By Chit Estella
March 8, 2010
THERE is a saying that goes: If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.
If Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II had told God about his plans, he must have made Him laugh.
Roxas apparently wanted to join the world of business and finance. Born on May 13, 1957, he was schooled in the tradition of the Filipino elite. His elementary and high school years were spent at the Ateneo. In college, he took up economics at the WhartonSchool, University of Pennsylvania.
Predictably, he joined corporations where he served in various capacities: as president and director of Northstar Capital Inc. and Atok Big Wedge Mining Co., director of Kauswagan Development Corp. and Myapo Prawn Farm Corp., and vice president of Progressive Development Corp.
Roxas was working as an investment banker when, in 1992, his brother Gerardo Jr. died from a lingering illness. Gerardo Jr. was the representative of the first district of Capiz, a position held by their father Gerardo for eight years before the latter became senator and by their grandfather Manuel who went on to become president.
With Gerardo Jr.’s death, the family tradition in politics was left for Roxas to continue. Returning to the Philippines, he picked up in 1992 where his brother left off. For the next nine years, Roxas represented the first district of Capiz in the House of Representatives.
His business experience, however, led him to a position in government that was right up his alley. In 2001, he was appointed secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, a position he held for three years until he was elected senator.
While in the House and Senate, Roxas initiated or supported various pieces of legislation, some of which were controversial. One was a resolution urging President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to grant pardon “at an appropriate time” to former President Joseph Estrada who was convicted of plunder. In filing Senate Resolution No. 135, Roxas said the government needed to put a closure to one of the most divisive issues that was keeping the country from solving problems like poverty.
Another was Roxas’s support for the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement which was strongly criticized by certain sectors for the provisions that were allegedly disadvantageous to the Philippines. Aware of the political repercussions that support for the JPEPA could bring him, Roxas said, “Ngayon man o sa 2010, dapat isaalang-alang kung ano ang tama para sa bayan. Handa akong harapin ang anumang puna tungkol sa isyu na ito (Now or in 2010, we should think of what is good for the country. I am ready to face the criticisms that may come my way because of this issue).”
He explained that the Philippines could not afford to remain in the backwaters of global trade and that JPEPA was one way of keeping the country within the economic “radar” of highly developed countries like Japan. Roxas’s subsequent partner in the presidential campaign, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, however, opposed the agreement.
But like Aquino, Roxas also voted against the Malacanang-sponsored Human Security Act of 2007, saying it posed a threat to civil liberties.
He sponsored various bills that became law, such as Republic Act No. 7880 which sought to ensure the fair distribution of the education capital budget among all provinces; RA 8748 which directly allocated to the municipality or city 2 percent of the gross tax collected from the establishments operating in the ecozone and required compensation for persons to be displaced by publicly owned ecozones; and other measures that were aimed at the economic life of Filipinos.
In 2009, backed up by his name and his achievements, Roxas declared his intention to seek the country’s presidency under the Liberal Party, the political organization that his grandfather founded. His plan was not to be. Late that year, former President Corazon Aquino died, stirring up a storm of affection for the democracy icon that people seemed to have forgotten after EDSA 1. The outpouring of grief ignited a longing for a leadership that, compared to the others that followed it, kept itself away from scandal and corruption.
But such memories of a bygone administration could only be harnessed by the LP if it tapped someone who could serve as a constant reminder of the revered president. That person was Noynoy Aquino.
Not long after the burial of Mrs. Aquino, a disappointed Roxas announced his decision to give up his quest for the presidency and support the candidacy of Aquino instead. Roxas later admitted that pragmatism played a role in his move to step down. But the gesture also spoke of grace and even leadership as he said that only a party that was united behind a strong candidate could hope for victory over the present administration. He, the weaker candidate, waited for an offer from Aquino to be his vice presidential running mate. When the latter did so, Roxas accepted.
That was about half a year ago. Today, Aquino—whose popularity rating used to be double that of his nearest rival—finds himself facing an increasingly strong challenge from arch-opponent Sen. Manuel Villar. Six months are proving too long even for the luster of a departed beloved president to continue casting its spell.
But for Roxas, who had seen his initial plan of seeking the nation’s highest office go awry, the reverse is happening. In various surveys among vice presidential candidates, he has been consistently leading. This early, there is something in the air for this previous laggard of a candidate, something that no other contender in both the presidential and vice presidential contests can lay a claim to: the unmistakable scent of victory.
From Vera Files,