Militants were quick to condemn the appointment of Manuel Roxas II, president of the administration Liberal Party, as head of the Department of Interior and Local Government, saying it exposed the department to partisan politics.
Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino, who is eyeing a seat at the Senate in 2013, said the appointment will "definitely further politicize the position and make the DILG even more vulnerable to patronage politics and unfair machinations by the ruling party."
Casino said on his Twitter account, even before the appointment was made official, that he viewed the choice of Roxas, seen as the LP's likely presidential candidate in 2016, with apprehension.
Casino is reportedly considering running under the United Nationalist Alliance, a coalition between former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and PDP-Laban, chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Youth group Anakbayan also criticized the appointment, saying it "shows how hypocritical and unabashedly trapo (traditional politician) the Aquino administration is."
In a statement, Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo said Roxas' appointment was the exact opposite of the "brand of leadership DILG secretary Jesse Robredo was praised for." Crisostomo also cited the Liberal Party's seeming inability to get Robredo confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. Robredo, for a time, "shared the DILG with 'kabarilan' (DILG Undersecretary) Ronaldo Puno," he said.
"Roxas' appointment smacks of patronage politics and will further strengthen the trapo ways of government, considering that elections are fast approaching," he said.
But there were also words of praise for the incoming Local Government secretary.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the appointment "only shows the depth of the President’s trust and confidence in Sec. Roxas." This was a fact that Aquino stressed when he announced the appointments of Roxas and of Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya as Transportation secretary.
"To follow in Jesse’s footsteps is certainly not an easy task, and to say that Mar has 'big shoes to fill' would be an understatement," he said. Enrile said, however, that he believes Roxas can do the job and that the best way to celebrate Robredo's legacy is to support his replacement.
Senator Franklin Drilon, senior member of the LP at the Senate, meanwhile, said Aquino and Roxas share the same vision, "which is crucial in putting forward the reforms that the administration has envisioned for the local government and which the late Secretary Jesse Robredo had started."
Drilon also praised Abaya, who chairs the House appropriations committee, for his "experience and the kind of leadership he has shown."
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, also a Liberal, said Roxas has the experience in government service needed to run the DILG. Aside from serving in both Houses of Congress, Roxas has headed the Department of Trade and Industry and the DOTC. "Secretary Roxas espouses similar virtues and principles which include good governance and transparency in govt transactions," he said.
"There couldn't have been a worthier replacement to Jesse Robredo," he said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, also from LP, welcomed the appointments too. "Continuity of policy is crucial as the Aquino administration pushes for necessary, urgent reforms, and we know that these two fine public servants will take to the task as always," he said on Twitter.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday announced a $1.8-billion military upgrade to help defend his country's maritime territory against "bullies", amid an ever-worsening dispute with China.