AT a family gathering, an aunt brought me to her table, asking me to explain to her and her friends why it was that I had yet to get on the Mar Roxas wagon.
The rundown seemed easy enough. The fact that he had intervened in the National Competitiveness Council’s (NCC’s) project to rehabilitate NAIA 1, and then left the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) a year later for the Department of Interior. The NAIA 1 is still the worst airport in the world four years hence.
And then there’s the fact of Tacloban post-Typhoon Haiyan. I know too many stories of how Roxas dealt with survivors of the storm, too many Taclobanons who happened upon him on Tacloban streets, and who did not receive the care and compassion they expected from a government official – the Secretary of Interior at that.
Ah, but these seem to be forgivable to many-a-voter, and one respects that. One understands that when choosing the lesser among evils, well, we choose an evil, regardless.
In a speech five days after he was declared official Liberal Party candidate for president, Roxas talked about perceptions of him as hurdles that his candidacy must conquer:
“Mga kapatid, brother to brother: Suplado daw ako. That’s okay. You can smile. Elitista, at minsan nagmamagaling, o malakas masyado ang dating. Nanghihingi ako ng paumanhin kung nabigyan ko kayo ng dahilan para isipin ito. Umaasa ako na sa mga susunod na buwan, makikilala ninyo ako nang higit, na kung paano ako kakilala ng mga madadalas kong kasama. Ang puso ko po ay bukas, ang puso ko po ay malinis, at sinsero at nais ko po na magkasama po tayo sa pagtahak sa Daang Matuwid na ito.” (4 August, Gathering of Leaders, San Juan)
Now it seems that while Roxas knows what might be going against him, not much is being done to make the elitist and suplado tags go away.
I mean if the goal was to try and erase those tags, I would start by picking another campaign color altogether. Because the color yellow has ceased to be the color we equate simply with freedom and democracy. After five years with the current President, yellow also now stands for a burgis presidency, the kind that is vindictive and petty, the kind that is removed from what it is truly like on the ground, the kind that takes offense at every criticism instead of using these to do things better.
That is what the color yellow is about. It is the color of arrogance and pettiness, of Kris and PNoy, and all that they stand for.
There was a time we equated Roxas with the color blue. There is every reason for him to go back to that.
The burgis as presidentiable
But there is more than color to worry about for Roxas. Because there is rhetoric.
It is one that by now is classic matuwid na daan, and one wonders if Roxas realizes that the tendency is for him to sound about as elitist as his friend PNoy.
“Traffic is a problem. From my point of view, it is a high-class problem. Why is it a high-class problem? Because traffic is a reflection of the 260,000 vehicle addition last year to the number of cars on the road. When I was in DTI, 60,000 vehicles a year was a big year. That was about 12 years ago. Today, 260,000 vehicles. Last year, 300,000 vehicles projected this year. <…> this is a high-class problem. This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity.
“Some of you were complaining, ‘Oh my gosh! It was so hard to… my plane was delayed. The airport was so slow’ this and that. Think about it. There were 50 million tickets, domestic tickets, that were sold last year in our country. Equivalent to half our population flew on a flight within the Philippines. That’s high-class problem. I mean, yes, we have to invest in our airports. Yes, we have to expand our terminals and so on and so forth but 50 million people, Filipinos ha, flew domestically point to point in our country. That one seems unnerving.” (12 August, Philsutech 62nd Annual National Convention, Cebu)
To have asserted that heavy traffic and inefficient airports are “high-class problems” because it means a population that can afford cars and travel, does nothing but reveal Roxas’s kaburgisan.
It is after all so removed from the reality of why we suffer unbelievable traffic and cramped airports with inefficient services. It limns over the fact of unplanned road repairs by the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH), which happen regardless of inconveniencing the populace.
Paano pwedeng mananalo si Mar?
I think it might be time for him to create his own identity. Start by Insisting that his resignation as DILG Secretary be accepted by PNoy. And then admit his mistakes as DOTC and DILG secretary. View matuwid na daan as something he can and must improve on, and not something that he will merely continue. Admit that the current matuwid na daan has disenfranchised many still, and has had its faults.
Reveal that he is in fact different from PNoy and that six years of him as president will mean a different kind of governance, one that listens to criticism, and one that does not believe its own spin and press releases. One that is not as shameless as the current matuwid na daan.
After all, if there’s anything we’ve learned the past five years with PNoy, it’s that corruption is the least of our problems. Roxas should start getting on that wagon.