Scouting Report: Mar Roxas

Manuel Araneta Roxas (MAR)

Born: May 13 1957, Taurus

Astrological Traits: Warm, loving, determined, inflexible

Wife: Korina Sanchez

Son: Paolo Gerardo Zaldarriaga Roxas

Origins: Distinguished, wealthy. Parents: Gerry Roxas and Judy Araneta. Grandfather: Pres. Manuel Roxas

Means of livelihood: A blind trust?

Past Employment: Investment banker; Congressman; Senator; DTI, DOTC, DILG Secretary

Current Employment: None

Hobbies: Golf, dating (pre-Korina)

Favorite saying: Daang Matuwid


The presidential race is the candidate’s to lose. On paper he is the most qualified. He has the lineage, education, looks, intelligence, integrity, and experience. He is heir to Pres. Aquino’s legacy.

The candidate topped the 2004 Senate race with 19 million votes, a record in Philippine national elections.

As an ex-banker and DTI Secretary, he understands how the economy works. Although President Gloria will dispute this he has been credited with spawning the BPO industry.

As first responder in Yolanda, he is now familiar with crisis management.

He has the formidable financial backing of the Liberal Party and Makati based business. He knows how not to run a national race.

He is essentially the incumbent with all its goodies: Local government network, insider status, Hello Garci.

His wife is alternately listed as a strength and a weakness.


The candidate went in six years from topping the Senate race with a record vote to losing the vice-presidency. Despite being anointed the Chosen One the candidate continues to lag in the Presidential polls. Why?

The answer has been debated ad nauseam. Some say his handlers became over confident. Others say he does not want it enough, that it is sufficient to be the most deserving to win.

It is universally agreed the candidate does not connect with the masses but this is hardly surprising: An ex-Wall Street investment banker cuddling snot-nosed babies? That is the definition of discomfort. In the candidate this sometimes translates, rightly or wrongly, to excessive self-awareness, perceived elitism and flippancy.

To counter the awkwardness, his handlers have photo-shopped him in any way they believe will sell. In the latest attempt at a make-over, the LP recently proudly announced it “engaged” a twenty something heart throb, Daniel Padilla, to endorse the candidate with the youth. With the  endless repackaging the candidate lost his identity and his warmth: Is he a respected technocrat or is he a cool dude, is he a wealthy public servant or a Mr. Palengke, is he a political poster boy or a man on a mission? His advisers became overly concerned with the optics not understanding plastic does not work.

People talk of his seeming indecisiveness, the so called Teka Teka syndrome. This may stem from skepticism, suspicion, caution, thoughtfulness or all of the above. He seemingly trusts few people, possibly a result of his closed circle.

The good news is the candidate’s weaknesses are self-induced and can presumably be corrected. The bad news, it is said, is his advisers do not like to listen and take criticism badly, that they are disconnected from the world outside the safe and comfortable cocoon of what is fittingly called the White House.


The candidate has all it takes to be President, even possibly a good one. He has proven once he can win big. He talks about having to run scared but maybe he needs to be really, really scared.

He needs to be at peace with himself. He is knowledgeable, honest, intelligent and personable. He should let these qualities shine and not devolve to who he is not, poor, shallow, cute. He must not be apologetic of his wealth. It is ok to be rich as long as you wear the mantle with grace and compassion. Donald Trump brags about his billions and voters love it. Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai telecoms tycoon, was voted into office. Mauricio Macri, a multi-millionaire, was just elected President of Argentina. Imelda Marcos always said Filipinos want their leader to look rich.

The candidate must define his own vision for the country and be passionate about it. He once said his vision of the Philippines is the Liberal Party’s vision, he was simply its messenger. He now proclaims he is the extension of PNoy’s Daang Matuwid. It is hard to become enamored with a leader with a second-hand dream. The public looks for original content.

Voters want a serious, strong and decisive leader who can unify the nation. For this a candidate must take risks recognizing that often an imperfect decision is the best there is. He must learn to trust and to listen, to be inclusive, to be mature, to stand on the shoulders of giants.

