MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III announced on Tuesday that his running mate former Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas has accepted his offer to be the next secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Saying he has full trust in Roxas, Aquino said he will become a senior member of the economic cluster.
Aquino said he asked Roxas as “friend and President” to take over the position that will be left by DOTC Secretary Jose de Jesus come June 30.
De Jesus is the first Cabinet secretary of the Aquino administration to resign from his post.
Aquino said he had another position in mind for Roxas, but was taken aback by the resignation of de Jesus.
“He understands the problem and he will be part of the solution," Aquino said. "He was measured many times and found not wanting.”
He noted Roxas is fit for the position, being a familiar face in the private sector.
The President said it would not be a good idea if he were the one to handle the DOTC portfolio, nor appoint another officer already handling an important Cabinet post.
Aquino said Roxas will remain an “adviser” on many things, seen by some as a move to placate the former senator who was supposedly offered the more influential presidential chief of staff position.
For his part, Roxas said he does not see the DOTC post as a demotion. He said he will be at the service of the President in whatever way the latter would want it.
Roxas only shrugged when asked if it was the so-called “Samar faction" that pushed for the offer. Roxas and other Liberal Party stalwarts, and technocrats are said to be in the "Balai" faction.
As an important member of the Aquino Cabinet, Roxas would be seeing rival Vice President Jejomar Binay often times, the latter also being the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.
Binay is one of the supposed heralds of the Samar faction.
“My parents brought me up to be a civilized person. I will extend my courtesy to anyone as a fellow worker,” Roxas merely said.
‘Trains and Boats and Planes’
Roxas will already have his hands full upon assuming the position.
During the press conference, he joked he already had a theme song upon waking up this morning. He even sang a few lines of Dionne Warwick’s “Trains and Boats and Planes”.
Aquino said Roxas is now tasked to come up with plans concerning the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, the expansion of the railway and airport systems, and the roll-on roll-off system (RORO), jump-starting of private-public partnership projects under the DOTC’s jurisdiction.
He also asked Roxas to fine-tune the domestic shipping industry. “It’s even more expensive to ship products locally…We are known for being ship builders, but our domestic industry has little left to be desired.”
Aquino also gave Roxas the free hand to choose his subordinates. Three undersecretaries and an assistant secretary also resigned following de Jesus’ resignation.
“You will surprise him with a certain job, and so it’s only right that be given the free hand to choose his subordinates. Nonetheless, if something happens, he is answerable to me,” he said.
Roxas said he will choose the right people for the vacated posts. “Delivery and performance is important to me.”
Asked if he is keen on keeping Land Transportation Office (LTO) head Virginia Torres, he only said: “I will look into it.”
Torres supposedly remains in the good graces of Aquino even after the brouhaha caused by a case filed by the LTO’s IT contractor Stradcom Corp.
Stradcom, which maintains the LTO’s database for motor vehicle registration and driver’s license holders, recently sued Torres for non-payment of its services. Torres is on 60-day leave to give way to an investigation into Stradcom's allegations.
Her comeback is allegedly the reason for de Jesus’ resignation, but the latter had already denied it.
Aquino himself was supportive of Torres by pointing out the weakness in Stradcom’s deliverables. “She will resume her duties, I think, on the 3rd week of the month.”