Two presidents: Impact on midterm elections

Two presidents: Impact on midterm elections Featured

Second of a series

THE specter of the Deegong hovers over the Philippine political scene, a major factor in the confluence of events leading to the midterm elections, considering his still high popularity rating and his family's hold on their bailiwick in the south and among the Bisaya-speaking voters.

This state of affairs is perhaps a nostalgic offshoot of the Duterte years that painted him as a strong leader verging on the authoritarian, an iconoclastic politician, an outsider, an unsophisticated, dirty-mouthed, uncultured "probinsyano" never before seen among the heavily Luzon-centric rarified womb of presidents.

The Deegong, inured to the pomp and adoration of the masses, can't help being a political cynosure after his presidential stint but is now facing the consequences of his brutal presidential acts, haunted by the possibility of incarceration through the sanctions of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a similar fashion, Duterte's predecessor, ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, spent time under hospital arrest until exonerated by the Supreme Court. To defend herself and her tattered legacy, she ran and was reelected to Congress.

Duterte, too, threatens to run for Senate. In the latest Publicus Asia survey, he maintains a high ranking — a veritable shoo-in. But the way he has been seen in public lately, with his cane, a shuffled walk, a tottering old man with a stooped body, he can barely climb the steps. His coterie has to bodily carry him up to the "entablado," where he revives and commands an audience of partisans. But the vitriol spewing out of his mouth remains undiminished.

It is doubtful he can survive the rigors of an election campaign. In the latest prayer meeting in Bacolod — a euphemism for a political rally, cloaked as a religious gathering — he again called for President Marcos to resign, a recurring theme. And the Deegong has been doing the rounds in the country, starting in Davao two months ago when the rift between two political dynasties opened up. He is on the warpath!

The chasm between the Marcoses and Dutertes has widened, and the stakes are high — the eventual dominance of the political dynasty emerging after the midterm elections in May of 2025. What triggered this conflict was as innocuous as VP Sara being deprived of her status as the prima inter pares in this administration.


It is a fact that the Dutertes helped immensely in the Marcoses repairing their image after their years in the political wilderness. Mayor Baste Duterte reminded the Marcoses that it was his father who allowed the burial of the late dictator's cadaver at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the initial steps toward the Marcoses' rehabilitation. It is a general belief, too, that Sara could have taken the presidency but gave way to BBM — a decision the Deegong had gone ballistic over.

The conflicts surfaced at the onset of BBM's administration. Sara was refused the coveted defense portfolio that she wanted. She got the Department of Education instead, where subsequently, her intelligence fund — a source for political manna — was gutted. On top of this, the ICC investigation of Duterte's alleged crimes during the war on drugs has prospered. And Duterte's powerful religious fanatic ally, a deluded "Appointed Son of God" and his propaganda machinery — a necessary tool in the Dutertes' preeminence — the Sonshine Media Network (SMNI) was to be disenfranchised and castrated in Congress by BBM's allies.

The Marcoses

All of these should not have come to a head were it not for the Duterte camp's arrogance that they can get away with these assaults, confronting the colorless BBM whose tolerance is being perceived as a sign of his weakness. Aside from their call for the "cokehead to resign" the presidency, their ally, former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has been emboldened to call for the armed forces to disregard the chain of command. A seditious challenge!

Lifting from a contemporary writer's posts, Jose Alejandrino: "Bongbong is a kid who never grew up... Bongbong inherited the sweet character of his mother Imelda and, being the only son, was naturally spoiled. But he is in the wrong job. His father, the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, wrote that his son needed to 'develop character.' Being the favorite, like most spoiled children, Bongbong doted on his mother... It is also his lack of character that drove him as a young man to like coke, as it was the in-thing with the boys of his age to show he was part of the 'in-crowd.'"

And even older sister, Sen. Imee, the Marcos whose intellectual grasp and demeanor are nearest the father — and should have been the heir(ess) to Makoy's political legacy as president — confirmed in some oblique way in the movie she produced "Maid in Malacañang." She assigned her younger brother one dramatic scene with the Apo, which Ambeth Ocampo, a critic, described as "...a whimpering child of a man desperate for his father's attention and approval...." Even with literary license — the role was most degrading — the future president should not have been depicted this way.

A family rift

This could explain the disharmony between the in-laws, precipitating the fierce defense by Liza, the wife, who recently, in the Taberna interview, bared her soul and her teeth when the Deegong called her husband "bangag," while VP Sara reportedly looked on with amusement from the sidelines. In the face of BBM's inability to defend himself, as in Imee's words, "My brother is 'masyadong mabait,'" this was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Liza, the mother hen, understandably came to her brood's defense. This could be an appropriately acceptable natural behavior by an aggrieved, stronger-willed mother and a wife to a fragile president.

But she went beyond the limits of her discretion. A consort to the powerful must not go beyond the official functions of the royal court. Yet she asserted she caused the termination of no less than the executive secretary — the "little president," the second most powerful position in the executive department. And further admitted recommending the appointments of a cordon sanitaire, replacing the ones originally around the President. And when warned that there could be consequences and repercussions, her riposte, pronounced only by a sharp, savvy and New York-trained lawyer: "Bring it on!"

Now, Philippine politics has been muddled, reviving the image of Imelda 2.0, eliciting from the publisher of a revered newspaper a defense of Liza.

But the last say could be from those of the older generation who knew the Imelda Marcos of the 3,000 shoes. She was elegant, tall, gorgeous, articulate in her own peculiar way. But what was really going for her was that the original Makoy appointed her to the bureaucracy — cloaking her with the wherewithal of an official of the legitimate Cabinet — Minister of the Human Settlements and governor of Metro Manila, who presided over the uplifting of the culture of the great "bakya" masses. She later ran and was elected to the Batasang Pambasa (parliament).

I have not met Liza. She doesn't know me from Adam. But she is not Imelda 2.0 — but a professional, a lawyer, an educator, a mother and a wife, but unfortunately, an unelected adjunct to a weak presidency. But I must sympathize with her!

Read 297 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 May 2024 21:50
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