(Coffeebreak, December 15, 2015)
Mar Roxas has a simple game plan in his bid to become the next President of the Republic of the Philippines: varnish his image with artificial gloss and eliminate his rivals through a host of legal maneuvers.
We’ve already seen Roxas lift a sack of rice. Also garlic. He tried his hand at being a firefighter and a traffic aide under the rain. He played the role of an ice carver, and even posed on a block of ice lying on his side for photographers. He pedaled a pedicab. And the list is growing longer and longer.
But these are cheap gimmicks that only boomeranged on Roxas the moment pictures came out on social media. Much as he tried to mimic the acts of ordinary Filipinos who have to endure backbreaking work to survive, there is simply no way Roxas could pass for one. That he was born rich, and never had to wonder where his next meal would come from, was glaring from the onset of such efforts.
These last few days, Roxas was again under fire in social media.
This time, he came under heavy criticism for labeling himself as a “Wharton graduate” in his curriculum vitae. It was another deceitful claim to add luster to his name, which had struggled to rise past the 15% mark in survey after survey.
While it was not entirely false, it was a misrepresentation. That’s because “Wharton graduates” in the layman’s understanding refer to those who have obtained their MBAs from this prestigious school in the University of Pennsylvannia.
Roxas earned his undergraduate degree from Wharton-UPenn without distinction. It was an education that his wealthy status made possible for him. Of course, he had to study hard to complete the baccalaureate degree. However, it didn’t give him a distinction that MBAs from this college are accorded with respect and admiration.
Wharton alumni always accompany its name with the extension, “UPenn.” But in the case of Roxas, he merely put Wharton as his alma mater, giving the impression that he finished his MBA there.
The Wharton MBA program is considered one of the premier training grounds for corporate executives, almost at par with the Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Yale and Northwestern University have similar programs that are regarded as topnotch.
That’s why a Wharton MBA is given a premium when it appears on a young corporate upstart’s curriculum vitae. It is regarded as a badge of distinction. It is a symbol of an individual’s capability to analyze complex problems and provide leadership in any organization.
It is not to denigrate the undergraduate program at Wharton. But in the scheme of things, a holder of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton can never be placed in the same platform. In experience, training and leadership capability, the Wharton MBA will be two or three notches above a B.S. degree holder.
I can’t blame Roxas though for trying to sneak this through.
He needs to shellac his image as he enters the home stretch of the presidential race. The official campaign period for national candidates won’t kick off until February 9, 2016, but the contenders for the presidency have been barnstorming around the country for months now. And yet, Roxas remains a poor third or fourth in the surveys. His ratings have hit the ceiling at 15%.
Nothing seems to work for Roxas.
His endorser, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, had hoped Roxas’s numbers would rise after he raised the Liberal Party’s standard bearer last September 30. Since then, Roxas has tapped celebrity endorsements, including a music video featuring the talents of ABS-CBN. Roxas has also the backing of congressmen, governors and mayors.
Despite all these efforts to catapult Roxas to the front of the race, he struggles to rise above his current survey rating of only 15%. In a manner of speaking, he has hit the ceiling. He continues to eat the dust of Davao City mayor Digong Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and even the battle-scarred Vice President Jojo Binay.
Clearly, Roxas has a serious problem. How can he expect to become President when he can’t even come close enough to winning against his opponents? With less than one-fourth of the projected votes, he can’t even be regarded as a serious contender.
Of course there’s the elimination game ala “trip to Jerusalem” that the Liberal Party is playing. There’s a good chance Senator Grace Poe might be disqualified. Duterte, too, will face the same troubles. And knowing the LP’s determination to ram through its effort to win the Presidency for Roxas by hook or by crook, Duterte’s being swept aside from the race is not remote.
The scenario that’s being set should leave Roxas standing alone in the ring.
But wait, there’s still Binay. After a whole year of bashing and harassing the brown-skinned man from Makati City hasn’t been knocked down. In fact, Binay remains ahead of Roxas in the surveys — way ahead.
This presents a tough problem for Roxas: if the LP succeeds in eliminating Poe and Duterte, it can’t just get rid of Binay. That’s because the scenario calls for Binay being thrown in jail. And Binay enjoys immunity from suit. He can’t be charged criminally until after June 30, 2016.
In short, Binay’s name will remain a contender for the Presidency on May 16, 2016. He has 31% of the projected vote if elections are held today. If Poe and Duterte and DQ’d, I can bet most of their votes will go for Binay. It’s not because people don’t believe Binay is corrupt; but Filipinos believe Roxas will make a worse President than Mr. Aquino.
From a rock-bottom of 31%, Binay has the potential to rise above the 51% mark on election day to win majority of the votes cast. Roxas will be left eating more dust than he did when Binay beat him for the Vice Presidency in 2010.
It becomes clear that no matter how coats of shellac or varnish Roxas puts on his name, he still won’t be able to remove the people’s dislike for him. He can spray himself with all the best known deodorizers, but the rotten smell of a bad President simply won’t disappear.