Roxas was born in Quezon City, Metro Manila. A graduate of Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, Roxas worked as an investment banker, mobilizing venture capital funds for small and medium enterprises before running for public office. He served as the Representative of the 1st District of Capiz from 1993 to 2000. His stint as Congressman was cut short after he was appointed by then Philippine President Joseph Estrada as Secretary of Trade and Industry describing him as a "seasoned investment banker". He resigned from the position at the height of the EDSA Revolution of 2001 and was later re-appointed by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her new Cabinet. He resigned again from the position after he decided to bid for a seat in the Senate in the 2004 Philippine election. He was elected as Senator by 19,372,888 votes - the highest ever garnered by a national candidate in any Philippine election and edged out Bong Revilla who was consistently number one in the surveys.
He graduated elementary and high school at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1970 and 1974, respectively. He is also a graduate of the Wharton School of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in 1979.
As congressman, he espoused consumer protection, underscoring the right of every Filipino to affordable medicines, as his personal advocacy. His landmark laws include, among others:
His tenure in the House was most noted for his principal authorship of Republic Act No. 7880 (Roxas Law), which ensures fair distribution of the education capital budget among all the provinces. This started his advocacy for fair and equitable access to education, free from regional bias and political patronage considerations.
He intensified his commitment to quality education through the Personal Computers for Public Schools (PCPS) Program, which distributed over 30,000 computers to 2,000 public high schools all over the Philippines. PCPS computers provided 500,000 high school students with the necessary ICT tools and skills.
His work regarding trade policy was highlighted during the 2003 WTO Meeting in Cancún, Mexico, where he fought for increased market access for Philippine exports, particularly agricultural products and a rationalized Philippine trade regime so that domestic industries would not be harmed.
Roxas launched 'Make IT Philippines' and organized the first IT-enabled services (ITES) to the US which led to the biggest global industry names to invest in the Philippines. He pioneered the establishment of high-technology industry centers and the promotion of the business process outsourcing (BPO) market in the Philippines, particularly call center operations. From a mere 2000 jobs at the onset, the BPO industry now provides hundreds of thousands of jobs, thereby putting the Philippines on the map as a major IT/BPO destination.
He worked for the reopening of the National Steel Corporation which provided thousands of jobs, income and livelihood to Iligan City, Northern Mindanao and adjacent regions. He later launched the Garment Export Industry Transformation Plan and Assistance Package to enhance the competitiveness of the industry and ensure its viability and vibrancy beyond 2004. He also initiated the Motor/Vehicle Development Program to promote exports, create a viable market base for our car manufacturers and secure jobs for our workers.
He pushed for MSME development through the SULONG (SMEs Unified Lending Opportunities for National Growth) Program, which granted almost P26.7 billion on low-interest loans to 281,229 SMEs on its first year.
He promoted the Tamang Timbang, Tamang Presyo (Right Scale, Right Price) program for consumers; the Presyong Tama, Gamot Pampamilya (Right Price, Family Medicine) to make affordable and quality medicines accessible to Filipinos, and Pinoy Pandesal, Palengke ng Bayan, among others. These programs promoted supply chain efficiencies leading to growth and productivity, and a wide range of opportunities and long-term gains.
As a proponent of the philosophy of 'palengkenomics', which considers the "palengke" (market) as a microcosm of the economy, Roxas conducts weekly monitoring of the prices of prime commodities and maintains strong linkages with suppliers, traders, and vendors in the different wet markets.
Roxas currently holds assignments on the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce and Senate Oversight Committee on Optical Media Board serving alongside with Ramon Revilla, Jr..
He voted in favor of the Revised Value-Added Tax Law when it was deliberated in the Senate . The law was co-authored by other Liberal Party members, Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan.
Roxas' legislative agenda for the 14th Congress are as follows:
He has filed Senate Bill No. 101 (Law on Patents, Tradenames and Trademarks) to amend Republic Act No. 8293, otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, to lower the prices of medicines through increased competition among drug companies and by providing the government with better policy tools to significantly influence the supply and demand of medicines.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 102 (People's Fund Act) to ease the effect of the 12% E-VAT. The People's Fund would consist of thirty percent (30%) of all proceeds from the VAT collected under Title IV of the National Internal Revenue Code. This portion estimates the share of incremental revenues from Republic Act No. 9337, the Expanded Value-Added Tax law, which increased to 12% the VAT and removed the exemption.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 103 (Individual Tax Exemption for Minimum Wage Earners Bill) to exempt minimum wage earners in the private sector and government workers in Salary Grades 1 to 3, amending certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8424, otherwise known as the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.
