ROXAS WANTS TO RETAIN ROBREDO TO AID SPEAKERSHIP BID
Infighting in the stables of President Aquino erupted anew with the endorsement of Aquino himself of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson for a Cabinet slot when his term expires next year possibly to the post of Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), a prospect that the camp of Aquino “trouble shooter” Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas wants blocked.
Highly-placed sources from the House of Representatives said that Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, is extremely opposed to the plan of President Aquino to give Lacson a Cabinet post.
“The camp of Sec. Roxas is against Lacson because he is not their ally. They want to keep (Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse) Robredo in his post as the latter’s departure may jeopardize whatever plans that Roxas may have in mind for the coming elections. The post of Robredo is very strategic in terms of harmonizing relations with local governments and national police force,” the source said.
The same source said that while Aquino, LP chairman, wants Roxas to remain in his Cabinet, the secretary and former senator is reportedly eyeing the post of House Speaker in place of Feliciano Belmonte by running as congressman of Capiz in the 2013 elections.
“There are serious talks in Capiz about his comeback and challenge the speaker’s post of the next Congress. If Secretary Robredo will be replaced, the replacement must be their ally,” the source said.
But the source explained that the last say would be from Aquino who is allegedly weighing his options so as not to hurt leaders of the LP in case he appointed Lacson to a contested post.
“The President is weighing intelligently all his available options so as to ensure that his forces are consolidated and united. The last say will be the President’s. After all, it is his prerogative,” the source said.
Roxas has been locked in a bitter battle with Vice President Jejomar Binay since the past elections. Roxas protested Binay’s victory before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
In his recent trip to the United Kingdom and Northern Island, Aquino confirmed to the media that he was now eyeing Lacson and Sen. Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan as potential members of his Cabinet upon the expiration of their terms of office on June 2013.
But Aquino refused to elaborate on the assignments that Lacson and Pangilinan will most likely be getting, and made it appear that his premature announcement was meant to test the waters.
Lacson and Pangilinan are allies of Aquino and both two-term senators’ terms will expire by 2013. Lacson’s staff was part of the “Noybi” group that helped propel Aquino and Binay to victory.
Earlier, Lacson expressed openness to the possibility of accepting the post of secretary to replace Robredo if offered by the President.
Another post that is reportedly going to be vacated is the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
In a recent dialogue with Aquino, farmers’ groups, church leaders and other stakeholders of the agrarian reform sector expressed their dismay over what they claimed as the inability of the DAR, under the leadership of de los Reyes, to accomplish the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) by 2014.
Sources said that in the same dialogue, the multi-sectoral group had made known their desire to have delos Reyes replaced if the Aquino government were really serious in pursuing its goal of completing land distribution in the remaining years of Aquino’s presidency.
Also discussed during the said meeting, which took place in Malacanang last Thursday, was the failure of the DAR to install farmers in CARP-awarded land and the lack of additional budget of the agency for support services to farmers .
According to the same sources, the multi-sectoral group repeatedly warned the President that his administration’s commitment to genuine land reform would fail if Delos Reyes will continue to lead the agency.
The President, however remained non-committal on the demand of the group to replace de los Reyes but appeared to be visibly irked during the said meeting, sources said.
Several names have already been floated as possible replacement of de los Reyes, including former Akbayan Partylist Rep. Riza Hontiveros Baraquel and incumbent Akbayan Partylist Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, the sources said.
The old CARP law or Republic Act 6657 took effect during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent President. It was said to be the center piece program of the Cory presidency.
In 2009 RA 9700 was signed into law to extend the CARP, specifically the land distribution and acquisition aspects of the program, until 2014.
Meanwhile, de los Reyes, a lawyer by profession, first entered the agency as Undersecretary for legal affairs during the leadership of former DAR chief Hernani Braganza. He left the DAR when Braganza resigned from his post.
His appointment under the Aquino presidency was believed to have the backing of the powerful Ayala family, who are known allies of Aquino.