BETWEEN Marcos and the Chinese candidate, whom do you choose? This query was a private message sent by a reader of my column. Obviously a Bongbong Marcos fan or a longtime Marcos loyalist, he tried to make a case for BBM's presidency. But what is intriguing is his perception of Sen. Bong Go as being China's presidential bet — if indeed there is one. This column will follow this line of reasoning and speculate on the possibilities of foreign governments pushing for candidates in this current 2022 election campaign.

In international relations, the government of the day's very existence sometimes rests on the choices of its current administration or set of its political leadership and its associated bureaucracies. This is based on the perceived interest of that government ultimately representing the aspirations of its people as interpreted by its leaders and politicians. This is a legitimate action by governments and regimes assuring their survival. World history is replete with such paradigms; sometimes leading to open conflicts or war if the interest of one country or its alliance clashes with those of others. After the Second World War and during the Cold War, disputes between partisan countries surfaced from time to time, leading to local wars or initiations of low intensity conflicts or the perpetuation of violent and destructive engagements using surrogate countries or groups within those countries engaging in guerrilla warfare, resulting in the destabilization of states perforce advancing the interest of the perpetrators. We see these intermittent "bush fires" in Africa, South America and the Middle East

US interventions as templates

Among the notorious ones is America, the hegemon that emerged after WW 2. In a study published by the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, academic Doy Levin wrote that there were 117 "partisan electoral interventions" between 1946 and 2000 and 70 percent of these were cases of US interference. "Sixty different independent countries have been the targets of such interventions...the targets came from a large variety of sizes and populations, ranging from small states such as Iceland and Grenada to major powers such as West Germany, India and Brazil." Most were done in secret with voters oblivious of foreign powers actively trying to influence results.

In the Philippines "the Central Intelligence Agency had a strong influence on the 1953 elections, and candidates in the election fiercely competed with each other for US support. CIA agent Edward Lansdale purportedly ran the successful 1953 presidential campaign of

Interventionist policies were done during the Ferdinand Marcos regime, perhaps even tolerated. Vice President George W. Bush when he visited Manila in 1981 addressed Marcos: "We love your adherence to democratic principles and democratic processes." And this was at the height of the repressive martial law that later led to the despot's downfall. The US later reversed course when Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz advised "President Reagan to threaten to cut off military aid to Marcos if he continued to refuse to accept the popular verdict (Cory's snap election victory) and step down." (American Foreign Policy: Studies in Intellectual History. Edited by Jean-Francois Drolet, James Dunkerley, Manchester University Press, 2017.)

Currently we still have to discover who the US candidate is.

A case for China

In the same Carnegie study, former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, alleged that Chinese officials in February 2019 had bragged about having influenced the 2016 presidential elections to favor President Rodrigo Duterte.

The case for China being in Bong Go's corner is peripheral and circumstantial at best but anchored on the oft-repeated position of the DDS/Fist Bumpers that Bong Go is meant to perpetuate Duterte's legacy and the instrument for the Deegong's extension of his relevance to the body politic. In the wake of the Marcos pre-emption of Sara, reducing the once formidable heir-apparent to a spare tire, Bong Go's importance to Duterte became critical, thus PRRD's advice to give up his PDP Laban-goaded VP candidacy for the presidency itself. Even Senator Bong was conflicted with his imposed status, "Nabigla ako. hindi pa pumapasok sa isipan ko kung bakit ako nandito as a candidate po ng pagiging president...iniisip ko pa nang mabuti, nag-aantay po ako ng sign sa Panginoon (I was surprised. It has not sunk in as to why I am a candidate for president...I am still thinking about it and waiting for a sign from God)." (The Manila Times, by Al Jacinto, Nov. 25, 2021.) This is as close an admission as any that the good senator is clueless. His role as President Duterte's marionette is simply to extend the puppeteer's political power and influence by other means, one which Duterte's own flesh and blood, Sara, saw through and refused.

But central to the perception of Senator Go being China's boy is Duterte's decidedly pro-China stance on his tolerance and even acquiescence on China's encroachments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The current blue ribbon hearings on the Pharmally corruption scandals have established Duterte's undue preference for his Chinese colleagues. His actuations in the past (TMT: "Sinification of the Philippines" articles) would establish his soft spot for mainland China's predilections.

Anti-Marcos

For five decades, I was anti-Marcos as many of my generation were during that sad epoch ended by the Cory forces during EDSA People Power Revolution. But many began to be conflicted after subsequent governments post-Cory have not substantially improved our lives. I was with Cory and supported those that came after Marcos. I was supportive of Duterte until he discarded political reforms and federalism, his main advocacies that catapulted him to the presidency. Many, like I am now, are faced with a dilemma.