As the presumptive heir, the candidate must maximize the power of the incumbent. He must instill fear in his opponents and their supporters.

The entry of Mayor Duterte in the race is an opportunity. He will take away from the two leading presidentiables. Also, the more the players, the greater the scope to game the system.

It is said the difference between a good athlete and a winnable one is in his head. The candidate is a good candidate, can he be a winnable one? The answer is in his head.


The candidate is tied to the President at the hip. Any negative headlines on the Administration and PNoy will spillover to the candidate.

Otherwise the main threat to the candidate is the foot his team might put in his mouth. His dismissive comments on the Tanim Bala matter were not endearing and social media told him so. In politics intellectual brightness often needs to be dimmed.


Despite his poor numbers, the candidate is eminently winnable with a little help from his friends. For this  he might want to go back to the future, to return to the un-manicured, hopeful, shining star  19 million Filipinos once supported, the original self.

Scouting Reports

(The following are the scouting reports on the leading Presidential candidates. Any similarities between the profiled and the actual persons are possibly coincidental and imaginary. Readers voting based on the opinions expressed do so at their risk.)

Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Born: Nov. 11 1942,  Scorpio

Astrological traits: Resourceful, brave, stubborn, distrusting, secretive

Wife: Elenita Binay

Children: Nancy, Abigail, Junjun, Anne, JM, Red

Origins: Modest. Orphaned at age 9. Father librarian, mother teacher.

Means of livelihood: Property and investments too extensive for a SALN.

Past Employment: Human rights lawyer, Makati Mayor.

Current Employment: Vice-President

Hobbies: Campaigning, Boy Scouts

Favorite saying: It is all politically motivated.


The candidate wants the Presidency more than his opponents do (just as he wanted the Vice-Presidency more than anybody else did).

The candidate  is focused, hardworking, and good at what he does. He has great political intuition and understanding of the mass psyche. He is adept at wielding power. He is still politically well ensconced in Makati and has expanded his reach by placing his offspring in other branches of Government.

Makati is his power and financial base and symbolizes his political brand of free education, healthcare, birthday cakes and economic opportunity. He promises to export the Makati utopia nationwide to an unsuspecting audience desperate for  a Camelot.

The candidate is the real political deal. He is as present in the poor communities as he is in the wakes of the rich departed. He has built an impressive nationwide network of local government connections as well as an enviable financial net worth amassed ostensibly from his business acumen. His victory in the 2010 vice-presidential race against all predictions has cemented his reputation as an effective stealth operator who can bring home the bacon.

The candidate has strong ties to a coterie of Chinese and GMA period businessmen salivating at returning to the land of honey.

Until lately, the candidate was the presidential front-runner but continues to hold his own despite widespread allegations of corruption against him and his family. The electorate seemingly believes all politicians are corrupt, at least this candidate leaves something for them. He is a doer.

The candidate will not go away despite the accusations that will continue to be piled on him. He knows he and his family will be vulnerable once he loses his constitutional immunity. Like a wounded tiger, the man will do anything to become President.


The allegations of corruption are a problem.

His family dynasty adds fuel to the fire. There have also been missteps –unusual from a family not used to missteps- the last being Nancy’s SET vote to disqualify Grace Poe as President in a losing cause. If she had had a better sense of the likely outcome of the voting, Nancy should have sided with the majority, gaining sympathy with the public and the next potential President.

The candidate is said to have difficulty keeping political promises. He allegedly jilted Vice-Mayor Mercado in favor of his son. He reportedly did the same to Erap in the infamous Noy-Bi turnaround. These may have alienated potential supporters.


The candidate is a formidable force with a strong core of voters upon which he can build.

He could partner with key players for critical voting blocs. He can strike a deal with Bongbong Marcos for the northern vote by promising him to settle the latter’s cases once in office. In exchange for his endorsement, the candidate could promise Erap the release of Jinngoy. The other contenders cannot make such offers.

The candidate should encourage his leading opponents to go at each other. In a multi- cornered race, he can win with a plurality. He runs best as a dark horse. He just needs to stay close enough to the leader in the polls then pull away in the stretch.