As per estimates by the National Wages and Productivity Board, there are 7 million workers earning the minimum wage and even below. For him, it is unfair and unjust that the government, under the law, is taking away a portion of their already subsistence-level income.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 104 to amend Republic Act No. 7880, also known as the Fair and Equitable Access to Education Act, to eliminate the problem of classroom shortages in the Philippines, as well as enhancing the process of construction, rehabilitation, replacement, completion, and repair of needed school buildings and classrooms.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 105 (Pre-Need Industry Act of 2007) to address the absence of a statute that regulates the pre-need industry by establishing the Pre-Need Industry Act of 2007 to govern the operations of firms which issue or sell pre-need plans or similar contracts and investments.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 106 (Anti-Smuggling Act of 2007) to amend certain provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1464, otherwise known as the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, as amended. Under the proposed bill, an Audit and Transparency Group under the Bureau of Customs, headed by a Deputy Commissioner, would regularly inspect and report on the bureau's operational processes, collection and financial reporting, fiscal and personnel performance, system efficiency, internal control, information and communication flow, fraudulent and illegal practices and other related areas. On the basis of these inspections and reports, the Audit and Transparency Deputy Commissioner can initiate investigations of fraud and other graft and corrupt practices in the bureau, and shall recommend to the Office of the Ombudsman the filing of any cases against personnel and officers involved.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 107 (Lemon Law of 2007) to have a one (1) year period in which buyers of brand-new vehicles can avail of the provisions of this Lemon Law, which allows up to four repairs on the same defect before a replacement or refund of the vehicle can be claimed. For him, it would ensure that the investment on a vehicle is money well-spent.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 108 (Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) to strengthen Republic Act No. 6977, the Magna Carta for Small Enterprises. The focus of the amendments of this bill focuses on three points: guidelines, institutional support and organizational support. Guidelines refer to the specific asset size definition, appropriating a definite and regular amount for the Small and Medium Enterprise Development (SMED) Council and increase in the mandatory allocation to lending activities. Institutional support comprises additional government agencies to coordinate SME efforts and formalization of the SME Development Plan. Lastly, organizational support to intensify the powers and increase capitalization of the Small Business and Guarantee Finance Corporation to complement the growing demands for financing. Other features of the bill include formalizing the celebration of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Week and recognition of outstanding MSMEs.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 109 (Free Information Act) to implement the Constitutional guarantee to free access by the people to official information, except when the disclosure of such information would jeopardize other prerogatives of the government, namely, the protection of the privacy of individuals, trade secrets, national security, public order and safety, and foreign diplomatic relations.
The bill also proposes the adoption by all government bodies a mechanism wherein all written requests for information shall be responded to within two days, unless proper justification is given by the government body, subject only to the payment of reasonable fees for the viewing or reproduction of such information. To compel disclosure of information, in case a government body refuses access to such information on whatever grounds, the Office of the Ombudsman would be tapped to hear any citizens' complaints of not being properly assisted by the pertinent government body. Penalties will be levied to officials or employees who knowingly and unjustly refuse to provide access to information, or who consciously release false or misleading information.
He has filed Senate Bill No. 110 (Penalty of Imprisonment in Libel Cases Abolition Bill) to decriminalize libel and limit the venue of filing libel suits. He believes that the approval of the said measure would be a small way by which Congress may help in alleviating the plight of journalists.
On January 18, 2008, Senators Roxas and Edgardo Angara stated that in the upcoming 2010 Presidential elections, there will be at least 7 presidential aspirants namely Roxas, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Senate President Manuel Villar, Jr., Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Richard Gordon, Chairman Bayani Fernando of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay. Sen. Francis Escudero denied any interest in 2010.
Roxas is to unite the two LP factions, and set the stage for his presidential campaign in the 2010 election. Lito Atienza, however, forthwith questioned Roxas' appointment, attacking the composition of Liberal Party’s National Executive Council (NECO) and alleged that the Supreme Court of the Philippines' June 5 resolution ordered the LP leadership's status quo maintenance. Atienza stated: “I have no invitation. They kicked me out of the meeting; How can you (Roxas) unite the party when you take the wrong step?”
Senator Mar Roxas has taken positions on many national issues since his election as senator during the 2004 Philippine elections
About the ZTE deal, Roxas introduced a resolution urging President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to cancel the Philippine government's National Broadband Network (NBN) project with China's Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Corporation.
Roxas said that the $329.4-million deal "was driven by supply and not by demand" and will not benefit Filipinos. He believes that the cancellation of the deal would not affect the relationship of the Philippines with China.
In order to finally put a just closure to national divisiveness, Roxas filed Senate Resolution No. 135 calling on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to issue a pardon to former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada (popularly known as "Erap") at the appropriate time.
"The grant of pardon to Erap on humanitarian grounds should not in any way be construed as condoning corruption, or as diminishing the legal weight of the ruling of the Sandiganbayan, but serves solely as an embodiment of the people's will for closure on one of the most divisive chapters of our national life," he added.
"In trade negotiations, no deal is always better than a bad deal." This is what Roxas said on JPEPA.
He issued a warning after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pressed on the Senate to ratify the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) amid concerns aired by Tokyo for the early approval.
Roxas was optimistic that the pact would be given serious consideration by the Senate if the government revised the deal to get a better trade-off.
In a populist twist, Roxas started a campaign against VAT , although he voted in favor of the law when it was in the Senate .
He is currently in a relationship with Korina Sanchez, one of the Philippines' most popular and critically acclaimed broadcasters from ABS-CBN. He has never given any true indication on his intentions to Sanchez in regards to matrimony. Sanchez said that she is prioritizing her journalism career as of the moment, and that she is not yet planning to marry Mar Roxas.
As of 2007, he has a declared net worth of P140.3 million.