MANILA - In what may be a prelude to a possible endorsement, President Benigno Aquino III on Monday generously praised the Liberal Party presumptive standard-bearer, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the opening of the third regular session of the 16th Congress.
"Kay Secretary Mar Roxas: Nasa loob o labas ka man ng gobyerno, hindi tumigil sa panlalait sa iyo ang mga kalaban ng Daang Matuwid. Dahil nga may bilang ka, dahil talagang may ibubuga ka, nagpupursigi silang ibagsak ka. Palibhasa hindi nila kayang iangat ang sarili, kaya pilit ka nilang ibinababa. Sa patuloy nilang paninira, ang mga kritiko mo na rin ang nagpapatunay na takot sila sa angkin mong integridad, husay, at kahandaan sa trabaho. Mar, pinatutunayan mo: You can’t put a good man down. Tulad ng pagtitiwala ng nanay at tatay ko, magtiwala kang alam ng taumbayan kung sino ang tunay na inuuna ang bayan, bago ang sarili," Aquino said in his speech.
As expected, President Aquino's final SONA was filled with a litany of his administration's achievements, as he praised Cabinet members and agencies for their contributions.
One Cabinet member stood out, the interior secretary.
While Roxas was not directly mentioned, the widescreens showed him during the times the President talked about the achievements of the PNP, which is supervised by Roxas.
The DILG chief serves as the chairman of the National Police Commission.
However, there was no mention of the Mamasapano incident, wherein the deaths of the SAF 44 dealt the administration its biggest political black eye.
Instead, Aquino talked about the new equipment given by the PNP to policemen.
Aquino said each policeman now has a service pistol, 2,523 patrol jeeps will be bought, and more than 300 vehicles have been distributed already.
He said more than 163,000 alleged criminal elements have been arrested under the Lambat-Sibat program and more than 1,000 gangs have been neutralized.
“Sa kapulisan naman, sa unang pagkakataon sa ating kasaysayan, ang bawat pulis, may sarili nang baril. Para naman lalong malinang ang kakayahang mag-'shoot, scoot, and communicate' ng ating kapulisan, naipamahagi na ang unang 302 patrol jeeps, na bahagi ng kabuuang 2,523 na pino-procure na natin. Ipinamahagi na rin ang 179 sa 577 na bagong utility vehicles. Naipagkaloob na rin natin ang 12,399 na handheld radios. Nagpo-procure na rin tayo ng 30,136 na long firearms, 3,328 investigative kits, at dagdag pa ring 16,867 na radyo,” Aquino said.
“Sa loob ng ating termino, halos 163,000 na wanted na ang nahuli ng PNP; higit 1,000 na gang naman po ang na-neutralize,” Aquino added.
Every time Roxas was shown onscreen, there was cheering from audience.
Roxas, interviewed after the speech, acknowledged the President's words.
He said that if he is entrusted with a responsibility, he won't just "dribble it, but aim for a slam dunk."
LP Secretary General Mel Senen Sarmiento also said Aquino practically endorsed Roxas in his speech. "It is evident that Secretary Mar Roxas possesses the qualities that President Aquino is looking for in the next president: integrity and experience. This is why I believe that Secretary Mar is the right person to endorse. There is no one else who has shown the ability to put the country above self."
Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas, meanwhile, agreed with Aquino's emphasis on the continuation of “Daang Matuwid.”
"I believe the President said that, if we continue along Daang Matuwid, the Philippines can become a first world country within one generation. His message is clear. Let us not allow our country to turn back and plunge once again into darkness. Instead, let us continue the fight and make the choices that will allow future generations to enjoy a more peaceful, progressive, and inclusive Philippines," Treñas said.