The candidate can present the elections as a class warfare between the rich and the poor, leveraging his modest beginnings and the vast income disparities. He should promise a Daang Malapad as opposed to a Daang Matuwid.

The candidate should present himself as a decisive and experienced leader, a combination lacking in his two main opponents and (with integrity) much wanted by voters.

In short, the candidate needs to dictate the electoral conversation. He should divert the attacks of corruption and focus on the growing wealth inequality in this country. There are over 10 million unemployed and over 15 million under-employed which is fertile ground in a voting population of 55 million. If he can divide his two opponents while quietly consolidating key voting blocs he could well realize his dream.


The powers at be will exhaust legal, financial, political and electoral means to dismount the candidate. Although they have not fully taken hold, the accusations of corruption are gaining traction as evidenced by the dramatic slippage in his poll numbers. As May 10 approaches more allegations will surface since his opponents now have access to the Makati City Hall data.

This kiss of death may scare potential financial and political supporters. His inability to attract a Vice-Presidential nominee of any note was the first sign of this. The ouster of his son as Makati Mayor has removed an important power and financial platform.

The entry of Davao Mayor Duterte in the Presidential race will take votes from the candidate. Duterte has many of the candidate’s qualities – big city mayor, decisive, effective, strong – without the baggage.

A secondary threat is the possibility his two principal opponents will join forces should either of them run out of financial, political and/or legal steam. Such a tandem, not necessarily expressed in a formal President/VP tie-up, could prove insurmountable.


(Next week: Mar Roxas)

Presidential Debate: Closing Statements

MR: My fellow Filipinos, the coming elections are a referendum on the Aquino Administration.

Six years ago we as a nation asked ourselves whether we wanted an end to corruption, an end to the cabal of dishonest politicians, government officials and their favored business partners; and we said yes. We said yes to Daang Matuwid.

We impeached a Supreme Court Justice, incarcerated three Senators and filed charges against many high-ranking officials. We proved that corruption is the root cause of poverty. As a result, our economy grew by 6% per annum (the highest in ASEAN), the stock market rose by over 30%, we achieved for the first time an investment grade rating. We became the darling of the investment community.

In May 2016 we need to ask ourselves the same question: Do we want the same honest Government that brought us to where we are? If you answer yes I am the most qualified candidate to do this.

I offer experience. I have an MBA, served as Senator, then as Secretary of the DOTC and DTI. I am responsible for creating the call center industry. I was the first responder in Yolanda. Unlike one other candidate I will hit the ground running.

I offer integrity. Unlike one other candidate, there will be no overpriced parking buildings, ghost employees, provincial mansions with European gardens, no sudden unexplained wealth.

I will not have a family member in every branch of Government.

I will not have my Vice-President running the show.

Unlike one other candidate I have always been a Filipino.

I offer continuity, honesty and stability. If you believe these are what we need to secure our future, then please vote for me.

JB: Sec. Mar is running on the shirt-tails of the President’s so-called Daang Matuwid. Yet what is so great about their Daang Matuwid?

Mar’s “daang “ is narrow and elitist. It only accommodates a privileged few, his rich neighbors and friends. Did you know that 40% of the growth in our economy only benefitted 40 families?

In Mar’s Daang there are there are no sidewalks for the working Filipino. His “daang” is designed only for the cars of the wealthy, to bring him to his golf club. If Mar wants to talk statistics, here are some statistics: Today there are over 10 million unemployed and over 15 million Filipinos living below the poverty line.

In Mar’s “daang” there is no working MRT. In Mar’s “daang” there is only traffic.

Mar’s Daang Matuwid is designed to enrich the rich, destroy the middle class and impoverish the poor. This is why Mar refuses to endorse a cut in income taxes for the working Filipino. This is the continuity that Sec. Mar refers to, that he will proudly pursue in his Administration.

I was once poor but became rich through hard work. I want this to be the same for every Filipino. As President our “daang” will be wide, long, pedestrian friendly, environmentally sustainable and have a world-class parking building, just like Makati. Not only I but my whole family is working for a better Philippines.

