One last look – before the 13th

One last look – before the 13th Featured

THE Holy Week allowed people some time to reflect on coming events that will indelibly shape our country for the next several decades, the national midterm elections on May 13. For such serious contemplation, my spouse Sylvia and I decided to fly to Macau to a favorite hotel which we have lodged in on several occasions, for its strategic location and also because it is one that will not strain too much a senior couple’s budget for a four-day/four-night discounted package. This time, just the two of us, without an entourage of grandchildren with several tons of impedimenta that must include different sizes of diapers, assorted toys, milk and in this day and age, separate IPads and video games. We did the equivalent of “bisita iglesia”combined with the station of the cross from the Hotel Sintra along Avenida de D. Joao IV. Just around the corner from the “Senado” is a calvary-like climb to the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Paul’s. To complete seven visitations as Filipino tradition dictates, we did Grand Lisboa and Emperor Hotel which were walking distance from our hotel and by shuttle bus to the Venetian, City of Dreams, Studio City, Sands, Wynn and for good measure, MGM in the Cotai and Coloane districts.

One can’t help comparing the amenities of Macau with Manila, or for that matter any place foreign or local, with the Philippines. Such is the raison d’etre for travel. It broadens the mind, expands one’s horizons, helps one acquire culture and accumulate bragging rights, and sharpens critical comparative perspectives with our home country, in the hope of improving the same. Also, it’s pleasurable.

Macau has four dozen casinos. This old city is practically a gambler’s paradise, depending of course on which side of the winning baccarat table you sit. With gambling revenues adding more than 50 percent to government coffers, their employment rate is almost approaching full, although dangerously connected to a single industry — gaming. The government therefore, in partnership with the casinos, makes sure that all government services are directed towards the gambler comfortably, but not necessarily happily, parting with his capital.

Shuttle buses to these casinos from hotels, airports and ferries are free. The casino hotels have lavish decor, replete with restaurants, some with exquisite cuisine inexpensively priced — all done to entice gamblers to stay put. If you should lose your money, lose them in your casino hotel than in the competitor’s.

But this is not a treatise on casino gambling, but a discourse about gambling our future on the people we elect on May 13. My focus is on the senatorial race as the coming Senate chamber will decide whether systemic changes can push through. I refer to the Centrist advocacy whose political growth was cut short by the Marcos martial law years, and later stunted by the oligarchic rule post-1986 EDSA through the enactment of the 1987 Constitution. I need not present a dissertation on why we need to shift from the unitary-presidential system we currently suffer from, to the parliamentary-federal system, with a liberalized economy. This has been widely discussed and disseminated in current political literature and social media. Serious attempts at constitutional revisions have been made by FVR’S 1997 Pirma, Erap’s 2000 Concord and GMA’s 2005 ConCom. All failed.

PRRD, who won on this advocacy seems to have his passion for systemic changes through constitutional revisions waning and falling victim to pragmatic politics and traditional compromises. Even his daughter Sara, has publicly contradicted him on federalism, further adding confusion to the main issues at hand. The parliamentary-federalists have begun to question whether the father-daughter politicians are playing a “good cop-bad cop game;” or simply have their messages convoluted and incoherent.

Both are pushing for similar candidates although the daughter is incongruously pushing for 13 candidates for 12 slots. In my Manila Times column last March 13, 2019 on “Dynastic kleptocracy,” I presented a “negatives list” of those who should not be elected. In the forefront are the three accused“plunderer-senators” seeking a fresh term. The second category are those members of political dynasties. I reiterate my position: “True, there are decent individual members of dynasties, but our beef is with the collective malevolence of the concept, the structure and system itself. The biggest myth is the singular proposition that there are good and moral Philippine political dynasties. There are none!”

I am therefore left with a shortlist of those I think have the intellectual fortitude, professionalism and track record for public service that merits these people a seat at the table. I count among them, Sen. Koko Pimentel and former interior secretary Raffy Alunan. These two deserve the trust of the Filipino people to do good by them. I have followed their careers over the years and Koko’s father has been my mentor since I had the privilege of being his undersecretary and joined him in the founding of the PDP Laban almost four decades ago. Koko has just the right amount of arrogance that a bar topnotcher must naturally possess giving him the confidence that he can make a difference. Paradoxically, he also exudes some amount of humility which is borne out of personal disappointments, but I guess instilled in him by his mother.

Raffy, on the other hand, had his teeth cut in the government bureaucracy culminating in his stint as interior and local governments secretary during the time of President Ramos. His expertise in foreign affairs is surpassed perhaps by only a few Filipino diplomats and his grasp of international relations and defense would be an asset to the Senate. No doubt, this has been polished by his training at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The Otso Diretso has prominent people, with excellent political pedigrees, Diokno and Tañada are venerable political names but could their offspring measure up to the originals? And their Liberal Party have been so degraded and tarnished by the scandals and corruption of the past administration and incompetence of President PNoy himself. And their unwavering defense of the dysfunctional 1987 Constitution and unitary presidential system and the status quo is anathema to the Centrist positions — which call for systemic changes starting with constitutional revisions.

The DU30 regime is not itself exempt from scandals, corruption and ineptitude but the Deegong is far better at projecting himself as an effective macho leader that the unthinking voters want, compared to the clueless PNoy. The current clash between PNoy’s Liberal and the Deegong’s PDP Laban is a classic case of Satan demonizing the devil.

So, this election, judging by the trending polls, we may again have the tired old branded names, scions of thieves and dynasts and assorted entertainers, legislative nonperformers and sycophants of the ruling class. But hope springs eternal that some good ones will filter through. And if not, then perhaps we may again be condemned by the unthinking Filipino voters to Thomas Jefferson’s dictum: “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

Then we may be forced to welcome the alternative: a coup from within or that much taunted RevGov. In both scenarios, only God can help us.000
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