September 1, 2009 · Posted in: General

Mar Roxas does a Doy

(Text by Jaemark Tordecilla. Video by Ed Lingao.)

“Today I am announcing my support for the candidacy of Noynoy Aquino for president for 2010.”

With those words, Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II effectively announced the end of his bid for the presidency, throwing his backing behind Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Roxas, who also heads the Liberal Party, said that he made the decision in order to spare the party from a “potentially divisive process.” He cited the growing public clamor for Aquino to enter the 2010 presidential race since the death of the former President Corazon Aquino, Noynoy’s mother, last August 1.

Roxas framed his decision as a personal sacrifice – political analysts have noted that his decision to run for president has been made for years. He already had the support of party leaders such as former Senate President Jovito Salonga, who had previously called on Sen. Aquino to run as Roxas’ vice-president.

To be sure, Roxas’ move is a financial sacrifice. Shortly after announcing his bid for the presidency, the country’s airwaves were filled with his series of infomercials reminiscent of evening telenovelas. One informercial featured Roxas, a member of the affluent Araneta clan, in a slum riding away in a pedicab. The ads, which aired on primetime television spots, presumably cost his campaign millions of pesos.

The advent of the Roxas campaign also featured his very public romance and subsequent engagement with broadcaster Korina Sanchez. The different details of their wedding plans leaked out little by little, which analysts pointed to as a way to maximize the publicity generated from the celebrity hookup for Roxas’ bid. A kiss between the couple usually highlighted provincial sorties for the Roxas campaign.

Sanchez, who had previously expressed her desire to become first lady, was seen visibly crying during Roxas’ announcement. Other members of Roxas’ family, including his mother Judy Araneta-Roxas, also got emotional during the event.

Roxas’ decision to step aside is reminiscent of the actions of former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel. Like Roxas, Laurel had been angling for the presidency and it seemed like he was finally going to get his opportunity when he was nominated by the United Democratic Opposition, a coalition of several parties, to run against the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap election.

Laurel, at the time the head of the Nacionalista Party, withdrew his candidacy to step aside for Mrs Aquino. Like Roxas, Laurel also cited the growing public clamor for the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s widow to throw her hat into the political ring – something that she, like her son, had been reluctant to do. Shortly thereafter, the Aquino-Laurel tandem was catapulted to power by the Edsa People Power revolution.

Sen. Aquino, who has yet to make a decision on whether to run for president next year, made an appearance but did not give a statement. Liberal Party director general Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon said that it was Roxas who reached out Sen. Aquino to break the ice and ask him about his plans; their conversations directly led to Roxas making his announcement today.

Quezon Rep. and LP member Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III clarified that without a decision from Sen. Aquino, the party was taking a leap of faith. LP campaign manager Florencio “Butch” Abad said that a press conference will be held tomorrow with Sen. Aquino giving a response to Roxas’ action. Various reports indicate that Sen. Aquino will announce his decision to run for president.

The two were seen driving away in an SUV together shortly after Roxas made his announcement, underscoring Roxas’ message of unity. It was a nice image; the only way they could have topped that would be if they had driven away in a pedicab, but that would have been overkill.

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