GP: Many Filipinos are worse off today than they were 6 years ago. They worry about their future: Can they find good jobs without having to go overseas, can they ever own a home with spiraling real estate prices, can they take care of their parents with the growing cost of healthcare?

The rich in this country are getting richer, the middle class is vanishing and the poor are getting poorer. Urban life is becoming untenable –traffic, pollution, crime- and rural incomes are disappearing. Our cities and our country are a powder keg waiting to explode. Despite its so-called record economic performance, Daang Matuwid has done nothing to stem the growing wealth inequality in this country.

In our Administration, Chiz and I will adopt a bottom up approach to development. We will widen the economic base with education, jobs and healthcare as the pillars. The young should get the education they deserve, not the education they can afford. We will raise property taxes on the rich while lowering taxes for the average Filipino so they can save and invest for their old age.

We will establish an Agro-Industrial Program to spread the economy to the countryside. This will decongest our cities while enhancing our rural communities. This will bolster our food security. We will promote sustainable development.

We will create jobs by undertaking a massive infrastructure program and promoting tourism. This will be funded by partnerships with the private sector, savings on inefficiencies and leakages.

We will rebuild our civil service so being a public servant will be something to be proud and not something to be ashamed of. We will be ruthless in eliminating corruption and crime.

I am not rich now and I will not be rich when I leave office. I have no ties to business nor to a family dynasty. I only live for the Filipino.

Sec. Mar offers continuity, more of the same.

Vice-President Binay offers Makati and his family.

I offer hope, I offer change.

Presidential Debate: Pt III

Q: What should our Government do about China’s claims on our islands?

GP: Chiz and I will ask the U.S. Navy to nuke every Chinese vessel within 200 miles of the Spratleys. I am an ex-American so the State Department will listen to me. I am writing my Congressman right now.

MR: I have asked the International Court in the Hague to adjudicate this matter. But China is an important trading partner so we should carefully calibrate our response. As President I will form a consultative group to study the idea of establishing an independent commission that will review the recommendations of a Presidential Task Force on the possibility of a national referendum on the matter. If that does not provide the basis for an educated decision, I do not know what will.

JB: As President I will initiate bilateral talks with my China counterpart –President Xi, is it? – to resolve the issue. I realize I was unsuccessful four years ago when I went to Beijing to plead for the life of a Filipina drug mule; but this time it will be different. For one President Xi is a tall man so he will think I am on bended knees even if I am not. Two, I now have something different to offer: I will grant the 1.4 billion Chinese immediate Makati residency with free education, healthcare and an annual birthday cake. That is not something to scoff at.

Q: Do you agree with the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law?

GP: I love the people of Mindanao ever since they voted overwhelmingly for my Dad. Our Administration will support the BBL as long as they do the same for Chiz and I in 2016.

MR: The President and I crafted the proposal. It is premised on the right of every Filipino, Catholic or Muslim, young or old, gay or straight; to a place in the sun. The BBL grants our Muslim brothers quasi-sovereign status. They will be administratively, judicially and fiscally autonomous from Manila. This will allow them to arm themselves and eventually secede from the Philippines. So what is there not to like about the law other than it being possibly unconstitutional?

JB: I relate to the people of Mindanao in their aspiration for self-determination. Take Makati. We run it as if it was ours so why should not our Muslim brothers run Mindanao as if it was theirs?

Q: What roles will your life partners have in your Administration?

GP: I already have Chiz so my husband, Neil, will have no role in my Presidency. Besides, Neil is an American and so he is not constitutionally allowed to own property. This is your guarantee we will not steal when we are in Malacanang.

MR: Korina is and always has been a plain housewife. I expect Korina to devote herself to causes close to her heart like the plight of those with gender issues.

We are already rich which is your guarantee we will not steal when in office.

JB: When my term as Makati Mayor expired, my wife Elenita succeeded me. If you are good at something, the electorate will want more of the same. This is why Elenita ran, why JunJun ran, why Nancy ran, why Abigail ran, and why now my son-in-law is running.

