Varnished

(Coffeebreak, December 15, 2015)

Mar Roxas has a simple game plan in his bid to become the next President of the Republic of the Philippines: varnish his image with artificial gloss and eliminate his rivals through a host of legal maneuvers.

We’ve already seen Roxas lift a sack of rice. Also garlic. He tried his hand at being a firefighter and a traffic aide under the rain. He played the role of an ice carver, and even posed on a block of ice lying on his side for photographers. He pedaled a pedicab. And the list is growing longer and longer.

But these are cheap gimmicks that only boomeranged on Roxas the moment pictures came out on social media. Much as he tried to mimic the acts of ordinary Filipinos who have to endure backbreaking work to survive, there is simply no way Roxas could pass for one. That he was born rich, and never had to wonder where his next meal would come from, was glaring from the onset of such efforts.

These last few days, Roxas was again under fire in social media.

This time, he came under heavy criticism for labeling himself as a “Wharton graduate” in his curriculum vitae. It was another deceitful claim to add luster to his name, which had struggled to rise past the 15% mark in survey after survey.

While it was not entirely false, it was a misrepresentation. That’s because “Wharton graduates” in the layman’s understanding refer to those who have obtained their MBAs from this prestigious school in the University of Pennsylvannia.

Roxas earned his undergraduate degree from Wharton-UPenn without distinction. It was an education that his wealthy status made possible for him. Of course, he had to study hard to complete the baccalaureate degree. However, it didn’t give him a distinction that MBAs from this college are accorded with respect and admiration.

Wharton alumni always accompany its name with the extension, “UPenn.” But in the case of Roxas, he merely put Wharton as his alma mater, giving the impression that he finished his MBA there.

The Wharton MBA program is considered one of the premier training grounds for corporate executives, almost at par with the Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Yale and Northwestern University have similar programs that are regarded as topnotch.

That’s why a Wharton MBA is given a premium when it appears on a young corporate upstart’s curriculum vitae. It is regarded as a badge of distinction. It is a symbol of an individual’s capability to analyze complex problems and provide leadership in any organization.

It is not to denigrate the undergraduate program at Wharton. But in the scheme of things, a holder of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton can never be placed in the same platform. In experience, training and leadership capability, the Wharton MBA will be two or three notches above a B.S. degree holder.

I can’t blame Roxas though for trying to sneak this through.

He needs to shellac his image as he enters the home stretch of the presidential race. The official campaign period for national candidates won’t kick off until February 9, 2016, but the contenders for the presidency have been barnstorming around the country for months now. And yet, Roxas remains a poor third or fourth in the surveys. His ratings have hit the ceiling at 15%.

Nothing seems to work for Roxas.

His endorser, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, had hoped Roxas’s numbers would rise after he raised the Liberal Party’s standard bearer last September 30. Since then, Roxas has tapped celebrity endorsements, including a music video featuring the talents of ABS-CBN. Roxas has also the backing of congressmen, governors and mayors.

Despite all these efforts to catapult Roxas to the front of the race, he struggles to rise above his current survey rating of only 15%. In a manner of speaking, he has hit the ceiling. He continues to eat the dust of Davao City mayor Digong Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and even the battle-scarred Vice President Jojo Binay.

Clearly, Roxas has a serious problem. How can he expect to become President when he can’t even come close enough to winning against his opponents? With less than one-fourth of the projected votes, he can’t even be regarded as a serious contender.

Of course there’s the elimination game ala “trip to Jerusalem” that the Liberal Party is playing. There’s a good chance Senator Grace Poe might be disqualified. Duterte, too, will face the same troubles. And knowing the LP’s determination to ram through its effort to win the Presidency for Roxas by hook or by crook, Duterte’s being swept aside from the race is not remote.

The scenario that’s being set should leave Roxas standing alone in the ring.

But wait, there’s still Binay. After a whole year of bashing and harassing the brown-skinned man from Makati City hasn’t been knocked down. In fact, Binay remains ahead of Roxas in the surveys — way ahead.

This presents a tough problem for Roxas: if the LP succeeds in eliminating Poe and Duterte, it can’t just get rid of Binay. That’s because the scenario calls for Binay being thrown in jail. And Binay enjoys immunity from suit. He can’t be charged criminally until after June 30, 2016.

