On Mar’s bad publicity

Before anything else, I would like to assure readers of this blog that I’m writing about our politicians without the support from any of them or any personal relation to them. While I confess that I’ve been supporting Mar Roxas, I will also say that I did so on my own volition. My personal circumstances would have seemed to naturally lead me to support other candidates. I was born in a town heavily devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. I was working in Manila when the storm made landfall but we still have close relatives from there so my opinion versus those who were actually there on November 8, 2014 should be treated with less credibility. I am here to convince based on the strength of my logic and not on the pathos of personal experience.

I also graduated in UP and in my early college years I was a student activist participating in demonstrations organized by a left-leaning organization. In one of those demonstrations I encountered Mar Roxas, who was speaking in rally along Ayala Avenue against the abuses of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration. I also met Cayetano in another rally at the Sandiganbayan, but I will discuss him in another article. With what I knew then,  I hated oligarchs and anything that would perpetuate their rule but Mar Roxas seemed different.

The only time I met the man again was inside his house in Cubao early this year.  I didn’t even bother getting a photo taken with him or shaking his hand. I was there to get campaign materials (which I would have willingly paid for as a donation to his campaign had they not been given for free to me by a friend). Yes, there was free food, and I was worried that the catering was too frivolous so I hesitated to partake of it at first but I noticed that the spaghetti was made from corned beef and served with softdrinks and Cheez Whiz sandwiches (though served by waiters). Yes that’s the kind of food they serve at the Balay, the mansion on the corner of P. Tuazon and EDSA. Music came from the tinkling of a piano player. Short to say, for the upper crust Mar Roxas, I think it was an economical albeit elegantly conducted affair. This small detail among other things convinced me that the man is decent.

esquire-mar-roxas-cover
It seems that whatever publicity you make for Mar would turn out bad eventually. He’s a walking lesson on the irony of politics.

My facebook feed is dominated by supporters of Grace Poe and Rody Duterte. The Grace Poe supporters are characters I used to know from my days as a student activist since Neri Colmenares, a candidate I still admire for his hardline on certain issues, is on her senatorial slate. That aside, how Neri Colmenares and the Philippine left reconcile their principles with bourgeois elections and with a candidate like Grace Poe who is supported by ruthless capitalists like Danding Cojuangco, et al. flusters me. The Duterte feed usually comes from my kababayans and from time to time, I do admire his stand on certain issues but in the long view, I find that I disagree with him on many other important issues like his human rights violations and opting to honor Ferdinand Marcos with a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as discussed in an earlier post.

The latest on my facebook feed is a repost of Lottie Sallarda’s comments about a comic book on Mar Roxas distributed in Cavite. My friend thus have these to ask:

None of the survivors would proclaim this guy as a hero…
1. He didn’t come prepared. No satellite phone?
2. Precious time was lost searching for this lost “hero” after the storm.
3. Ping Lacson was placed to help get the job done. Where was Mar then? Where is Ping now?
4. He said the donations have now been provided… Maybe he meant spent? For government offices? But not for victims? He says the money was already disbursed to the LGUs and agencies. So as a “leader”, he can’t be responsible for what happened next?

 Lottie Salarda's photo.
From Lottie Sallarda: I was there. Many survivors were there also. I was even present during the press conference where he said that there will be a meeting at 8:00am on November 8. Meaning, he NEVER knew that the storm will hit as early as 5am. Tapos ngayon HERO siya? Wala siyang alam. It will be between his story and our stories. To all Roxas supporters, I’m sorry but your Presidential candidate is insane.
….

In response to the facebook post of my friend above: I would like to say the following things. I didn’t post it as a reply to his post because I think provincialism has gotten the better of my friend and I don’t think I can convince him now or in the following months to swing his vote for Mar. That’s just not my style. This is an appeal to those who can still see things beyond the cloud of propaganda.

1. He didn’t come prepared. No satellite phone?

He had a satellite phone which he lent to Ted Failon so he can report about the events on national radio and TV. According to the account of Renato Reyes,  Bayan Secretary General, perennial contrabida to anyone in Malacanang and staunch critic of Roxas, the satellite phone was given to him by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the day of the landfall. According to Reyes as quoted in the article, “the AFP marched from Calbayog to give that satellite phone to Mar.” (translation mine) . I’m not sure if Reyes was actually in Leyte on November 8 to have witnessed the march of the soldiers or the satellite phone being given to Mar Roxas. He was in Tacloban on November 23 according to this post.  but if his critics said he had a satellite phone then he probably had it. At least, di ba?

2. Precious time was lost searching for this lost “hero” after the storm.

Mar Roxas was there before the the storm made land fall. According to some accounts he was staying in a hotel. What so wrong with that? Where do you expect him to be billeted? As I recall, there are no five star hotels in Tacloban so he must’ve been staying in a three star hotel which again is not only economical but decent for a government official. Makikitulog ba siya sa bahay mo?

There was also no precious time lost to search for Mar Roxas. By the time the storm had subsided he was already gathering round the troops and media and directing the initial response to the storm. He even rose up earlier than the Mayor of Tacloban whom he found “still shaking.” All of these are on public record and if one only bothered to Google what he was doing at that time, there wouldn’t be stupid questions like that running wild on facebook.

