The trouble with Mar

Exclusive - By Raïssa Robles

Posted at Sep 02 2012 02:33 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2012 12:41 AM

Mar Roxas was far from his usual debonair and dapper self when he was presented at the presidential palace as the new Interior and Local Governments Secretary yesterday. In fact he looked unkempt and tired, in need of sleep and a hair comb.

I was intrigued to see him this way.

Mar Roxas was not his usual smiling dapper self (upper left photo) on the day he was appointed Interior and Local Governments Secretary – PHOTO collage by Raissa Robles

You see, I started tracking Mar‘s career in 1999 when Asiaweek Magazine asked me to pick out two of the Philippines’ rising political stars. One of those I picked was Mar Roxas. The other was Michael Defensor. Both had zoomed into the limelight as the Spice Boys who later played high-profile roles in the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada. The third Spice Boy was Migz Zubiri but I did not interview him because I was told to only pick out two highly-promising young politicians.

I chose Mar Roxas who came from the upper class and Michael Defensor who rose from the upper-middle class.

As their careers flourished, I was amused to see that Mar Roxas used the Asiaweek feature I wrote on him as some sort of endorsement. In his biographies online, you will note the sentence that – “In 1999, Roxas was named by the Asiaweek Magazine as “Political Leader of the New Millennium”. This was my profile on him.

Later, Mar Roxas and Michael Defensor chose divergent paths: Mike decided to keep his political wagon hitched to that of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo amid calls for her to resign after the “Hello Garci” scandal broke out in 2005; while Mar broke away from Arroyo.
Mar dazzled but….

When I interviewed Mar for Asiaweek 13 years ago, he dazzled me with his sharp wit, his mile-a-minute answers and his wide knowledge on all sorts of subjects.

I was pleased to learn he even cooked.

Then Asiaweek instructed me to ask Mar to pose for a “quirky” photo to be snapped by noted photographer Edwin Tuyay (now clicking away for Bloomberg and weddings). I told Mar about it and he volunteered to pose for the camera while cooking a meal in his family mansion in Cubao with his chef’s hat. “I’ll cook for you,” he said and named a date.

Relieved, I told Edwin about it. Then Mar phoned and said he wanted a different kind of photo because posing like a chef did not seem “dignified”. OK, I said and asked what he had in mind. We set another day for the photo shoot. Then he phoned again and canceled.

And then I told Edwin just to go ahead and shoot without me anytime because I still had other assignments to do.

This incident made me think that Mar Roxas could not make up his mind.

This perception of Mar Roxas was bolstered years later when a Filipino diplomat told me of that time when Mar Roxas was President Arroyo’s trade secretary. Mar was supposed to meet with his counterpart in a European country. Everything was set for the meeting, then he canceled at the last minute to the consternation of those who had made all the arrangements.

The same kind of vacillation is noticeable in his running for president. He doesn’t seem to want it as much as Jejomar Binay does. He doesn’t seem to have that raw hunger for power.

This attitude of Mar shows in my interview with him for Asiaweek. Sorry. I cannot for the moment find the printed version on the Time-CNN-Asiaweek website. I found my draft and I’m reprinting it below.