Aquino picks Roxas to helm DOTC

posted Jun 8, 2011, 5:55 AM by NERBAC National   [ updated Jun 19, 2011, 9:50 PM ]
FORMER SENATOR Manuel "Mar" A. Roxas II was named yesterday as departing Transportation Secretary Jose "Ping" P. de Jesus’ replacement, ending speculation as to where President Benigno S. C. Aquino III would be placing his defeated running mate in the 2010 national elections.

The appointment was welcomed by businessmen, who had earlier said they were not immediately worried by a leadership vacuum at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), which will be in charge of several public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

"I have ordered Mar to start dialoguing with Secretary Ping so that he will be updated with the situation in DoTC," Mr. Aquino told Palace reporters.

"I have also given him the freedom to choose who will be his helpmates in DoTC, including the heads of the agencies under the DoTC, so that they will be able to execute the reforms," he added.

Mr. de Jesus’ resignation -- leaked, denied and confirmed last week -- takes effect at the end of the month. Three undersecretaries subsequently said they would also be leaving the department.

Reports of Mr. Roxas’ filling the pending vacancy shortly followed as Mr. Aquino had yet to announce a posting for his vice-presidential bet, who had lost to Jejomar C. Binay. A one year ban on the appointment of defeated candidates expired last month.

"While his primarily duty is to fulfill the mandate of the DoTC, he will continue to advise me. I have other orders for him," Mr. Aquino said, admitting that he had originally envisioned another post for Mr. Roxas.

The "surprise" resignation of Mr. de Jesus last week, claimed Mr. Aquino, necessitated the immediate appointment of "not just anybody ... but someone with the smarts and skills to run one of the largest and richest agencies in government."

The president said he expected Mr. Roxas to take care of priority issues such as compensation for the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 and the implementation of PPP projects.

Mr. Aquino spoke of anomalies in the DoTC, but only touched briefly on the alleged involvement of Land Transportation Office chief Virginia P. Torres -- described as a "shooting buddy" of the president and said to be one of the reasons for Mr. de Jesus’ departure -- in a management shakeup at Stradcom Corp., the agency’s IT provider.

"She has gone through an investigation already. The penalty that was prescribed has already been meted out and she will resume her duties by the third week of this month," Mr. Aquino said, referring to an extended leave that will end this month.

Mr. Roxas, for his part, said he intended to familiarize himself with the departments’s challenges and focus on the priorities that the president had set.

"You can count on me to not disappoint the trust that the president and citizenry have placed upon me," he said in Filipino.

As to whether the business community will welcome Mr. Roxas, Mr. Aquino said: "The business community in particular will have very wide range of dealings with Sen. Roxas, both in a private and public capacity, his track record speaks for itself and we are very fortunate to get him on board."

Robert M. Sears, director of external affairs at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., said he agreed with Mr. Aquino’s choice, as did Francis C. Chua, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"He should do well and he will be an excellent addition to the Cabinet," Mr. Sears said. -- J. P. D. Poblete with K. A. Martin