Why Mar Roxas on DOTC is a politically astute move

Mar Roxas taking on the DOTC at face value seem to be a demotion of sorts.  After all, wasn’t this the guy just weeks ago being considered for Chief of Staff?   Ping de Jesus leaving may have opened up more doors than we could imagine.  The fall out of the Chief of Staff position, which diminishes Ochoa’s already lackluster stint at the Office of the Executive Secretary would have been a little dicey for the President.  At least in so far as his relationship with his closest political allies.  An appointment to the Department of Transportation for Roxas is a politically astute move.  What? Wouldn’t being the architect of Philippine progress wouldn’t be enough reason for voters to give him the Presidency in 2016?

Let me explain.

Aquino’s good governance program is essential to patching holes in the system.  This is his priority, as indicative of the first bills he has asked Congress to tackle first.  It is ministerial, unexciting work.  But it is the work that needs to be done.  The LEDAC23 bills for me, is an indication that good governance rank higher in the President’s priorities than say the reproductive health bill, or the freedom of information act.  And however we see what we want this government to do for us, the fact of the matter is, the Palace intends to fulfill its campaign promise of without corruption there would be no poor.

We’ve seen what has happened in the first quarter of 2011.  The economy slowed to 4.9 percent.  This, on account of government refusing to spend.  To be specific, the government refuses to spend money it doesn’t have.  In fact, the President has signaled that no new expenditure will be enacted without a corresponding revenue to balance it out.

This goes against the norm.

Typically, government spending is seen as encouraging economic growth.  We’ve seen nobel prize winning Krugman at the height of the last US recession pontificate that the US Government wasn’t spending enough.  Well, in the Philippines the question isn’t that the government shouldn’t spend enough, but that spending what it has been largely inefficient.  No bang for the buck.

One of the highlights of the Aquino plan is supposedly this public-private partnership project.  While Aquino’s good governance program is well and good, the nation needs— economic growth.  As we mentioned, government spending is essential to keeping the economy growing.    Mar Roxas going around the country building roads, trains, and sea ports isn’t good for a politician in search of a win in 2016?

One of the key drivers of former President Fidel Ramos’ success in 1992 was his stint as Defense Secretary.  The man was all over the place as Secretary of Defense.  He created relationships on the ground that when it came time to run for president this network help give him a win.

Something similar can happen for Mr. Roxas.

Building roads and trains and bridges will not only put his name on every newspaper and television if he does his job right, he will be the architect of progress.  If people could see an improvement in the way they travel by sea, by air, or by land, don’t you think they would notice?

Congressmen and Senators are elected all the time because they built school buildings and basketball courts.  Imagine, Roxas building roads and Ro-Ros.  The DOTC position, I argue is even better than the Chief of Staff position because it could show Roxas as the working secretary.  He’s the working politician doing stuff people need.

As a former investment banker, Mr. Roxas could understand the economic of each of these projects.  It gives him a leg up in what could work, and what wouldn’t.

And PPP done right?  With fewer corruption scandals only validates the President’s anti-corruption agenda.

Mainstream media gave the impression that the position of Chief of Staff was yanked from Roxas and gave him DOTC. That this is a win for the supposed faction backing Jejomar Binay within the Aquino administration.  If Roxas does his job right, this maybe his ticket to the Palace as President Aquino’s successor.

The DOTC job is the actualization of that old quotation, supposed curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Aquino giving DOTC to Roxas is even better than the Chief of Staff position.

If Mr. Roxas can execute, DOTC could be the best thing that happened to him.  IF.

 

Photo credit: Talakayan 2010, some rights reserved.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • J_ag

    PNoy the Absentee president. He will only be interacting with 3 cabinet men listed below and his executive secretary. No more full cabinet meetings…..It is a bit like the General Motors of Old with many formerly independent car companies all brought under one head with power being semi autonomous with the other car divisions.

    With the cabinet who will synthesize all of this for the entire executive department?

    “The Clusters are those on: (1) Good Governance and Anti-Corruption, headed by Mr. Aquino himself, with seven Cabinet members; (2) Human Development and Poverty Reduction headed by the social welfare secretary, with 12 members; (3) Economic Development headed by the finance secretary, with 10 members; (4) Security, Justice and Peace headed by the executive secretary, with six members; and (5) Climate Change and Mitigation headed by the environment and natural resources secretary, with 10 members.” R. Tiglao

    “The EO in effect excludes Vice President Jejomar Binay from Mr. Aquino’s core of leadership, as it does not mention the Office of the Vice President at all. Binay is even effectively demoted, since as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, he is a member of both the Poverty Reduction Cluster and the Climate Change and Mitigation Cluster. The fact that he is the second highest-ranking official of the land is ignored: he is chair of neither Cluster, with the social welfare secretary heading the Poverty Reduction Cluster and the environment secretary chairing the Climate Change Cluster. The Vice President is in effect being ordered under the EO to report to two department secretaries.” R. Tiglao

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/5978/aquino-breaks-up-his-cabinet

    Tiglao missed the fact that Binay is also part of the economic cluster as head of the HLURB

    It is clear that both Mar and Binay are out of the power loop. NEDA takes on an important position with large infra projects as all projects will have to be solicitied.

    • Cocoy

      J_ga,

      Personally, how the president does his job is his problem. I’m big fan for few meetings and more work. I honestly would rather have cabinet secretaries and their staff working on their departments than having them meet with the president as often as possible.

