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(UPDATE 4 - 6:24 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – Through the media's anonymous sources, the nation came to know early Friday morning about the purported appointment of Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to the plum post at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) even before Malacanang made an official announcement about it.
The next news about Roxas' appointment later in the day also did not officially come from the Palace. It was Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad who told reporters that Aquino had chosen Roxas, president of the ruling Liberal Party, as replacement of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and that Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, LP secretary-general, would replace Roxas as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Abad, also an LP stalwart, was already on television disclosing that there would be a 10 a.m. press conference at the Palace where the President would supposedly make an announcement about Roxas' appoinment.
“Secretary Abad thought he’s the Palace spokesman,” a Malacanang official, who requested anonymity, said in a phone interview on Friday.
“The 10 a.m. press conference was for APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. The President will have a short statement after that where he is expected to make the announcement, but he (Abad) should not have preempted him,” the Palace official added.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, in a phone interview, said that Roxas confirmed to him Thursday that the President had asked him to take the DILG post.
Finally, the official announcement
Finally, at about 1:30 p.m., Friday, Aquino officially announced Roxas and Abaya's appointments.
"I know he (Roxas) will not disappoint us," Aquino said.
"It is proper that head of one of the oldest political parties in the country should talk to our local governments," the President added.
Also, Aquino said Abaya would be able to do well in the DOTC given his background as head of the House appropriations committee.
Confirm appoinments ASAP
Aquino III asked the Commission on Appointments to hasten the cofirmation of the appointments of the two LP leaders.
Aquino said the CA should act "post-haste" in confirming Roxas and Abaya.
"'Di sila uupo hanggang di sila confirmed [They will not sit if their appointments are not confirmed]," Aquino said at a press conference in Malacanang the same day.
"Congress is in session so we cannot make an ad interim appointment. This is why we are asking the CA to act on these appointments immediately," he added.
Aquino said among his marching orders to Roxas are the pending investigations being done by the DILG, but he did not elaborate on these cases.
He said Roxas would also have to prioritize the upgrade of the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penelogy.
"BJMP facilities are in a sad state now that's why it is easy for prisoners to escape," Aquino said.
PNoy to Mar: Dismantle private armed groups
The President said Roxas would also have to make the dismantling of private armed groups his priority especially in light of the 2013 polls.
As for Abaya, Aquino said the lawmaker would have to make sure that all priority infrastructure projects, especially those that are related to tourism, would be delivered on time.
Roxas said his responsbility as chief of the DILG would be too big, too broad and too sensitive. He said he could never duplicate what Robredo did at the DILG.
"More than this I have big shoes, big tsinelas to fill. Di po ako si Jesse Robredo," said Roxas.
Lacson: No hard feelings
Before the news about the appoinment came out, Roxas reportedly called up Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson but the latter missed the call. According to reports, Lacson returned Roxas’ call and that they talked for a brief period.
On Friday, Lacson, said that he had no "hard feelings" on Roxas' appointment.
The senator said he wasn't sulking over Aquino's decision to pick Roxas because he knew that the latter "is competent, had integrity, and honest."
“Wala, wala akong tampo. Alam natin competent, may integridad at honest siya. Kilala ko siya personally, kaya with authority, puwede ko sabihin,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
He added that he wasn't competing with Roxas for the plum position and that it was Aquino's prerogative to choose whoever he wanted to lead the DILG.
Lacson was among those being eyed for the DILG post, and is said to be backed by the “Samar Group” of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
The “Balay Group,” meanwhile, is headed by Roxas and other stalwarts of the LP.
The two camps got their names after the location of their headquarters during the 2010 presidential campaign.
Within his administration, the Palace source said that the President always sees to it that he manages well the demands of both Balay and Samar camps.
Criticisms on the choice of Roxas, the defeated running mate of Aquino in the 2010 elections, centered on the role he could be expected to play in next year’s mid-term polls.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. called Roxas’ appointment a “trapo” (traditional politics) maneuver by Aquino that he said was “ironic” given how the President had praised Robredo for being “anti-trapo.” - with Joseph Holandes Ubalde and Karl John C. Reyes