PNS — From the way President Aquino describes the future job and functions of former Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas, defeated vice presidential candidate and his running mate in the presidential elections last year, Roxas will be Aquino’s chief presidential adviser, chief presidential investigator, chief presidential analyzer with powers over even the Executive Secretary and all other department heads.
Aquino yesterday stood by his decision to appoint Roxas, who was reelected Liberal Party (LP) president, as his chief trouble shooter, notwithstanding the criticisms and speculations aired by various quarters that the former senator might just invite more trouble for the administration.
From the looks of it, Roxas’ future functions as described by Aquino would be tantamount to that of a powerful Chief of Staff, but Aquino rejected the analogy, stressing that Roxas will not be given vast authority, contrary to the assumptions held by many.
Speaking to reporters at the Club Filipino where he was guest of honor in his political party’s 65th anniversary, Aquino said that Roxas’ position in the Palace would entail broad expertise in understanding various problems that are brought to his attention.
“They are assuming that he (Roxas) will have a lot of powers. But to a large degree, he will be tasked to…,” Aquino paused and appeared to have decided against blurting before the media the tasks for Roxas, saying instead that “if I were to conduct
the investigation myself, then he assists me on that in various fields. At the end of the day, it is I who decide the appropriate action at least for the executive department,” Aquino said.
No one pointed out to the chief executive that a president does not conduct investigations by himself.
He added: “That (being a Chief of Staff) is the way you are phrasing it but not necessarily…but (I need) somebody who comes in with the necessary expertise to understand the problem, who can digest the same problems so that I will have more time in actually operationalizing the solution, rather than go into their investigation,” he added.
Aquino said he needs someone like Roxas in his office to avoid the overlapping of functions by his department secretaries and to help Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. in his workload, especially on issues that are national in scope.
Perhaps without realizing it, Aquino virtually admitted that his executive secretary cannot hack the job, as he said that “a lot of times, I find myself, in effect, taking a somewhat coordinating role. At times, when ES (Ochoa) can no longer handle (his job), he passes it to me… Again, (in) identifying the problem (and) determining the correct solution, he (Roxas) will assist me on that aspect.”
The Chief Executive implied that with someone like Roxas around, the decision-making process would be easier on his part, especially when it comes to dealing with so many things at once, such as the the recent simultaneous escalation of toll rates, transportation fares and gas prices in which he and his economic managers spent 10 to 12 hours just identifying the problem.
Earlier, Aquino claimed that the price increases in toll rates, transport fares and gas prices are good for the Filipino people who will benefit from these increases.
“You know, if there is somebody else who can look into the concept (and) start collating the necessary information, then that speeds up the process and lessens the burden of the people… I think nobody will begrudge me if I will seek the assistance of people who have competencies to help me address the problems. I think I would be joking if I would consider myself a Superman who can do everything by himself—that will just unnecessarily delay something that the people have had to undergo,” Aquino explained.
Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time, Roxas said he is willing to render his services to Aquino in whatever capacity as he ignored the apprehensions raised by his critics that he might grab the government’s steering wheel from Aquino when he is already in power.
Critics have long argued that Roxas’ entry to the current administration would make him a de facto President given Aquino’s description of his future functions which the former senator vehemently denied.
“You (critics) have such a low regard for the President. I have high respect for President Noynoy and I also hold the Office of the President with high esteem. I also have a lengthy public track record. I think there is no anomaly that you can attach to my name and neither can you accuse me of abusing my authority. Like I said, I humbly accept any position—be it water boy or anything—I am willing to do everything for the success of his (Aquino’s) administration,” Roxas explained.
Roxas also belied insinuations that just because Aquino made him a senior adviser, his opinions are always being sought especially whenever the Chief Executive has to appoint somebody in government.
He also evaded questions whether his reelection as LP President, edging out House Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano ‘Sonny’ Belmonte who settled for the vice chairmanship post, would serve as a springboard for his political plans five and a half years from now.
The members of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives also yesterday called on Aquino to start living up to the challenges of the presidency and leave behind his laidback lifestyle.
In a press briefing, Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay accused Aquino of reneging on his promise to make the people his bosses, as the President is slowly gaining notoriety for reporting to office, no different from a tardy wage earner.
“The President must change his work ethic. Working 11 to 5 will not help solve problems of country,” said Magsaysay.
“If he only works longer working hours, even if he got Porsche nobody would care,” the solon added taking a dig at Aquino’s controversial sports car.
“And it’s not even the minority but the media that are questioning the Porsche.”
Magsaysay noted that successful governments rely mainly on the work style of the administration with the chief executive adopting the style of a workhorse.
“He (Aquino) should be a workhorse,” said Magsaysay. “People voted him into the presidency, he enjoys a high satisfaction rating and he’s only going to throw that away by not doing the job the way it should be done”
Lanao del Norte Rep. Aliah Dimaporo also lashed at Aquino for the worsening peace and order situation and the failure of the administration to address the situation.
“In these mounting problems of peace and order, the President himself must take a direct hand, rather than letting his alter egos fumble and fail first, so he can swoop in, cameras clicking, to seemingly save the day,” she said.
Before his next Porsche drive, Dimaporo added, Aquino should confer with the Department of Interior and Local Government and issue marching orders to effectively address resurgent crime and insufficient power.
“The buck stops with him, no one else,” said Dimaporo.
“It all boils down to the work style of the administration,” said Magsaysay. “The problem is, he is a reluctant president with still five and a-half years left in his term. He has to shape up now or else it will get worse.”
Magsaysay said Aquino should tighten the noose on the Philippine National Police (PNP). “The mere fact they see the President lax in terms of leadership trickles down to lowest levels,” she stressed.
But contributing to worsening problems, said the solons is the fact that Aquino abhors constructive criticisms
“We are sad that the President should start the year with a combative tone, accusing the opposition of wanting to rekindle the malicious practices of the past,” said Dimaporo. “President Aquino has declared, true to form, that he intends to heap all the blame upon his critics for whatever failures he will make this year. “
Minority Leader, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, for his part, said that contrary to Aquino’s claims, the minority does not criticize just for the sake of criticizing.
“If he needs relaxation we shouldn’t deny that but not at expense of putting forward insensitive attitude toward problems of country,” Lagman saidin reference to the excuse used by Aquino in acquiring his new sports car.
“It is the quite an extravagance to acquire such a vehicle in the face of distress, a gross insensitivity of yje president with respect to ailing economy,” he added.
“(And with his new sports car), I don’t think the President has unburdened a lot of the country’s problems.