MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) - President Aquino on Friday appointed Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas as the new chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Roxas, 55, an economist and president of the Liberal Party (LP), will take over the position vacated by the late DILG chief Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash last August 18.
Speaking to reporters, Aquino said Roxas was on top of a short list of candidates as Robredo's replacement even before they had confirmed that he had died in the crash.
"When Secretary Robredo was missing, we had to entertain the possibility [of a replacement]. I told Mar that he was first on my shortlist in case we had to replace Jesse," the President said.
"Hindi naman pwedeng patagalin ang pagtakbo ng gobyerno. Kailangan siguraduhin natin yung functions na hindi nagawa ng naitalaga ay ipasa na kaagad sa isang tao na magpapatuloy sa magandang naumpisahan ni Jesse," he added.
Asked if Roxas' appointment was a political move in preparation for the 2013 and 2016 elections, Aquino said he appointed Roxas because he knows that he can do the job.
"If I appoint an alter ego that cant do the work, then I will have to do the work myself. I will have to appoint someone because I have full trust in him and it will lessen the number of things that i must pay attention to every day," he said.
Aquino also appointed Liberal Party colleague Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya as the new secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). Abaya is the secretary-general of the LP.
A Philippine Star report earlier quoted sources as saying the President wants Roxas to take over Robredo’s post because the DOTC chief has the capability and integrity to continue the reforms in the DILG.
Like Robredo, Roxas has never been involved in anomalies, sources told the newspaper.
“It’s easy to make money in DOTC,” one of the sources said.
They said Abaya was “like-minded” and could be trusted to carry out reforms.
“We need someone with integrity. Jun (Abaya) has the credentials, even on the technical aspect. Honest people who will push for reforms, (we need people) on the same page,” one of the sources said. Abaya is an engineer.
'It's the LP show now'
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, meanwhile, blasted Roxas' appointment as another display of partisan politics meant to favor the Liberal Party of President Aquino.
Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said Roxas' appointment gives the impression that the LP will be given undue advantage in the 2013 polls. He said Roxas should take a leave as LP president until after the elections.
“It seems the Liberal Party has gotten the upper hand on this one. It wants control of a department that has strategic value for the upcoming 2013 elections and eventually the 2016 elections. The partisan political motivation of Roxas’ appointment is too obvious to ignore," he said in a statement.
He added: “The so-called daang matuwid has been trumped anew by narrow, partisan politics. It’s the LP show now."
The DILG chief would have influence over the police and local government units, which could be a crucial advantage in swinging the votes for 2013.
It is the second Cabinet posting for Roxas under the Aquino administration and the third since he joined the executive branch under the Estrada administration as its trade and industry secretary in 2000.
Roxas gave up his presidential bid in 2009 and ran instead as running mate of then-Senator Noynoy Aquino. Aquino won but Roxas lost to former Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay in a close vice-presidential race. Roxas has a pending electoral protest against Binay.
Roxas is married to ABS-CBN TV Patrol co-anchor Korina Sanchez.