After keeping the public guessing for months, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday endorsed Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as his preferred successor.
Aquino made the announcement in an event called a "gathering of friends" at Club Filipino in San Juan City — the same place where Roxas announced in 2010 that he will set aside his presidential plans to give way to Aquino's candidacy.
"Doon na tayo sa siguradong itutuloy ang daang matuwid. Ang paniniwala ko po ang taong ito at walang iba kundi si Mar Roxas," Aquino said, prompting the crowd to chant "Roxas Na!" [Click here for full text of the speech.]
“Mga Boss, idinudulog ko po sa inyo ngayon: Sa akin pong opinyon, ang nagpakita na ng gilas at ng integridad, ang hinog at handang-handang magpatuloy ng Daang Matuwid: walang iba kundi si Mar Roxas,” he added.
Aquino, who was very upbeat throughout his speech, added that he is confident Roxas will continue his reform agenda.
"Siguradong may kakayahan, siguradong walang ibang boss kundi taumbayan, siguradong walang pinagkakautangan ng loob," he said of Roxas.
“Idiin po natin: Ang sariling pamilyang matagal nang negosyante, kinumbinsi niyang huwag makisali sa inisyatibang sinimulan niya bilang opisyal ng gobyerno. Dito po, at sa marami pang ibang halimbawa, klarong-klaro ang integridad ng isang Mar Roxas,” Aquino said.
“Sa karanasan ko po, alam kong kahit ano ang iatas kay Mar, hindi niya iniiwan hangga’t stable ang sitwasyon,” he added.
Improve Roxas' rating
Aquino also urged his supporters to help improve Roxas' ratings in presidential preference polls. The Interior Secretary has been trailing Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay in pre-election popularity surveys.
"Mababa man ang kanyang numero, ibig sabihin lamang nito na dapat nating paghusayan ang pagpapakilala sa kanya [Roxas]," the President said.
The venue was also the same place where Roxas announced in 2010 that he will set aside his presidential plans to give way to Aquino's candidacy.
The event was attended by members of the ruling Liberal Party, led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and several civil society organizations.
Also present were members of the President’s Cabinet, even those reportedly aligned with the so-called “Samar” faction such as Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
These officials supposedly did not support Roxas’ vice-presidential bid in 2010, supporting instead Binay, the eventual winner.
‘I can’t be friend to all’
Roxas’ endorsement came after he and the President met with Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, who are also considering seeking to run for higher office in 2016.
The four were not able to reach a consensus on who will run for what positions during the meeting.
In his speech, Aquino mentioned that while he failed to reach a consensus with Roxas, Poe and Escudero, they all agreed to continue his reform program.
“Sa akin pong paniniwala, itong tatlo, kung magkakasama-sama ay talagang matinding tambalan. Doon po, 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,” the President said.
Aquino, however, said he felt it was his obligation to pick his preferred successor.
“May ilan naman din pong nagsabi: Huwag na raw ako mag-endorso ng kandidato, at maging “friend to all” na lamang… Palagay ko po, ‘yung pagiging “friend to all,” malamang hindi rin tama ‘yan. Personal hong interes ‘yan, imbis na interes ng bansa,” the President said.
“Obligasyon kong siguruhing hindi masasayang ang lahat ng nasimulan. Pero siyempre po, noong sinasabi ng maraming tao sa akin ito, sa loob-loob ko noon po, iisa lang naman ang boto ko, gaya ng bawat Pilipino. Baka po mas tamang sabihin: Lahat tayo, may obligasyon dito,” he added.
Aquino also enjoined voters to support the candidate with experience in government. — ALG/KBK/RSJ, GMA News