BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Presidential bet Mar Roxas has dug his political grave deeper by saying he does not need the votes of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) to clinch the 2016 presidential derby.
Roxas dished out the boast as Migrante, a militant group defending the rights of overseas workers, faulted the slow action by the administration of President Benigno Aquino against the bullet-planting (laglag-bala) syndicate which has been victimizing passengers, including OFWS, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and provincial airports.
Roxas said the victims, not government, should be faulted for bringing bullets into the airport.
Migrante earlier warned the group would not vote for Roxas, Aquino’s former Interior secretary and standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party.
Migrante and other groups have right to vote or not to vote for any candidate, said Roxas, unfazed by the Migrante threat, in an interview in Santiago City in Isabela Province on November 4.
Roxas is already facing rough waters in the race with his franchise over the bottom of surveys for presidential preference.
Roxas has consistently been lording as cellar dweller in surveys of both the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia, miles behind independent bet Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
The 2016 presidential race is a four-cornered fight between Binay, Poe, Roxas and Senator Miriam Santiago. A fifth contender, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is not joining the derby despite strong public clamor.
Poe is not known to be involved in OFW concerns as a Senator and has yet to take a position on the laglag-bala issue.
Binay, on the other hand, has espoused the OFWs as a major concern as Vice President and took a direct hand in helping overseas workers in legal trouble.
The vote-rich OFW sector was expected to matter in the coming polls, with Roxas earning the ire of the overseas workers, lauded as “modern-day heroes” by his boss, Aquino, for their contribution to the national economy.
In what is seen as a fatal blunder, Roxas in the Santiago City interview
defended the Aquino administration against public criticism over the laglag-bala controversy by blaming passengers caught by airport authorities with bullets in their luggage.
It is not the government’s problem if you are caught at the airport with contraband, he said.
Laglag-bala victims say airport personnel plant bullets in their bags in an extortion racket.
The public has criticized the Aquino government and airport authorities for not immediately addressing the scam that captured international attention and earned a bad image for the Philippines. Even the United Narions (UN) has issued an advisory to its personnel to guard against the racket that has sparked an investigation by Congress and calls for the resignation of top Aquino officials including Transport secretary Jun Abaya.