President Aquino raises the hand of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to the shower of confetti after Aquino endorsed Roxas for the presidential race at the Club Filipino in San Juan on Friday. Aquino cited Roxas' record and pointed to him as the best bet to continue the "Daang Matuwid" (Straight Path). Photo by Fernando G. Sepe, Jr. for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA (UPDATED) - President Benigno Aquino III on Friday finally endorsed Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas as his preferred successor for 2016.
In his message at the event dubbed "A Gathering of Friends" in Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan this morning, Aquino said there is no other person who can surely continue the reforms his administration has started but Roxas, whom he called the "man of the hour."
"Siguradong may kakayahan, siguradong walang ibang boss kundi ang taongbayan, siguradong walang ibang pinagkakautangan ng loob, siguradong walang ibang interes kundi ang bayan," Aquino said.
"Doon na po tayo sa siguradong itutuloy ang 'Daang Matuwid,' at ang paniniwala ko po ang taong ito walang iba kundi si Mar Roxas," he said, greeted by loud cheers from the crowd full of Liberal Party (LP) allies and supporters.
Aquino said in his speech that he talked to at least three persons, whom he thinks can continue the "straight path," about the upcoming 2016 presidential elections.
Aquino did not name names, but it is no secret that he also held meetings with Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, two possible candidates for higher office.
Poe has been leading in presidential preference surveys. She has repeatedly said she prefers her friend Escudero to be her running mate in case she decides to seek the country's top post.
"Sa akin pong paniniwala, itong tatlo kung magkakasama-sama ay talagang matinding tambalan. Sa ngayon ay hindi pa tayo nagtatagumpay. Nagkaunawaan po kami. Mukha namang iisa ang aming hangarin pero hindi eksaktong paraan ang nasasaisip para maabot ito," Aquino said.
"Tiwala akong mulat din kayo: Napakalaki ng nakataya para ipaubaya sa 'baka sakali.' Marahil may nag-isip baka yung iba kayang ituloy ang nasimulan natin, baka yung iba kayang panagutin ang mga tiwali, baka yung iba maituloy ang pag-angat ng ekonomiya at mapalawak ang serbisyong panlipunan, baka yung iba manatili sa tuwid na daan. Ang sa akin lang po: Bakit tayo magpapaakit sa 'baka' kung meron namang sigurado?"
'HINDI AKO LILIHIS SA DAANG MATUWID'
An emotional Roxas, accompanied by his mother Judy Araneta-Roxas, his wife Korina Sanchez, and his son, gratefully accepted the President's endorsement, vowing that he will never stray from "Daang Matuwid."
"Hinding-hindi ako lilihis sa 'Daang Matuwid.' Ibubuhos ko ang lahat, wala akong ititira para sa sarili ko. I will leave everything on the floor para sa labang ito," Roxas said in his acceptance speech.
"Ngayon buong katapatan, buong loob at buong paninindigan kong tinatanggap ang tawag ng 'Daang Matuwid,'" he added. "Ako si Mar Roxas, tinatanggap ko ang hamon ng ating mga boss, itutuloy, palalawakin, at ipaglalaban ang 'Daang Matuwid."
Roxas has been trailing behind in presidential preference surveys. But LP officials have said he is the most qualified to succeed Aquino, given his vast experience in government.
The President also showered Roxas with praise in his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, saying those who criticize the interior secretary are only afraid of his integrity and competence.
Roxas gave up his plans for the presidency in 2010 to give way to Aquino, after the death of former President Corazon Aquino generated a clamor for her only son to run for the country's top post.
Roxas instead ran as Aquino's running mate but lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Roxas will again face off with Binay, who has long declared his intention to seek the presidency under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), in next year's polls.
Friday's event, which coincided with the birthday of Roxas' mother, was attended by members of the LP and other political parties and allies, representatives from civil society and organizations, and national and local government officials.
FROM NINOY, CORY TO PNOY TO MAR
In their respective speeches, both Aquino and Roxas noted the significance the venue of the endorsement, Club Filipino, holds.
It was in Club Filipino where Aquino's late mother was sworn in as President in 1986, ending the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
It was also in the same place where Roxas announced his withdrawal from the 2010 presidential race and instead expressed his support for Aquino as the LP's standard bearer.
Roxas, grandson of former President Manuel Roxas and son of the late Senator Gerry Roxas, recalled in his speech the moment in 2009 when Aquino told him that they would have to set aside their personal interests for the country.
"Sabi mo sa akin noon hindi mo pwedeng talikuran ang panawagang ipagpatuloy ang laban ng iyong mga magulang," Roxas said, addressing Aquino.
Again turning emotional, the interior secretary said he feels the President is now passing on to him that responsibility. He vowed not to dishonor the names of Aquino and his parents.
"Sa pag-endorsong ito ay pakiramdam ko ay ipinapasa mo sa akin ngayon ang mga ipinaglaban nila," a teary-eyed Roxas said.
"Malaking karangalan po iyon para sa akin, Mr. President... At sumusumpa ako ngayon, hindi ko dudumihan ang pangalan nila at lalong hindi ko dudumihan ang pangalan po ninyo."
'HINDI KO SASAYANGIN ANG TIWALA'
Aquino credited Roxas for the growth of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country. "Dito po, at sa marami pang ibang halimbawa, klarong-klaro ang integridad ng isang Mar Roxas," he said.
The President also praised Roxas for continuously working hard despite criticisms from various sectors. He cited the flak the interior secretary received over his performance in relief and rehabilitation operations for victims of super typhoon "Yolanda" and his response to the Zamboanga siege in 2013.
"Kami po sa Liberal Party... kung mapapansin ninyo, laging 'tayo' ang tuon namin, di gaya ng ibang panay 'ako ang gumawa nito at ako ang gumawa niyan.' Marahil hindi rin mulat ang maraming tao sa mga nagawa at tunay na pagkatao ni Mar. Sadyang ganyan ang kapalaran ng mga nakatuon sa tunay na pagbabago, imbes na sa mga photo-op at paglalagay ng mukha at pangalan sa novelty items," Aquino said.
Roxas, in turn, also praised Aquino, saying he has shown what "selfless leadership" can achieve.
"Namuno po kayo sa pagsasabuhay ng mga paniniwala natin. Pinakita mo kung ano ang kaya nating marating gamit ang political will, ang paninindigan, ang pagkapit sa tama kahit gaano kalakas ang kalaban," he told Aquino.
Roxas said he is now ready to face the challenges of being the leader of the Filipino people.
"Hindi iba ang pangarap ko sa pangarap ng bawat Pilipino. I wish for the Filipino people only what I would wish for my self. After all, who are we if not our dreams?"
"Sa pag-endorsong ito ipinapasa mo (Aquino) ang pangarap at kalakasan ng bawat isa sa isandaang milyong Pilipino. Mga boss, hindi ko sasayangin ang tiwala ninyo," Roxas said.
While Aquino anointed Roxas as his chosen successor for 2016, the President also stressed the obligation of the Filipino people to ensure that the reforms he has started will be continued by the country's next leader.
"Iisa lang naman ang boto ko gaya ng bawat Pilipino. Baka po mas tamang sabihin lahat tayo may obligasyon dito," said Aquino.