Modesty aside, voters simply cannot have enough of the Binays. Some of us just have it, others don’t. For example, there are some in this room who pretend to be poor but nobody is buying it. On the other hand we pretend to be poor but people are buying it. What’s the difference? My only regret –and for which I apologize- is that there are not more of us to give to the Filipino people; but we are working on the third generation.

So if this does not tell you what will be the role of my family in my Administration and administrations to follow, I do not know what will.

Q:If President will you perpetuate a family dynasty?

GP: My husband and children are American citizens so they cannot run for office.

MR: Korina and I have no children and none are planned, so the issue is academic.

JB: Is that a trick question?

Q: Well that concludes the Q&A portion of this debate. Next week the candidates will give their closing remarks

Tanim Bala

It seemed a harmless enough scam, a way to make a little something for the holidays and to fund their children’s higher education.

Airport security personnel belonging to the Operations Transport Security (OTS) and/or the PNP-ABSEC group would plant a live bullet in hapless passengers’ luggage while rifling through their things. Under threat of a 6 year jail sentence, they would then extort monies from their victims anxious to catch their flight. This was fine until some passengers decided to blow the whistle which is when the proverbial stuff hit the fan.

It did not come at a propitious time for Malacanang which is to host the APEC Summit meeting a few weeks hence. Christmas travel is also around the corner so it seemed like a good idea to dispatch DOTC Secretary Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya to look into the matter.

For the record, Sec. Abaya has quite a resume: He is the great grandson of President Emilio Aguinaldo. He is a multidisciplinary graduate of UP, the Annapolis Naval Academy, Cornell University, and Ateneo Law School. He was a two time Congressman from Cavite. In short he generally fits the description of a balanced, educated and socially adept civil servant. It therefore came as somewhat of a surprise when, in a well publicized press conference, he inferred that after due scrutiny the Tanim Bala matter was, in Shakespearian terms, much ado about nothing or words to that effect: It was just a bunch of guys horsing around. The number of complaints represented only like 0.008% (and that was after rounding up to the nearest three decimal points) of the total NAIA traffic. So, really, why the fuss?

When asked to comment, Manila International Airport Gen. Manager, Jose Angel Honrado, said he had nothing to do with anything. The airport is manned by 22 government agencies –security, immigration, customs, etc.- none of which reports to him. His role, presumably, is simply to ensure none of these agencies bump into each other on their way to the latest scam or inefficiency. While not seemingly relevant, Mr. Honrado admitted he is the third cousin of the President although he is quick to say that is outside the fourth degree of consanguinity.

Sec. Abaya’s line of thinking has resonated well in certain quarters. Shortly after Sec. Abaya’s press con, the lawyers of the Ampatuan clan issued this statement: “ We are one with Sec. Abaya in his pronouncement that isolated instances of malfeasance, however frequent, should not be basis for making a mountain out of a molehill or a storm in a tea cup or whatever is the appropriate metaphor. In the case of our clients, the accusations against them of massacring some 200 odd civilians out on a daily stroll constitute less than 0.005% of peace-loving Filipinos who normally go on a stroll. As such it is a statistically insignificant number that does not even fall within the margin of error of 2-3% common in most poll samples. So, please, give us a break”.

In an unrelated development, the MILF High Command twittered the following: “ Indeed, the death of 44 Special Action Forces in Mamasapano should hardly constitute a headline. Thousands of soldiers have perished from our hands over the years so what is 44 more? Honestly, we need to get a perspective on things.”

One wonders whether the family of Emilio Aguinaldo should consider the following communique: “ From the film Heneral Luna and other historical sources, there have been insinuations President Emilio Aguinaldo had something to do with the murder of Filipino hero, General Antonio Luna. We do not happen to agree with this take on history. Be that as it may, the incident is only one in the vast number of patriotic Filipinos who perished in the Filipino-American war and should therefore not be cause for unsettlement nor, for that matter, the making of a film”.

But we digress. Returning to Sec. Abaya’s press conference, he surely misses the point that a crime is not measurable by its statistical significance. It is an absolute single event that deserves an absolute single punishment. Democracies rest on the bedrock of accountability, that a crime however small or isolated remains, well, a crime.