Now, where were the other presidential candidates? More than two weeks in a high-pressure situation is long enough, even soldiers in the trenches of World War I needed to be replaced every two weeks in the battlefield. Duterte arrived there on Day 4. His supporters tried to villify Roxas through a fake account of his stay there but the truth is, he went there, asked for coffee and made sure his efforts were shared on social media, and even on his own radio show. That’s why we know he was there. Both Duterte and Roxas did their jobs and laid their life on the line during those trying times, so in fairness, let’s just thank both for actually simply being there and helping out.

3. Ping Lacson was placed to help get the job done. Where was Mar then? Where is Ping now?

Ping Lacson was a rehabilitation czar for more than a year until he called it quits. He is accusing local officials for deliberately delaying much needed help for the victims so they can pin the blame on Malacañang. This serious accusation needs to addressed by the local officials concerned.

Meanwhile, Mar Roxas was handing out cheques coursed through the national government for the LGUs to kickstart their own rehabilitation projects. A more sober Mayor Romualdez even apologized at this gesture but Mar thought he didn’t need to.

4. He said the donations have now been provided… Maybe he meant spent? For government offices? But not for victims? He says the money was already disbursed to the LGUs and agencies. So as a “leader”, he can’t be responsible for what happened next?

The national government could not possibly bypass LGUs without their express consent because this is not a dictatorship. Mar never said he was no longer responsible for the funds. In fact, he is the one being egged by the commission on Audit for this. As is common knowledge for those who have transacted with the government, accounting for the budget provided would mainly come for the agency who spent it. So, in fairness, lets say, the responsibility is shared. Lastly, let us look at other towns and cities, affected by Haiyan aside from Tacloban. In other towns in Samar, rehabilitation is well on its way.  Could it be that rehabilitation moves faster in towns where there is less politics? Even if only for good publicity, it would be to the President’s and the ruling party’s benefit reconstructions went smoothly. What have the other’s got to say about this?

Regarding that post by Lottie Sallarda, did she know the storm was going to hit at 5am? Did she know how strong and lasting the storm would be, because Mayor Romualdez did not even know what storm surge was up until the whole thing blew up in his face. Should we blame Mar Roxas or any other government officials who were helping despite enduring stressful days and nights, all the while taking bad publicity?

Lottie Sallarda, may have been there and she might have done good things but her record of goodwill is not under attack.

It was only right of Roxas to respond to his critics. I do think Mar Roxas is a bit insane for running for president. Yes, Mar is a good man and everyone can see that he is really trying hard to become closer to the people he is serving, at the expense of getting ridiculed for the most inane things such as eating noodles from a cup, lying down on block of ice, or falling off his motorcycle. If he has been accused of being too showbiz, it seemed like it was an attempt to reach out to people who understand showbiz more than politics and who will listen better to actors and actresses from their favorite telenovelas than from him. Taking things into perspective, this trying hard to be masa politico is formerly a Wall Street economist by profession, a privileged kid from birth, an Atenista and Ivy-league alum, grandson of a former President and son of a popular Senator (who fought the Marcos regime until his death). You can imagine how hard it must be for him to relate but the effort alone should be commendable.

This leads me to conclude that the comic book was more of an expression of guilt on Roxas side that he wasn’t able to do more. Roxas is open about his guilt over and his perceived lackluster performance during the relief operations for Yolanda and he isn’t claiming to be a hero. In fact, he is haunted by it, like all good men who risked their lives to help. Though the illustrations in the comic book did make him seem heroic, the word was never used to describe Mar Roxas. It is interesting to note that most of the images were illustrated from actual photos. It would probably make a good semiotic or visual culture study someday. If only badly informed critics on social media skimmed through the book, they would know that it wasn’t all about his performance in Typhoon Haiyan but about his motivations and long career of standing for what he thinks is right in his twenty-year career as a politician. It implores everyone of us to take a wider perspective of Mar’s career. No one else among those in the running was given such a long time in a place of power and accomplished so much for legislature and the economy or came out without a taint of corruption.

His personal circumstances and botched publicity campaign is an easy target for people who don’t have the attention span for in depth reading or the proper understanding that seeks out the context of a meme. My conclusion after weighing the pros and cons of running for president is that Mar is not out for the position for his own personal good. History has shown us that it is precisely in the types of Mar Roxas that we drew the heroes of the Propaganda Movement and the 1896 Revolution. Don’t you think Antonio Luna was the kind of misunderstood figure in history who didn’t have the mass appeal of a Rizal or an Aguinaldo, who didn’t quite fit in the Malolos Congress full of turncoats, Americanistas and demagogues. Don’t you think Antonio Luna was a victim of his own bad publicity? Up until a hundred years later someone made a movie out of him and now he’s everyone’s favorite hero? Puñeta!

You may say its too much to compare Roxas with Luna and I would be first to say that was not my primary point, but in the long view of history, we know that the sincere characters are not necessarily the most popular. #

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