MANILA - While he supports the resignation of government officials running in the 2016 elections, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II justified yesterday his continued stay in office, saying he is not yet a declared candidate for the coming polls.
''That should be the case,'' Roxas said, referring to resignation. ''Anyone who has declared plans to run should do that.''
Roxas, who has not been endorsed by President Aquino as successor, remained evasive on his plans for the presidential race in 2016.
''The right time will come and when that time comes, you will know about it,'' he said in Filipino.
Roxas maintained that he was just doing his job as Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary, whose obligation is to ensure that basic services of the government are delivered to the people through daang matuwid.
While he evaded questions on his political plans, a fellow member of the Liberal Party, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, expressed support for Roxas’ running for president.
Erice said that in the Liberal Party, the members have no other choice for president but Roxas.
“Sec. Roxas has integrity, competence, experience, no bad record, the country’s in safe hands as he continues the gains of the Aquino administration,” Erice added.
When asked about the failure of Roxas to catch up in the popularity ratings, Erice said surveys shouldn’t be used as basis for selecting a candidate.
Erice expressed confidence that Roxas will declare his presidential candidacy immediately before or after the State of the Nation Address of President Aquino in July.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday that Cabinet members and other appointed government officials are not required to resign early if they are planning to run in the 2016 polls.
In an interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez noted these officials are “deemed resigned” once they file their certificates of candidacy (COCs).
“It’s de facto (you are) deemed resigned. Meaning you don’t have to resign, but you are automatically resigned,” he claimed when asked about calls by some legislators for Roxas to follow the example of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Binay had resigned earlier this week as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and as presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers.
Jimenez added the policy is provided for under the Omnibus Election Code.
The rule, however, does not apply to elected officials, whether they are seeking a higher or lower post than what they currently occupy.
“This is the reason there are senators who run for higher office, for president or whatever, and if they do not win, they will go back to the Senate. That is the rule,” he added.
Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas said it is too early for Roxas, the presumptive presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, to resign.
“Unlike other presidential hopefuls, Sec. Roxas has not yet declared his intention to run for any elective position and need not hand in his resignation,” he said.
Treñas, who belongs to the ruling party, made the statement in reaction to calls from his colleagues in Congress for Roxas and other presidential wannabes to give up their posts.
Another LP congressman, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, said Roxas has informed his partymates in a recent party meeting that he intends to give up his Cabinet job the moment he declares his presidential candidacy.
“He will resign before his opponents accuse him of taking advantage of his post and spending public funds to promote his candidacy,” he said.
Treñas said Roxas should continue doing his job.
“There are too many projects which are being implemented that requires the expertise of P-Noy’s trusted and reliable Cabinet men like Sec. Roxas. The election is still a year away and he has not even declared his intention to run for any position. I don’t think he needs to resign at this time,” he said.
Unlike other presidential wannabes and prospective candidates in next year’s elections, the local government secretary has not placed television advertisements or infomercials, he said.
He added that these prospective candidates should account for the tens of millions they have been spending on such TV plugs.
Reminder to Cabinet members
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Cabinet members should conduct themselves in a manner that would not be misconstrued as politicking by the bosses, the Filipino people.
“Cabinet secretaries and all other government officials are expected to abide by the norms of good governance and ethical conduct. This implies adherence to the election code and other related laws and conducting themselves in such a way that their actions will not be perceived as being tantamount to engaging in partisan politics,” Coloma said yesterday.
For the record, Coloma said no member of the Cabinet had formally declared intention to be a candidate in the 2016 elections.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said while they could understand that the campaign season seems to have started early for some, the Aquino administration “continues to focus on the mandate to serve our countrymen by focusing on people, health, education and infrastructure.”
In due time, Lacierda said the political campaign season would start but until such time, government would focus on governance.
Earlier, Roxas said he was refraining from answering questions related to the 2016 elections because he had no concrete plans and subscribed to “no talk, no mistake.”
But he welcomed the rise in his ranking in the recent presidential surveys and said he was touched by the trust that the people had given him.
Roxas said the trajectory was in the right direction a year before elections.
Coloma said the administration did not foresee any disruption in the delivery of services if some Cabinet members would resign to prepare for the polls.
Coloma also explained last May that they did not see the need for Cabinet members running in the 2016 elections to resign until after filing their certificates of candidacy in October.
President Aquino had said he was preparing for the exit of Cabinet secretaries who would either run for office in the 2016 polls or pursue other plans.
Other Cabinet members who are reportedly seeking elective posts include Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Joel Villanueva and presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization Francis Pangilinan.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman will not use her high visibility in relief operations during calamities to run for senator next year.
In a monthly press briefing at the DSWD yesterday, Soliman said she was not cut out to be a lawmaker, being more of a worker or action person.
“I’m not running for the Senate. I’m not running for any political position,” Soliman said when asked if she had plans for running in the national elections next year. – With Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica, Rainier Allan Ronda
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