Will I discard my five decades of anti-Marcos sentiments in favor of China's candidate? Don't get me wrong. I love the Chinese. I have Chinese blood. I respect their position. I read Tiglao and his compelling arguments ad nauseam about PNoy Aquino's connivance with US President Obama's people resulting in the consequent occupation of islands in the WPS we can't truly claim as ours. But I resent the continued Chinese bullying, an example of which is the recent water cannon attack on Philippine boats and other similar instances of China's intimidation within our territory. What is unconscionable is our President's deafening silence save for the half-assed statements by his subalterns. His non-action I'm certain will be mirrored by his candidate, Bong Go, if he wins. This forces me to look at the alternative to the China candidate — Leni, Isko, Ping and Manny. Polls after polls show the near impossibility of their making it, except perhaps for Leni. Thus, I have to re-examine my position with BBM. My quarrel is not with him. It is with the repressive martial law regime of his father, Ferdinand Macoy, and his legacy. I doubt the son will act like his father. The opposite could happen. Having the Marcos name vilified for decades, a son's filial duty is first to clear it and do good by it. Perhaps this Marcos fils has been sufficiently chastised to make amends and eventually do good by the Filipino.

Still, the voters will have the last say.
The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.
“Then I fall to my knees, shake a rattle at the skies and I’m afraid that I’ll be taken, abandoned, forsaken in her cold coffee eyes.” – A quote from the song, “She moves on” by Paul Simon, singer/songwriter

THE recent tremors affecting the central provinces of Mindanao caused by a series of seismic waves radiating to the northern and southern parts of the island, were like nature shaking a rattle, emitting sharp sounds and unnerving motions from the underground, both frightening and bewildering as to the intensity and confusion they generated.

The successive earthquakes and aftershocks were rattling the nerves not only of residents close to the epicenter but also those living along the active fault planes who were not used to strong earth movements. Some reported dizziness, anxiety, depression and other post-traumatic stress symptoms after experiencing continuous shaking and periodic vibrations.

As this article was written, less frequent but perceptible tremors were felt on the affected areas although everyone is reportedly bracing for aftershocks which many hope and pray, would not turn out to be the dreaded “big one,” as some irresponsible persons are falsely posting on social media. Shake a rattle drum to this latter blokes.

According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), since the 1900s, Mindanao has been rocked by at least 35 earthquakes, three of which, felt at “Intensity 7” or worse, were deemed destructive: the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake which caused a tsunami reaching up to nine meters that killed about 8,000 people including the unaccounted ones; the 1999 series of earthquakes in Agusan del Sur damaging roads, and poorly constructed schools and infrastructure; and the Sultan Kudarat earthquake in 2002, killing eight people with 41 others injured and affecting over seven thousand families in the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato (Rappler 2019). Shake a rattle of prayers for all who perished in these tragedies.

The series of earthquakes in October of this year, just weeks apart, with magnitudes of over 6 hitting many provinces, again, in Cotabato and southern parts of Davao accounted for the death toll of 22, damaging homes, school buildings and many infrastructure, shaking and sending chills to many residents who have to deal with continuing albeit smaller tremors which can be felt as far up the city of Cagayan de Oro and down the southern province of Sarangani.

Some local officials reported residents having developed “earthquake phobia” keeping watch on their clock hanging inside their tents in evacuation sites, losing sleep with anxiety awaiting when the next tremor would be coming. With frayed nerves, some would panic over even slight ground shakings.

But this is not about the temblor as much as the response of people and the country’s leaders and responsible officials. Except for the government of China which donated P22 million in aid and support for relief efforts in Mindanao, hurray for China, other foreign countries just expressed condolences and messages of sympathy to families of victims. No pledges, no assistance. Perhaps, they can’t trust our government agencies to do the job for them anymore. To them, a shake of the baby rattle.

To the initial bunch of donors who immediately come with their financial assistance such as Yorme Isko Moreno of Manila with his P5 million personal money, Mayor Vico Sotto with relief goods and P14 million coming from the people of Pasig City, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina with 100 modular tents, movie star Angel Locsin who moved about sans fanfare for her charity work offering food and other assistance to victims in Davao and North Cotabato, to Mayor Inday Duterte for relief distribution, Cebu provincial government for disaster relief campaign and to the many nameless others who came with their relief aids, shake a rattle of joy and thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.

To our government officials and politicians goes our appeal to set aside politics, distribute the relief items according to the wishes of their donors and not allow goods to rot because of political colors as was shown in the previous administration’s handling of donated goods. To them, shake a rattle of enlightenment and peace.

In whatever disaster or crisis that befalls the country, trust Filipinos’ resiliency and coping mechanisms such as resorting to prayers and humor to come to their succor.

Social media become a natural venue for memes, practical jokes and bantering such as the ones which came after Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy reportedly claimed that he caused to stop the earthquakes so they can no longer create damage. To everyone, shake a rattle of laughter and fun while we help provide for the needs of our less fortunate brethren in Cotabato and Davao provinces.