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Now, here’s the beef: pre-shaded ballots for Leni

As the manual recount for the contested votes in Camarines Sur reached its third day yesterday (April 4, 2018), more evidence of the rampant cheating that took place in the May 9, 2016 elections have surfaced. This time, the revision committees that opened ballot boxes from the municipality of Baao, Camarines Sur discovered pre-shaded ballots — some torn in half indicating that these were excess or unused ballots — mixed with valid ballots. Aside from this, two clustered precinct ballot boxes were found wet, with the ballots badly damaged and the data contained no longer readable.

The pre-shading of ballots for President and Vice President — Mar Roxas for President and Leni Robredo for Vice President — is not exactly news. A former staff assistant for Mar Roxas accidentally mentioned to me that he delivered “ballots” to several tThe carpenterowns in Iloilo and Aklan a few days before election day. Of course, I didn’t press for details; I just pretended I didn’t catch it. What he did add was that mayoralty candidates in some towns complained when only one of the two got a share of the ballots. Certainly, these couldn’t be sample ballots. Why would such a chore be handled by a trusted aide, personally delivered? And now that there is evidence of pre-shaded ballots, what he told me now makes sense. The Liberal Party did distribute pre-shaded ballots to ensure a landslide victory for Mar and Leni in controlled areas.

This is getting to be more interesting, and revealing, of just how widespread the cheating that took place was.

The Liberal Party was really desperate to make Leni win, with Senator Franklin Drilon as number one among senatorial winners.

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None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

MRT fixes escalators, only for a few hours

What is it about the management of the MRT that it can’t even get fixed equipment to run for at least a few days?

On TV tonight, I watched a report on the triumphant boast of MRT management that it had repaired the escalators on its Quezon Ave station in Quezon City this morning.

However, the escalator worked only for a few hours. Then it conked out again.

This is indeed the trademark of the Aquino government as manifested through the DOTC and MRT, which Mar Roxas used to oversee: incompetence.

NO “ZONA LIBRE” FOR VICE GOVERNOR?

The controversy over the “zona libre” issue for the position of Vice Governor of Iloilo will put Mar Roxas in a no-win situation. It will cause the “unity ticket” that he and Franklin Drilon put together in Iloilo province to crumble before the campaign period for the presidency could even start.
Here’s what happened:
Four years ago, Mar Roxas recruited into the Liberal Party the political clans that wielded power in each of the province’s 1st and 3rd districts. He welcomed into the LP fold Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin Sr. In the process, Roxas dislodged the original LPs like the late Niel Tupas Sr., now vice governor Boboy Tupas, Gen. Gerry Flores and many more.
Rojas wanted the Iloilo vote to be solid for him in the 2016 presidential elections. It was a given that incumbent 2nd district Congressman Arcadio Gorriceta and 5th district Congressman Junjun Tupas would throw their support for him.
But that solid political front is about to disintegrate. Mar Roxas broke his word to the Garins that the race for vice governor would be “zona libre”, meaning the LP will consider the two candidates for the position, Junjun Tupas and Christine “Tintin” Garin, to be equals. The Garins didn’t expect Junjun to run, and thought Tintin had the position on a silver platter. To everybody’s surprise, Junjun filed his COC at the last minute.
The Garins brought the matter to Roxas as the LP standard bearer. According to the father and son Garins — Oca and Congressman Richard — Roxas assured them it was going to be “zona libre”. And that’s what the Garins told the people of Iloilo.
This claim was quickly disputed by Junjun. The Garins were lying, he said.
The controversy reached its peak when Roxas arrived in Iloilo City for the “Dinagyang” festival last Jan. 24. Pressed by media to comment on the issue, Roxas said there is no free zone: Junjun Tupas is the lone candidate recognized by the LP.
It is unlikely the Garins will accept this turn-around of Roxas just like that. It is a stab in the back for them. Oca Garin was heard over radio as saying that Roxas did not deserve to be President if he could break his word. That is short of saying Mar Roxas can kiss his ambition good-bye. The Garins will withdraw support from him at the last moment.
This situation will give Roxas a migraine. The last poll survey showed he could count on only 47% of the Iloilo vote. That’s bad by itself, because it means he could not build enough cushion to cover areas where he is expected to lose heavily. With the Garins junking him, Roxas can expect his voter base in Iloilo to precipitously drop as election day draws nearer.
Poor Mar. He is getting a dose of his own medicine.

Is Binay making a break-away?

Two national newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, reported on a Pulse Asia presidential survey conducted on December 4-11, 2015 showing that Vice President Jojo Binay has regained the lead among the contenders to become the next President of the Republic.

The survey was done nationwide with 1,800 respondents. It showed that if elections were held during the survey period, Binay would get 33% of the people’s vote.

Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were statistically tied at second place, with Duterte getting 23% and Poe, 21%.

The administration’s candidate, Mar Roxas, was fourth with 17%. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rounded up the field with 4% of the projected vote.

This survey result validates my blog post last week that Binay has hit rock bottom while Roxas has hit the ceiling. Binay can’t possibly sink lower than the 31% he previously obtained while Roxas would have a hard time rising above 15%. The 2% improvement he achieved isn’t going to make a difference as the race is about to formally start on February 9, 2016.

This makes the efforts of the administration to eliminate the leading contenders through disqualification futile. Even if Poe and Duterte are disqualified, Binay would remain in the race because he cannot be charged formally before the Sandiganbayan on account of his immunity from suit. This means the idea of dislodging Binay by locking him up in jail before the elections is wishful thinking.

Roxas cannot hope to attract the Poe and Duterte votes if and when these two are eliminated from the presidential derby. A minimum of 80% of the Poe and Duterte votes will shift to Binay. What we’re seeing is a national expression of disapproval for Roxas, and there’s no way it would change in the home stretch.

This is the fundamental mistake in the political strategy of the administration. Roxas could not win by destroying his rivals before the court of public opinion and through legal means. The Liberal Party was overpowered by its own arrogance and believing its own propaganda that the “matuwid na daan” was making people happy.

The only way for Roxas to win under the circumstances is change the rules to “pirdi-gana”, a term used in the Filipino game of “dama” where the losing side in the end will emerge as winner.

The way things are going, the PCOS would not even be able to salvage a victory for him, because when the lead is so big, cheating would only spark violence and unrest for the nation.

But of course we can never underestimate Roxas and the Liberal Party: They might sacrifice the nation for their own personal ambition and survival.

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.

‘Tough’ Mar Roxas?

After two days of deliberating his next move, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas has publicly announced he is ready to face Davao City mayor and rival candidate Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte to a slapping match.

Apparently, Roxas wants to appear, and sound, tough to level up to the stature of Duterte, who has drawn millions of admirers across the country for his street puncher image.

But it’s too late for Roxas to change his image as a soft-palmed scion of a wealthy family. If he was tough, he could have demonstrated that trait when he was DILG secretary and crushed criminal syndicates, including the known drug lords in Iloilo City.

Sorry, Mr. Roxas. Being tough isn’t just a matter of cheap talk. That image is drawn from a person’s character. You have always looked like a weakling. Even your politics is a life in the shadow of your mother, Mrs. Judy Araneta Roxas.