Mar Has Own Choice As DILG Secretary

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas II wants Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya to be the new secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Abaya is the secretary general of the Liberal Party (LP) and chairman of the influential House Committee on Appropriations.

As LP president, Roxas' choice carries a lot of weight. But President Benigno S. Aquino III, the party's chairman, has earlier indicated a strong inclination to appoint Sen. Panfilo Lacson as the replacement of the late Jesse Robredo at DILG.

''The Liberal Party will do something come hell or high water to ensure that their man will get the post left behind by the late Secretary Robredo,'' a reliable source told the Manila Bulletin.

The LP wants to have to a strong grip on the local government units (LGUs) in preparation for the 2013 and 2016 elections, the source said.

''But Senator Lacson is one of the frontrunners here. The LP has the difficulty of convincing the President to tap one of the LP leaders to head the DILG,'' the source added.

President Aquino is reportedly ''determined'' to appoint Lacson either as the country's anti-smuggling or anti crime czar. Such consideration was made after LP members thumbed down Lacson's possible appointment as Interior and Local Government secretary, which was earlier denied by Roxas.

Lacson's term as senator ends in June 2013.

Reached for comment, Abaya, a retired Philippine Navy officer who graduated from the United States Naval Academy (USNA), said the LP has not discussed anything related to Robredo's replacement.

''There have been no talks on the LP side,'' he said, adding that Roxas' supposed endorsement surprised him.

''Did he? I haven't heard from him,'' Abaya said.

The Cavite representative is also one of the grandchildren of the late Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the country's first president.

Abaya said that after his congressional stint, he prefers to have a private life, but if the President personally asks him ''to do something for him and for the country,'' he will accept.

''Honestly, I'm looking forward to private life since I'm terming out. I won't ask for anything from the President and neither will I expect anything. But if the President requests me to do something for him and for the country then I'd gladly help. Mabuting sundalo po ako (I'm a good soldier),'' he said.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who heads the reorganized Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) is the DILG officer-in-charge.

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