Wishing Mar success at the DILG
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-09-25
My past issues with Mar Roxas are on a professional level and nothing personal. We’ve been cordial to each other before and even after Jojo Binay defeated him in the 2010 vice presidential race.

Even the bad mouthing that were directed at me when I correctly predicted that Jojo Binay would win in 2010 — I do not associate those directly to Mar but to his mediocre lieutenants, the ones who allowed him to lose what looked like a won election. It seemed that these blabber mouths of Balay were looking for somebody to blame for their electoral defeat.

What I found alarming when the Balay loud mouths were cursing practically everybody after the election was that it could create a very dangerous rift between President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) and Vice President Jojo Binay. Nothing could be more destabilizing for P-Noy than to have a hostile vice president. Hostility between then President Cory Aquino and Vice President Doy Laurel encouraged the serious coup attempts of August 1987 and December 1989.

A coup with a willing vice president to take over the presidency lessens resistance because it follows the constitutional succession process. The US, a perennial power broker here, has always preferred that political ousters follow constitutional process. The Americans approved the ouster of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada in 2001 because it followed the constitutional succession.

We should all be grateful that no serious gap was created between P-Noy and VP Jojo Binay. The ties between the president and vice president were too long and too deep. To this day, the vice president never violated his promise to P-Noy that he will sleep well with Binay as his vice president. When his ratings were better than P-Noy’s, Binay would defer and say that his high ratings merely reflected P-Noy’s trust in him.

A sort of détente was created when both Binay and Mar were given their respective cabinet posts. However, the takeover of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) by Mar raises the alarm level among non-Liberal Party (LP) members of the administration coalition. Mar at DILG is seen as a carte blanche to whip local government executives into the LP coral.

DILG could be Mar’s ticket to glory or his Waterloo. Mar will need to overhaul his management style — suited to the executive suite — to one suited for a job that requires an on-the-ground, man-on-the-spot type of management. The oddity of the DILG post is that accomplishment is in the local government unit (LGU) development but the pitfall is in the PNP (Philippine National Police) aspect of the job.

Now that Mar Roxas has been confirmed as DILG secretary, it is to the interest of every Filipino to support him and help him to succeed. I would be the first to wish that Mar could make the necessary adjustments and be able to tackle the problems of jueteng (numbers game), kotong (extortion) and crime syndicates, including those dealing in drugs, car jacking and robberies, that are being operated by cops. Mar will be measured as head of the PNP with the way he solves these problems. The management style of a Rodrigo Duterte inspires confidence that these problems would be solved. By his own admission, Mar is no Jesse Robredo. He isn’t a Rudy Duterte either.

If Mar does what is most feared by non-LP politicians — use the department to improve LP odds in 2013 and 2016 — he could end up creating more enemies for P-Noy and becomes an administration liability. The DILG post is a good opportunity for Mar to make friends and influence people, but it isn’t a tool for coercing local government executives into joining the LP.

It’s in local government capability building where Mar’s talents are best applied. The problem is our media have the bad habit of focusing on the PNP aspect of the DILG and LGU development stories hardly get to page 1. If Mar could improve the worst local government units to their next higher level, that’s something he could capitalize on in 2016.

The local government unit is the frontline of economic development as well as the peace and order campaign. A Jesse Robredo in Naga proved what a good and dedicated mayor could do. Mar’s challenge is to promote the molding of more Jesse Robredos in all the other local government units, especially in the fourth to the sixth class municipalities. In 2010, Binay captured the public imagination with his “Ganito kami sa Makati (This is how we are in Makati)” campaign where the benefits of Makati citizens were showcased. If Mar can create a Makati story in every province, then he might be able to stir public interest in 2016.

The reality of the 2016 presidential battle is that if it becomes a Binay versus Mar fight, then Mar cannot really take full advantage of being P-Noy’s anointed because Binay was also a part of the P-Noy administration and basks in its success. Mar can only count on what he can personally offer voters — if he can make them believe that he’ll improve their lives.
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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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