In short, Binay’s name will remain a contender for the Presidency on May 16, 2016. He has 31% of the projected vote if elections are held today. If Poe and Duterte and DQ’d, I can bet most of their votes will go for Binay. It’s not because people don’t believe Binay is corrupt; but Filipinos believe Roxas will make a worse President than Mr. Aquino.

From a rock-bottom of 31%, Binay has the potential to rise above the 51% mark on election day to win majority of the votes cast. Roxas will be left eating more dust than he did when Binay beat him for the Vice Presidency in 2010.

It becomes clear that no matter how coats of shellac or varnish Roxas puts on his name, he still won’t be able to remove the people’s dislike for him. He can spray himself with all the best known deodorizers, but the rotten smell of a bad President simply won’t disappear.

Blood in his hands

There is a clear effort to steer away the blame from the Commander-in-Chief, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, over the bloody‪#‎MamasapanoClash‬ fiasco.
But we have to remember that it happened because Mr. Aquino broke all the rules. He embarked on this operation without the knowledge and participation of his national security team. He entrusted it to his suspended friend, Alan Purisima.
It was the President himself who disregarded the chain of command. He violated the Constitution and the law. It matters little what information was filtered to him on the day on the operation. He must take full responsibility for what happened. The blame must not just fall on Police Director Getulio Napeñas. It should not even fall on Purisima.
No matter how hard he tries to wash his hands, the blood will forever glisten with freshness in his hands.

The people’s wrath

The first time President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and his bosom friend Alan Purisima were under fire 26 years ago, they escaped with minor scratches.
Those were real bullets they had to face.
Now, it is the wrath of the people they are confronted with. Not as deadly as the first encounter, but it is unlikely the two friends will survive this one (although they will be live long enough to suffer the consequences).

Where the culpability lies

The objective of the Senate investigation is to find out who are responsible for the bloody fiasco at Mamasapano that resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos, 18 MILF rebels and several other civilians on January 25, 2015.
This clash also put the peace process with the MILF at grave risk, as it triggered a massive uproar against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now being tackled in Congress.
Unfortunately, the investigation after two long days of questions and answers is turning out to be a deliberate effort to cover up the culpability of the individual primarily culpable for this senseless loss of lives and putting the peace process in jeopardy.
That individual is no less than President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
Based on the testimonies that have come out so far, it is now clear the operation to take down Marwan and Usman was approved by the highest authority possible — the President. And calling the shots for the President was his bosom friend and buddy, suspended (now resigned) PNP director general Alan Purisima.
Despite efforts to water down the involvement of the President, it cannot be denied that the final briefing before the SAF operation on January 25 took place was held in the official residence of Mr. Aquino. As relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas stated, he came out of that final briefing with the belief he had the tacit approval of the President. And what other conclusion could be drawn from the President’s conduct and demeanor?
It was here that culpable violation of our laws took place. President Aquino tasked the suspended PNP director general to run the show for him. It broke the chain of command. To make matters worse, the President kept Secretary Mar Roxas and Secretary Voltaire Gazmin out of the loop. The OIC Chief of the PNP and AFP chief of staff were also kept in the dark.
We have to keep this in mind. This is the only issue that matters to most people. We want to know if the President was behind this, and the answer is a resounding “yes”. Quite expectedly, the allies of the President, including Purisima and Napeñas, are deflecting the issues that would pin him down.
Let’s make sure this truth is fully exposed. That’s the only way for justice to be exacted. The President has to be held accountable and responsible. He cannot hide from his blunder. The lives of so many people were sacrificed because of his incompetence and stupidity.

Can Mar Roxas bounce back after Pulse Asia survey?

Can Mar Roxas bounce back after Pulse Asia survey?

The most recent Pulse Asia survey was disheartening for supporters of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. Despite the immense resources placed at his disposal by the Aquino government, including opportunities to hog the political centerstage, Roxas managed to land in number five spot with just 6%. On the other hand, his nemesis, Vice President Jojo Binay, has taken undisputed number one with 40%. What is the problem?

In my column, “Coffeebreak”, I dissected the problem and came up with the conclusion that how both aspirants “connect” with the people spell the difference between victory and defeat. If we compare them in telecommunications language, Binay is LTE/4G while Roxas is an antiquated dial-up internet connection.