Binay hits Roxas: MRT no laughing matter

MANILA, Philippines – If Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II found his resignation speech funny, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Roxas' supposed incompetence in managing the notorious Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system was not a laughing matter.

Binay hit back at his bitter rival's criticism of his resignation from the Aquino Cabinet by pointing to the former transportation secretary's alleged poor performance in running Metro Manila's train system.

“Aba, kung sa tingin ni Mr Roxas ay nakatatawa ang mga sinabi ko, gusto kong sabihin naman sa kanya, 'Mr Roxas, sa masang Pilipino hindi nakatatawa ang araw-araw ay hirap na hirap silang sumakay sa mga palpak na tren ng MRT,'” Binay said while campaigning in Navotas on Friday, June 26.

(Well if Mr Roxas thinks what I said was funny, I want to tell him, Mr Roxas, to the Filipino masses, the daily ordeal of riding the failed MRT trains is not funny.)

The MRT is infamous for poor services where commuters often endure long lines to get on board, and suffer from the lack of coaches, overcrowding, and dysfunctional elevators and machines.

The Vice President was responding to Roxas' comment that he found it “funny” that Binay was only now complaining of the Aquino administration's supposed failures when he sat in its Cabinet for 5 years. (READ: Roxas to Binay: Why were you 'quiet' for 5 years)

Binay resigned as housing czar, and presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) concerns on Monday, a political move meant to establish him as the opposition leader, and formalize the start of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Binay is expected to go up against Roxas, the ruling Liberal Party's (LP) president-on-leave, and presumptive standard-bearer. The two also competed for the vice presidency in 2010 where Binay was then the dark horse.

In attacking Roxas, Binay sought to again harp on his message that the administration failed to address gut issues while trumpeting the country's economic growth.

“Lalong hindi nakakatawa na sa harap ng pinagmamalaking pag-unlad, marami sa ating kababayan ang lubog sa hirap at nagugutom. Seryosong usapin ito Mr Roxas. Hindi katatawanan,” Binay said.

(All the more, it's not funny that in the face of this growth that they have been boasting of, many of our countrymen are mired in poverty and hunger. This is a serious topic, Mr Roxas. This is not funny.)

Binay is positioning himself as the candidate with mass appeal, as opposed to Roxas, a Wharton graduate who comes from the political elite Roxas clan.

'Politicking in budget'

Binay also echoed the criticism his allies first raised that the administration is supposedly using the budget to favor political allies like Roxas.

One recurring question of opposition members is why the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under Roxas gets a housing budget when this is a primary task of housing agencies Binay used to head.

“'Yun nga lang, ang budget na dapat napunta sa mga housing agencies ay ibinigay naman sa DILG na hindi naman trabaho ang magtayo ng mga bahay. Ganyan ang nangyayari sa pamahalaan ngayon. Pulitika ang nagdidikta kung sino ang bibiyayaan ng mas malaking budget, lalung lalo na ‘yong kanilang mga kakandidato,” Binay said.

(The budget that is supposed to go to housing agencies was given to the DILG when it is not its job to construct houses. That's what is happening in the government now. Politics dictates who gets the bigger budget, especially when it is their candidates.)

In past interviews, Roxas has said that the National Housing Authority (NHA) does not  have the exclusive task of running housing programs.

Roxas has said in budget hearings that relocating informal settlers living in danger zones is a mult-agency project that the DILG heads. Critics though insisted that the NHA should be the lead agency in the program.

Asked about Binay's allegation, Roxas told reporters on Friday that the NHA received a P10-billion fund.

He also reiterated that Binay had portrayed himself as an avid supporter of the President who always applauded the Chief Executive's State of the Nation Addresses (SONA) where key administration policies and programs are highlighted.

"Ang mahalaga ay bakit 5 years walang narinig mula sa kanya. Pumapalakpak bawa't SONA, bawa't hatid-sundo sa Pangulo kung saanman....Siguro siya na lang and magpaliwanag sa taong bayan kasi kami naman ay nakatutok sa trabaho," he said.

(What's important is that over the last 5 years, we didn't hear anything from him. He clapped at every SONA, at the President's arrival and departure [speeches]....Maybe he should just explain this to the people because we are focused on our work.)

Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad deemed Binay's rants against the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) as "hypocritical" as he didn't question the scheme when two agencies chaired by the Vice President – the NHA and the Home Guaranty Corporation – received P11.45 billion in DAP funds on October 2011. – Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com