They all think they don't need Mar Roxas

by Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Jul 23 2015 12:56 AM | Updated as of Jul 23 2015 08:56 AM

There are candidates that make people's hearts go faster and candidates that make people scream with hate. There are blah candidates. And then there is Mar Roxas.

Roxas is without doubt the choice of the"‘originals" of the Liberal Party. Given the merry go round of politics in this country, that simply means politicians who made the jump before the 2010 elections.

Roxas will no doubt be endorsed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, for reasons of “honor” -- he stepped aside in 2010 so that the son of former President Corazon Aquino could play white knight to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s wicked witch -- and survival post 2016.

It’s Mar. It’s Mar. It’s Mar. All the fat cats say so.

But after that first declarative statement, there is dead air and expressions that betray not-very-happy minds doing some frantic calculations.

After that first statement, the conversation is dominated by two questions.

“Who can carry Mar on his or her back?” is crucial for the LP’s kingmakers.

“Who wants to be Mar’s running-mate?” is the question that possible contenders have asked, in one way or another.

Mar is the flag bearer. In all the computations, his weighted average seems to be close to zero.

Mr. Aquino commands residual loyalty. Butch Abad, budget secretary, is the fairy who waves the pork wand – and has sent a lot of it Mar’s way.

The LP wields a powerful machinery of patronage: the operational net of the conditional cash transfer program, the facilitators of bottom-up budgeting, all those contracts disbursed to “grassroots” groups professing to be the pure and the good.

You’d think those are very powerful weapons. Any other candidate would have politicians jostling each other to be running-mate.

The problem with the LP is, there is no viable senior party member of stature and popularity. Not Senate President Franklin Drilon. Not Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

That is why the President has invested so much time in the wooing of Sen. Grace Poe; it’s a wonder no one has come up with a meme.

Word is, he’s incensed that Poe doesn’t get it.

Noy asked for it! Nobody turns down Noy! If Noy needs it, everyone runs to get it!

Why doesn’t this woman get it?

Actually, she gets it. She gets that it is NOT Noy, not even the battered, bloodied Noy who’s running in 2016.

She gets that votes for her will not translate to votes for Mar. She gets that his supporters will blame the loss on her.

She also gets that a substantial number of 2010 Noy voters have turned sour on him, so much so that they would balk at a team-up with his chosen heir. She gets that it is her independence that is the intangible emotional link.

She gets that the best way of helping her friend, Noy, is to remain independent of Mar Roxas.

And she believes enough people are telling Noy, ‘tis so. Especially very close relatives who do not like Mar.

So the LP shops around. How about Vilma Santos?

The Batangas governor, despite the recent Commission on Audit (COA) ruling disallowing bonuses for provincial employees, is acknowledged as a competent and sometimes inspired executive.

Vilma can shower some pixie dust on Mar, that’s for sure. But she ain’t interested, according to husband, Sen. Ralph Recto.

There is one LP member who does galvanize the crowds. However, raucous laughter is the only answer one gets on asking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte if he’d consent to run with Roxas.

That’s three superstars and a pale shadow.

And then there’s Rep. Leni Robredo, the widow of Jesse Robredo, the well-loved predecessor of Mar at the DILG.

Robredo is from Bicol, a region that usually delivers for its sons and daughters (though even that could not help presidential contender Raul Roco). Her late husband’s name still carries a lot of magic.

But Robredo is a neophyte member of the House of Representatives. She would get the very same criticism hurled at Poe – lack of experience.

There are also memories of how her husband was treated with contempt by Mr. Aquino and the man he hand-picked to guard Jesse at the DILG, former undersecretary Rico Puno.

Even more important, say people close to the congresswoman, she is not hungry for the position that is a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Some see this funny situation as proof that the tools of patronage can only take one so far. Others, however, believe that Roxas’ war chest is so formidable that he and another shadow can run and win the contest hands down.

Let’s all settle down and enjoy the show.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.