'Après moi, le déluge' — incoming dramatis personae Featured

INDAY Sara's defiance spells the death of a father's hopes for a continuing legacy through her, narrowing down the field to five serious wannabes who, no doubt, will fashion their own — Bongbong, Manny, Leni, Ping and Isko. The rest of the pack can be dismissed as nuisance candidates. The Cusi PDP-Laban's last-minute move installing Senator Bato as presidentiable, admitting that if Sara substitutes for him — "di mas mabuti!" — belies a serious intent.

Bongbong and Manny have no vice presidents (VPs) in tow — an indication of weakness, an ongoing surreptitious negotiation or simply waiting for whatever opportunities appear in the political horizon. Only Leni/Kiko, Ping/Tito and Isko/Willie are decisively committed — although historically, voters split their votes for president and VP.

Trolls are propagating the idea that this election is a "rebancen" of sorts of the internecine political combat between two families — Marcos vs Aquino and by inference Duterte vs the Dilawan. Partly true but the overarching fight is in reality, We, the people, against the generations of traditional political practices permeating and undermining our system of governance that resulted in the ills of our society: stark poverty, impunity, corruption, inequality and social injustice. All these predated the Marcos-Aquino rivalry and were already at play when Duterte came into power.

Current political forces

What is shaping up is a Marcos/Duterte alliance fusing shared legacies. The former, a devoted son palpably working for a reversal of family fortunes, employing historical distortions that those years could have been the best years had they not been cut short by "external extenuating circumstances." The latter, a Marcos acolyte bent on propagating a legacy of political travesty, nourishing a fiction that his bloody drug war and escalating bureaucratic corruption are a success, and that human rights abuses are nothing but a figment of the "dilawan imagination." A consolation is that he will leave behind the fruits of his Build, Build, Build, which are the visible and tangible signs of an administration poised to take off but thwarted by the pandemic and marred by his profligacy.

Arrayed against this pair is a ragtag army of the reconstituted "parliament of the streets" modified by social media echoing those movements during the martial law years that toppled a dictatorship. But this time, the opposing forces are not led by the old Cory Aquino Yellows allied with the "PNoy Dilawan" (see "Revisiting old forces," The Manila Times, Oct 6, 2021) but those of the disenchanted multitude — the youth, the growing mass of the poverty-stricken victims of economic dislocation caused by the insufferable pandemic quarantine harebrained schemes, disillusioned by the "Pharmallys" of this regime. They don't necessarily agree with each other and are not ideologically interwoven but they have several commonalities, foremost among which is, anger. Rage at what's happening to them — to the Filipino. This could be an intense emotional tinderbox that could be triggered by irrational behavior but if harnessed and disciplined, can start a conflagration that may consume this unholy alliance. But who will lead them against this formidable tandem? These are the valid questions for the wannabes arrayed against the Marcos/Duterte coalition.

Leni, who has been thoroughly demonized by the DDS, redefined by the Marcos/Duterte trolls, and weighed down by her own naivete, has a track record of being an ideological oppositionist. Ping Lacson was part of the Senate majority coalition allied with the President but possessed with an independent streak, untainted by corruption and the congressional pork barrel scandals and, more importantly, has a killer disposition, a critical ingredient that could pass for a semblance of "political will" — a trait endearing to the DDS. Ping is the Deegong with good manners.

Manny Pacquiao of humble pedigree and an authentic national hero won as senator under Duterte's slate and a loyalist until his own presidential ambition was waylaid by the rift within the ruling PDP-Laban party. And the new kid in the block Isko Moreno was a Duterte-appointed DSWD undersecretary — before winning election as Manila mayor. He declared making Duterte a cabinet member when elected. But what is egregious is his historical ignorance in simply defining the Marcos-Aquino family feud as just that. His approach to winning over the Marcos partisans is to underplay the decades of martial law, the conjugal dictatorship's profligacy, plunder, atrocities and oppression of the Filipino. The last three wannabees are perceived to be either pro-Duterte or "Duterte-neutral."

Exit the Deegong?

At the twilight of his regime the Deegong should be comforted that he has done some good by his own lights, although people may be ambivalent as to his methods. He replicated into the national stage the well-worn approaches that met with a modicum of success as a local mayor. His "tokhang" against suspected drug users resulted in thousands of dead addicts and criminals, earning for him serious attention from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for "extrajudicial killings" (EJK) and human rights violations.

To his credit, PRRD understood the systemic character of society's ills and vowed to provide comprehensive solutions improving basic good governance, among which were structural political reforms, devolving centralized authority to the periphery, redefining political power, diffusing the same through concepts of subsidiarity in an eventual federalized system of government. He rounded off his agenda with his fight against corruption with his now famous Duterte Doctrine — eliminating from the bureaucracy all manner of corruption even on a mere "whiff of it." Unfortunately, he abandoned all these in midstream.

Earlier in his regime, he projected a sincerity coupled with his daunted "political will" to meet these concerns head-on to defeat them. Alas, sincerity has never been an effective and relevant political strategy. And now, we come to this final episode of his regime. Although the Deegong has tried hard to employ every gimmick to brand this 2021-2022 presidential election with his imprimatur and a continuance of his legacy, he is failing. This election will witness the dying throes of a presidency and will pass on to history for final judgment.

His last stab at relevance using his daughter was stillborn. His subsequent haphazardly executed alternative was even more bizarre; putting up Sen. Bong Go as presidential bet with him as VP. This arrangement was so obviously inane and could not gain traction. His subsequent scheme was to declare retirement from politics, abandon his VP post and put in Bong Go in his stead. And to portray a semblance of normalcy, a buffoon was elevated as presidential bet in his PDP-Laban faction. At this late date, there could still be a penultimate act. A VP post under Marcos! But what will this cunning political strategist do with the tandem of Bato and Go?

There was a time many of us were convinced Duterte, backed by his strong government, could precipitate a revolution from the top and the middle-class changing society for the better. We were wrong! Now he needs to let go. He can improve on his legacy by perhaps accepting the inevitable. Being a lame duck is a time for introspection and rise above himself. He still has a few months to bring us all together and perhaps, as his last act, heal the wounds.

 

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