantra when he gave way to now-President Noynoy Aquino’s candidacy six years ago. In 2016, no one is asking him to give way and he has the full support of his party. Will this be his chance to snag the presidency?

The anointed one

The scion of the prominent Roxas family of Capiz, Mar Roxas is the candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) for the 2016 elections, and for good reason: having forgone the presidency in 2010, he is the party establishment’s choice, for better or for worse (President Aquino himself seemed to have difficulty in choosing a successor, but eventually anointed Roxas).

A former Wall Street investment banker, Roxas graduated from the Wharton School of Economics. His entry into politics was not via the usual route. In 1993, his brother Dinggoy died, leaving the Office of the Representative of the First District of Capiz unoccupied. He ran and won, slowly climbing the ladder through re-elections to become Lower House majority leader.

He briefly became Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary during the Estrada presidency, after which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked him to serve in the same capacity. His much-publicized programs in the DTI seemed to have given him headway in the 2004 elections where he easily secured a seat in the Senate.

2010 was supposed to be a breakthrough year for Roxas,but he decided to give way to Noynoy Aquino in the race for the presidency. During the latter’s tenure, he served again in the Cabinet, as Deopartment of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) secretary and then as head of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Daang Matuwid, part 2

Roxas’ platform of government continues the Daang Matuwid (Straight or Just Path) principles of the Aquino administration. This has drawn much criticism, especially from individuals willing to support Roxas but want him to distance himself from the perceived callousness, failures, and incompetence of the current administration.

These criticisms may amount to nothing. Roxas’ campaign is going full throttle, echoing Daang Matuwid as his campaign website openly proclaims.

Roxas’ platform is anchored on three “styles” of governance: one that is systematic (hindi bara-bara), fact-based (hindi patsamba), and authentic (hindi pakitang-tao). He elaborates his Daang Matuwid vision for the country in the form of three freedoms: freedom from hunger, freedom from fear, and freedom to dream.

To attain these, he promises to sustain economic growth, provide universal healthcare, institutionalize the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, improve the justice system, among other things.

Roxas is running with the widow of the late Naga City Mayor and DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, Representative Leni Robredo from Camarines Sur.

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Out of touch?

Perhaps Roxas’ biggest problem, at least for the political punditry, is his image. Whereas competitors Jojo Binay, Grace Poe, and Rodrigo Duterte all seem to appeal to particular segments of the masses, Roxas is deemed elitist by many. People attribute this to his technocratic demeanor, and in part to his pedigree.

Another issue weakening his candidacy is his ties to the current administration and its perceived blunders. While President Aquino has maintained relatively high trust rating throughout his presidency, those ratings do not seem to translate to better poll numbers for Mar Roxas-- no matter how hard he tries to associate his name with the Aquino brand.

Recent TVCs by Roxas try to take give a positive spin on this his perceived elitism. By countering that his life lacks the drama of other presidential hopefuls, Roxas claims that the elections are about the future and not about him. Whether a majority of the voters will agree with him on May 9 remains to be seen.

Too big to fail?

Is Roxas too big to fail? From all accounts, he seems to be the candidate with the biggest to lose. His party is going all-out to win. His campaign, though, might require a radical re-orientation for him to succeed.