I sometimes feel sorry for Mar Roxas, the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party and President Noynoy Aquino. If you ask me, he is really in a “no-win” situation —in more than one sense of that phrase.
It’s bad enough that Roxas is basically tied down to swearing allegiance to the philosophy, politics and programs of Aquino as the chosen future steward of the daang matuwid. It also basically means that Roxas is attacked—and justifiably so —for his oft-stated promise to continue all that his predecessor started, including, by force of immutable logic, all the things bungled by government during Aquino’s now-ending term.
At the same time, Roxas’ promise to ape everything that Aquino did precludes him from coming up with anything that strays from the Yellow path, even the good things that he dreams up on his own. When he does that – and again, with actual justification—Roxas lays himself open to this charge: “Why didn’t you think of that when you were in government?”
I was reminded of the difficult situation that Roxas constantly finds himself in when I heard him propose a solution to the traffic situation that I actually agree with. I’m talking about Roxas’ plan to cancel all existing franchises given to private bus companies and to bid out major routes to one company each per route, say, to operate buses exclusively on Edsa.
Under this system, which enlightened metropolises like Hong Kong use, the government will accept bids for only one company to ply the length of Edsa in exchange for very specific performance deliverables, like adhering to strict schedules and having a minimum number of buses to service commuters. The renewal of a firm’s franchise and even the expansion of its area will be contingent on the ratings given by government and passengers after a fixed, reasonable amount of time that represents the length of the franchise term.
The proposal has a lot of things going for it because, done correctly, it will not only stop the traffic-causing cutthroat competition among bus companies. It will also end the “boundary” system that forces competing firms to cause traffic jams by forcing their vehicles to stay too long in one bus stop in the first place.
Of course, anyone who gets behind this proposal can expect opposition from the bus companies. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea —even if does come from Roxas.
* * *
Because it’s Roxas who’s supporting the proposal, he deservedly gets flak for not pushing it when he was in a real position to do so, as secretary of transportation and communications. And this is not just the expected pushback from bus owners, who will quite naturally resist such an idea.
If Roxas really felt so strongly about the idea, he could have implemented it when he was appointed DoTC secretary as the second year in office of the Aquino administration was about to start. Instead, Roxas exacerbated the problem by allowing—through the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board—the continuation of the old policy of basically just giving bus franchises to anyone who asked for them.
In fact, by the time Roxas moved to the interior department, he had already set the stage for the near-total collapse of all manner of public transport systems through his chosen successor, the now infamous Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya. So, yes, if Roxas really had some bright ideas about improving transportation, he could have very well have tried them out when he was still the head of DoTC—not now, when he is a candidate.
Beyond coming up with brilliant ideas, Roxas should understand that he is the inheritor of a legacy that is no slouch in pitching “killer” programs that never leave the drawing board. To cite just one big program of this administration that never got off the ground, there’s the much-ballyhooed public-private partnership scheme that got investors all excited at the start of Aquino’s term—and which ended up only with a still-unfinished four-kilometer connector road linking Daang Hari to the South Luzon Expressway.
And every time Roxas attempts to improvise on daang matuwid, he even gets criticized by the Yellow faithful, who suspect that what Mar is saying when he does so is that Aquino may not really be “the best President the Philippines ever had,” as the true believers profess. So what’s a Yellow candidate to do except to just act like a dummy and a parrot?
Ultimately, of course, Roxas has no one to blame for his no-win situation except himself. In spite of his own elitist roots, he has tried so hard to act like an indentured slave of the Aquino family in order to secure the anointment that he so desperately sought.
Now that he’s received the Yellow baton, he can’t act like he’s his own man. Or at least he can’t while he hasn’t been elected President yet.
Of course, all of this means that Roxas’ campaign has been preordained to fail. And that’s something that immediately makes any feelings of sympathy I may have for him immediately evaporate.