BY ROGER M. BALANZA
President Benigno Aquino has apparently emerged as a campaigner for rivals of Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential derby.
In his speech in Rome, Aquino further alienated Filipino Overseas Workers (OFWs) from Roxas, the standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party who is already facing a potential ` boycott by Pinoy migrant workers.
Instead of tackling the plight of the overseas workers, Aquino, in the December 4 speech before about 500 OFWs at the Ergife Palace Hotel, campaigned for Roxas and skewered rivals of his former Interior secretary.
The campaign pitch did not sit well with the crowd that expected Aquino to speak on government policies on overseas workers, and drew varied reactions foremost of which is against Aquino’s apparent preference for politicking than the plight of the OFWs.
The Aquino stunt could further seal the political doom of Roxas, who had earlier been crucified by OFWs over the “Laglag-Bala” scandal in Philippine airports which also victimized overseas workers.
The militant group Migrante which is espousing rights of OFWs, had scored the Aquino government for the extortion by airport personnel who drop bullets into baggage of airplane passengers.
Roxas, also a former secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) which has over-all control of Philippine airports, defended the Aquino administration by saying that government should not be faulted if OFWs are caught with bullets in their luggage.
Migrante reacted strongly to the Roxas statement with a threat It would mobilize OFWs against Roxas’ presidential bid.
Roxas was unfazed by the threat saying he does not need the OFW vote to win the election. Of the 54 million voters registered for the 2016 national elections, about 2.4 million are OFWs who are allowed to participate in the election.
Simple logic tells us that if the OFWs are not for Roxas they could go to Duterte, Binay, Poe or Santiago.
By now, the Aquino campaign speech in Rome that shoved concerns of the OFWs to the sideline, could have already reverberated in the 180,000-strong Dilipino community in Italy and the millions of Pinoy overseas workers spread in many countries around the world and their relatives in the Philippines.
If Roxas earned a tsunami of condemnation from OFWs worldwide for saying he does not need their votes, we expect another crucifixion for the Aquino candidate, with OFWs reacting stronger this time coupling their anger with burial hymns for the Roxas presidential bid.
The over-all frustration at the Aquino speech was vocalized by Liza Bueno, among the OFWs who attended the event, a side event during Aquino’s state visit to the Vatican.
“I did not hear any agenda related to OFWs. I am not yet convinced that I should vote for Roxas,” she said in a report in Philippine Star.
As a leader, he should be fair, said Bueno referring to Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas and his verbal assaults against the rivals of his pet candidate.
In his speech, Aquino made a shallow attempt to hide his politicking by not naming Roxas or presidential candidates Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), independent candidate Senator Grace Poe and Senator Miriam Santiago.
“We dreamed and now our dreams came true. Are we going to hold back? We already have a companion who joined us and worked with us to transform our country, said Aquino clearly referring to Roxas.
“Why would we rely on those who only deliver promises? Aquino asked before dishing out verbal missiles at Roxas’ rivals.
No context, no plan, just criticism and half-baked promises, said Aquino of Poe. Poe has been leading in pre-poll surveys for presidential preference but his candidacy is imperiled by a disqualification case before the Commission on Election (Comelec) involving her questionable residency and citizenship.
He would kill many people if elected President, he blasted Duterte who is campaigning on an iron-fist anti-crime platform.
Aquino also said a candidate is accused of stealing people’s money alluding to Binay, who is facing corruption charges before the Ombudsman.
He also twitted Santiago who has been getting strong support in social media. “She is not aware that you cannot build roads or feed the hungry using only Facebook,” Aquino said.
Aquino’s caper that has drawn a critical chasm between the 2.4 million-strong OFWs and the Roxas presidential bid is the latest fumbling act that could further strengthen Roxas’ franchise over the bottom of poll surveys.
Roxas has consistenly dominated the cellar of all surveys by Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia.
SILENCE IS MY STYLE
Mar Roxas does not care if people misinterpret his silence as victims of Typhoon Yolanda celebrated the second anniversary of the devastating November 8, 2013 super typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in Eastern Visayas.
I can’t do anything if people does not accept silence as my own way of giving respect to the victims, said Roxas, who was also flogged by critics for boycotting events for the Yolanda tragedy.
Roxas as then Interior Secretary was in-charge of rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Yolanda that also rendered thousands homeless.
Roxas and President Benigno Aquino, two years after the tragedy, continue to get severe criticism from victims, Eastern Visayas political leaders and senators and congressmen including foreign aid donors, for allegedly mishandling the rehabilitation efforts.
Roxas, who has resigned his post to run as standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party in the 2016 elections, was a no show at the center of the celebration in Tacloban City in Leyte which suffered the most from Yolanda that also ripped though other Visayan islands.
Roxas, along with Aquino, skipped the ceremonies prepared for them by local leaders led by Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romuladez, who earlier slammed Roxas for mishandling his job as “Rehab czar.”
Aquino was reported to have opted to attend a wedding in Pasay City instead of responding to an invitation to attend the anniversary celebration.
Roxas was criticized for not commiserating with the grief of the victims by not giving a statement on the day of the commemoration.
Staying silent is my own way of giving respect, he said in a lame excuse to parry off the criticism.
He said he could not care if people would not accept his style of honoring the victims with silence.
“If they accept it, then it’s good. If they don’t, then I can’t do anything about it anymore,” said Roxas in a report in Kicker Daily.
Had Aquino and Roxas joined the Tacloban commemoration, they would have found themselves in an embarrassing situation of seeing protest rallies organized by victims assailing the slow flow of rehabilitation funds blamed on the government.
Roxas being skewered on the chopping block by critics over Yolanda is the second recent fatal assault on the LP presidential candidate already lagging poorly in pre-poll surveys behind front-runners Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and independent bet Senator Grace Poe.
Last week, Roxas stirred a hornets’ nest among Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) when he said he was unfazed by the threat of Migrante, the group espousing rights of the 2.3-million strong overseas workers community, to launch a campaign to scuttle his presidential bid.
The threat came as Roxas said OFWs are to blame for their arrest for bringing bullets at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), where many OFWs have fallen victims to the “lag-lag bala” syndicate. ROGER M. BALANZA
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