Jojo A. Robles

Mar’s self-sabotage

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It’s an old joke but it still bears repeating: Warays were the first casualties when Typhoon Yolanda hit. Almost immediately after, Mar Roxas’ presidential ambitions also died.

 

I still believe that President Noynoy Aquino’s curt and insensitive “but you’re still alive, right?” quote, directed at a Tacloban businessman right after Yolanda hit, is this year’s winner of the Dubious Official Statements award. But his interior and local government secretary has come up with a strong runner-up finish, while this official was also gallivanting in stricken Tacloban City.

Yesterday, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez explained how politics, not relief and rehabilitation, was foremost on the minds of the officials of the national government who wanted to take over his typhoon-ravaged city. Roxas, the personal emissary of Aquino in Tacloban, made this perfectly clear to the mayor with these immortal words: “Remember, you are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.”

Now, we all know how Roxas has, like Aquino himself, been born into privilege and power. Mar’s grandfather and namesake was a former President and his father was a Senate president and leader of the Liberal Party; his mother is a member of the landed and wealthy Araneta clan that controls most of the Cubao commercial center.

But Roxas certainly had no right to rub Romualdez’ nose in the fact that he bears what a friend who worked for a previous administration once described as “the misfortunate of having the wrong surname.” Like his callous and empathy-challenged boss, Roxas just came across as the unfeeling representative of Imperial Manila, especially because what he wanted was for Romualdez to sign away his powers so that the DILG secretary could run things.

Why Roxas wanted Romualdez to sign a piece of paper showing that he was basically ceding his mandate to the secretary is, of course, another thing altogether. But it is consistent with this government’s obsession with legalities at a time when calamity is stalking the land – Romualdez was right not to have signed off on such a crazy, unnecessary document.

Many political observers believe that Roxas effectively killed his chances to become President in 2016 because of his bungling in Tacloban, where he and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had been camped out right before Yolanda made landfall. I’ve been told that Gazmin has been basically shut out of the Tacloban relief operation because of his incompetence and may be fired from the Cabinet itself by the end of the year.

Roxas, of course, will not suffer such an embarrassing fate, since Aquino believes that he owes Mar a lot because the latter “gave way” to him in 2010. But if Aquino has any sense left (and if he truly wants to help Roxas in 2016), he would stop relying on Roxas whenever he wants to get something done that the President himself should do.

Romualdez merely completed the unattractive portrait of Roxas that was already almost complete in Yolanda’s wake. If Roxas becomes even a viable presidential candidate three years from now, after all he’s done and not done, it will be nothing short of a political miracle.

Roxas committed political suicide in Tacloban after doing nothing but hurt his own chances (mostly by doing, yes, nothing) since joining the Aquino administration. And you can take that to any bank, even in Cubao.

* * *

They say that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will present itself as a nail. Now, a congressman-prosecutor in the successful impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, supposedly angry over the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision declaring Congress’ pork barrel funds unconstitutional, wants to deploy this tried and tested weapon for terrorizing the judiciary once again.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, a known Malacañang suck-up, just upped the ante on the administration’s moves to pressure the Supreme Court by calling for the impeachment of certain “despotic” justices whom he did not identify. “When I file it, I will make sure I have 99 [signatories in the House],” Umali, who became semi-famous for producing evidence in the Corona trial delivered to him by an anonymous “small lady,” bragged.

It is still unknown outside of the mind of Umali himself if the palace-friendly majority in the House is actually backing the Mindoro congressman’s new quest. But I’ll go out on a limb here and wager that Umali is not really fighting to restore the Priority Development Assistance Fund, as Congress’ pork is known, but is actually Malacañang’s advance scout in the bid to get the high court to uphold the more controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, the pork-like invention of this administration.

It certainly makes no sense for Congress to impeach justices whom the congressmen blame for losing their pork, since that would certainly not lead to a reversal of a decision. Of course, the way Congress (the Senate, especially) has been acting recently, I wouldn’t put anything past our honorable legislators.

No, Umali is not really after the restoration of pork through impeachment, something even a congressman must know is a lost cause. Umali is just part of Malacañang’s full-court press on the Supreme Court – playing the role of the obnoxious, impeachment-happy congressman – to get the tribunal to uphold DAP.

 

And you can take that to the bank, as well.

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