      There is also that thing called, the mobile phone, and email so you know so when the president needs a SitRep, it’s there. Saves the people gas money, and bloody hell traffic in manila just brings productivity to a standstill you know? It also gives the secretary’s staff more time to actually do the work than prepare a report for the secretary to report to the president.

      Not to defend Mr. Aquino’s leadership style, but it is pretty clear he isn’t a micromanager like Arroyo was. Let’s judge Aquino’s government for the results or lack there of, and not you know how he does his job.

      That said, Tiglao is trying to point out that the VP is out of the loop. The Constitution says the VP has no role except to be a spare tire and the sitting president is in no obligation to appoint him to a job. And being the President, he reserves the right to run his government the way he wishes. The VP’s role is a spare tire. Perhaps one of these days the nation can finally decide to elect the VP from the same party as the president, if only to be rid of intrigues like this or columnists like Tiglao trying to incite stories that obviously belong to the gossip columns. Isn’t there a saying, “Great men talk about ideas; Mediocre men talk about things; Small men talk about people”.

  • Cocoy

    Hi Doy,

    Truthfully, I don’t entirely disagree with Bromance. I mean, at this point, it could really go either way. Roxas’ success or failure really would depend on how well he executes. DOTC isn’t exactly a walk in the park, what with so much controversy attached to it. Aquino and Roxas are friends, but you are sending your friend to a tough assignment— tougher than the assignment of Chief of Staff.

    On Binay and the housing sector, i’m still iffy on how much it can help him. The housing portfolio doesn’t seem to do much for a candidate. de Castro held it for Arroyo, and his numbers didn’t improve. It certainly didn’t help improve his image as a bad spare tire in case Arroyo was ousted. So for me, de Castro sent to be housing chief was like being sent to the dark portion of the realm.

    In the news, we don’t read about Binay’s housing sector achievements. We hear his Macros recommendation for instance. We hear his Coconut Palace office. From strictly a performance view, could Binay be a good president? If Makati is his portfolio then yes, after 20 years Binay can be really proud of what he’s done with Makati. But will that be enough for voters in 2016?

    That said, I still have reservations with regard to Mr. Binay.

    I do agree with you on the point that reducing spending is surely going to have an effect on GDP. It will have economic repercussions, and I hope that the Government’s comm group is preparing the appropriate narrative to frame it.

    And I really hope that that increase in allocation for DepED, DSWD and DOTC really do go to projects. i mean the problem was never about borrowing funds per se, but borrowing funds but those funds aren’t exactly spent on the project.

    As for who to boost our industry sector, I think it could be DOTC. and “Could” is the operative word. If DOTC is taking the lead on Public Private Partnership and it is the lead agency to build infrastructure, massive infrastructure development could really project a Roxas who works.

    We really need better trains, better sea ports. If I was Roxas, I would also look into how South Korea built an internet network. It really helped the South Korean economy when they did that.

    • I also forgot to mention that the PNP received a big boost as well (notice that in both DOTC and PNP, PNoy appointed his close friends as assistant and undersecretaries?).

      With respect to industry, if you look at the strategic sectors being promoted by the Joint Foreign Chambers in the Philippines: mining, tourism, creative industries, BPO services, agribusiness, logistics and elaborate manufacturing, they all do need good infrastructure: sea, rail, air and virtual hubs are essential.

      It will be a bit tricky for Mar who has never worked in the utilities or transport sectors, but not insurmountable, given his knowledge of law and economics. Reviewing contracts might both help in the cause of GG, growth and service delivery, but that is a big ask. He’ll be running into very powerful groups who could become powerful enemies of his in the future.

      • Cocoy

        Precisely. Everything really would depend on how Roxas would execute. But I really think he’s being given an opportunity to prove himself here, and if he does, I hope voters can see that.

  • Hi Cocoy. This is an excellent couter-argument to the “Bromance” and the “Good Governance” or GG articles that I wrote, so even if you don’t name them specifically, I hope you don’t mind if I engage you in some sort of dialogue.

    You mentioned Aquino is following the GG agenda with his LEDAC bills. I agree. Apart from the bills of land registration (property rights) he also in his SONA called for anti-trust legislation (competition policy). This puts him squarely in the GG camp. Also he heads up the anti-corruption and transparency cluster of cabinet.

    As you correctly state, those attempts at GG are not sufficient for the nation to progress. You also mention the budget constraint problem faced. I would just like to take issue with your statement about them not spending money they don’t have. For me, that assumes Congress did not authorize spending, not true, or that debt markets would not lend to bridge our fiscal deficit, also not true.

    Also let me point out that in this year’s budget, we have actually reduced spending significantly. I’ve been dumbfounded by DBM’s published budget which shows our planned appropriations going from 1.5T in 2010 down to 0.9T! I’ve been operating on the notion that it grew nominally. This shows it has contracted severely. Some of it is due to debt renegotiation and the elections in 2010. Among the agencies who saw their budgets increase by a big margin despite this contraction are DepEd, DSWD, and DOTC. So perhaps your argument is right in that DOTC will be critical.

    You also mention that service delivery will be the salvation of Mar. Well yes and no to that one. Binay is also engaged in service delivery. So it might be a competition. Choosing between the one that gave you a road and one who gave you a house, wouldn’t you choose the latter if you were poor?

    And then finally there is the greater question as to who will now boost our industry sectors to produce jobs. If you were to ask who is more fit to be president, one who gave you a job vs one who gave you a house, I would say the former. So perhaps in his role as head of the economic cluster, Mar might have an advantage. More on this shortly…