Moreover, the accountability extends to those whose responsibility is to oversee such criminals. So, yes, higher heads need to roll in this matter of Tanim-Bala even if such an occurrence would be, in the grander scheme of things, statistically insignificant.

Presidential Debate: PT II

Q: On corruption, on a scale of 1-10 how honest are you?

GP: Jahe naman to answer. For delicadeza can I ask the audience to answer na lang?

Q: Audience?

Audience: We rate Grace an 11. However this does not necessarily apply to the rest of her team.

GP: Thank you, audience, that means a lot to me.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

MR: Great question. You know the President and I own “Daan Matuwid”. Any use of the term or its foreign language equivalent without our express written consent is illegal and subject to prosecution. Kung walang korupt, walang mahirap, that is another of our copyrights.

So, yeah, I guess I am like a 10.

JB: I will not answer the question on grounds it will incriminate me.

Q: Guys, talk to me about the economy-

GP: Chiz and I – so ok, mostly Chiz- have prepared a 20 point platform that addresses the economy, jobs, global warming, housing, healthcare, education, tourism, traffic – did I forget anything? People have criticized our program as being too broad and vague but they would have said the same if it was narrow and specific; so we are going with broad and vague.

PNoy has done a good job at growing our economy but a poor one at distributing it fairly. In our Administration, Chiz and I will expand the middle class by cutting income taxes for the working Filipino, by encouraging small businesses, by supporting our farmers and by improving education and opportunities for the poor. We will increase property taxes and use the money for healthcare and infrastructure.

MR: The economy is actually my specialty. I have an MBA, was a successful investment banker, and headed the DTI and DOTC, so I know of what I speak. I created over 500,000 call center jobs. The BPO industry now employs more people than there are OFWs. Under our government the economy grew around 6%, the highest in ASEAN; received its first ever investment grade; the stock market is up over 30%, real estate is at an all time high, traffic is booming. Yeah, traffic is a good sign, it means people can now afford cars. Basta, kung ekonomiya ang usapan, I am your man.

JB: Mar, you are so funny. You talk about stocks, property and cars, things that only the rich people like you can afford. (Actually I am also rich, but never mind). Instead we should be talking about the poor which, incidentally, I once was. Unemployment and underemployment are higher today than in 2010, surveys say the poor feel poorer than ever before. So, Mr. Secretary, where is the progress?

Alam nyo po, wala akong MBA with all the fancy knowledge. Sa akin, simple lang: Makati residents have never been happier than under my family’s 30 year administration. They have a birthday cake once a year, P1,000 twice a year. They have free education and healthcare. We have the only world class municipal parking building in the country. As President, I will make the Philippines one big Makati.

Q: Let’s talk traffic-

GP: Traffic is only part of the bigger problem of urbanization. Traffic is not unique to us. Today cities comprise 0.5% of the world’s land mass yet are inhabited by 50% of its population. This has strained our physical infrastructure.

Traffic requires a short and a long term solution. In the short term Chiz and I will study and adopt the best practices of cities that have solved their traffic problems. But this is only a temporary measure.

For the long term, Chiz and I have a Plan, an agro-industrial program that will disperse economic activity around the country. The Plan will decongest the cities, stop the inward migration and encourage people to return to the provinces. We will grant fiscal incentives for businesses to relocate outside. We will promote agriculture to keep people in the farms –better farm to market roads, irrigation, micro-finance, storage, elimination of commodity cartels, agricultural price enhancements, anti-dumping protection. We will relocate non-essential government services to the outlying areas.

Our traffic is a problem of physics than can be solved by economics. In our Administration Chiz and I will immediately create a Department of Urban Planning and Renewal to look at the growing problems of our cities like traffic, land use, waste management, water and air pollution, affordable housing. (Audience applause).

MR: As President I will immediately appoint Grace Poe as Secretary of the Department of Urban Planning and Renewal.

JB: Makati is the model we should follow. Sure we have traffic but it is because everybody wants to come here: We are the cleanest, have the best malls and municipal parking building in the country. As President I will make the Philippines one big Makati. There will then be no traffic anywhere because people will be happy where they are.

(To be continued next week)