The boiling political cauldron

The boiling political cauldron Featured

THE way things are shaping up, the political environment is in a flux and chaotic at best, but some blurred images are clearing up. The November 15 Comelec deadline, closing the window for candidate substitutions, no longer dominates the political conversation. Sara Duterte-Carpio's decision to remain local and the much-hyped Cebu meeting with Bongbong Marcos (BBM) have put a damper on the guessing game distorting the political scene thus far, favoring BBM's candidacy and touting a formidable Luzon-Mindanao combination crafted in Cebu purportedly sewing up the Visayan votes. But any one candidate's breakaway is still too early in the game. Recalling 2016, VP Jojo Binay was the early favorite. The final tally gave Binay the third place after a no-holds-barred exchange of ad hominems with Mar Roxas, who shot up to number two in the closing weeks — both candidates neglecting to keep track of Duterte, who sneaked in. The same scenarios could play out with Leni Robredo or the three others currently eating BBM's dust.

The daughter's exit

Sara's persistent refusal to enter into direct combat was a great relief to the BBM camp. With her numbers going through the roof, the game for now is to divine to whom these numbers will be awarded. BBM's camp has the edge as Sara's regional political party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), has thrown its support behind BBM. But then again, all politics are local, and with this dictum, some political analysts are speculating that HNP may not be that influential in regional politics. Sara's HNP was almost annihilated in the last midterm elections, losing to the former House speaker Bebot Alvarez's Partido Reporma (PDR). Ping Lacson is chair of PDR, giving the Lacson-Sotto ticket an advantage. On their bailiwick, Sara and the Duterte dynasty will win — hands down — with practically just a token opposition. It's a different story outside Davao City however.

Another factor that could prove a hindrance to BBM's dominance is Mindanao's own — the Pambansang Kama-o. Votes will be split which may not favor BBM. And the Visayan votes could go to the "Bisdak" (Bisayang Dako) — Manny Pacquiao. And the other Mindanaoan whom the PDP-Laban Cusi faction sought to impose on and insult the voters, may just siphon off some votes, the majority from his bailiwick — in the upscale residential subdivision of Monteritz. But the betting is that Bato dela Rosa is likely to withdraw by November 15, hinting at an eventual BBM-Go slate. But this is an unlikely combination. Among the cognoscenti, it is a known fact that la fille Duterte supporting the Marcoses loathes Bong Go.

It is unlikely too that the touted "Sara factor" is going to add substantially to BBM in Luzon. The other four presidentiables (BBM-Leni-Ping-Isko) all come from there with their own solid bailiwicks — Ilocanos, Manileños and Bicolanos.

The sidelined president

No lameduck president will admit this. But in this election, he is! The symptoms are there. A confusing slew of indecisions remarkably undermining the strongman image he has carefully crafted — from an intent to run as vice president to an underling; to his subsequent withdrawal and declaration of retirement from politics; to a hint of now throwing his hat in the senatorial ring. This ambivalence and vacillation could be a panic reaction to the ongoing telenovela of a Senate inquiry exposing collusion with his Chinese friends on the Pharmally corruption scandal, pushing him into a corner, and the threat of an international investigation into the human rights violations once stripped of his presidential immunity.

The DDS and his PDP-Laban faction have been complicit feeding the President's hunger for relevance with its absurd scheme putting up Senator Bato as president, oblivious of the inconsistencies and impact on the campaign of BBM — the candidate that Sara and even the Deegong show some preference for.

This is what happens when a despot knows not how to exit the stage gracefully in these closing months, bungling his way about passing on his legacy to an anointed successor. He opens himself to being vulnerable to sycophants. Such is perhaps the reason also why he has packed his PDP-Laban faction senatorial slate with his cabinet members to the exclusion of "branded" senators who were once in his pocket but are now guest senatorial candidates to two or three other political parties — a phenomenon exclusive only to Philippine politics.

But I won't count Duterte out yet! He still has the enormous resources of the presidency and government under his thumb to tilt the presidential race to where he will be benefited the most. And Marcos is where he owes allegiance to and vice-versa; and a joker card in the deck, Bong Go. If there is any argument gauging Duterte's desire to be relevant, it is his fielding his devoted alter ego. But God help him if Go wins as VP under a President Leni. Even a President BBM will not favor a VP Go.

BBM

Which brings me to the extraordinary campaign strategy conducted by the young Marcos. Having a family name vilified for over three decades, their toxic impact has somehow been diminished over time. One half of the population was not born then and cannot relate now to the narratives of martial law. And the other half are in their mid to twilight years. Time has burned out the passions of those who lived under that regime, and memories have dimmed. The political icons of those days have passed on. But more importantly, the Marcoses persevered, perhaps aware that the systemic defects underlying our concepts of governance, including the justice system, can be outlasted by a determined family with resources and the fanatical compulsion to redeem its name. And what has helped is that the seven administrations, including the present one, that followed Ferdinand's have not gone on to correct the systemic anomalies and live up to the promises of 1986. The Marcoses instinctively understood that history is not written by the vanquished nor by the flawed victors — and that it is continually being written. And they are surreptitiously part of the authorship. In the end, history in its unbiased, impartial, dynamic and dispassionate character will confer its own verdict. By then, we may longer care. We will all be dead and gone.

But what is really intriguing is the response of the family, eloquently expressed by the young Marcos — their resilience! Faced with these assaults to their name, BBM chose to occupy the high ground, remain cool and cloaked himself with an armor of positive ideals and universal values; fashioning a language that is unifying, encompassing the hopes of a people tired and angry at the mundane, portraying an image of a statesman refusing to dispense the pedestrian promises of a politician.

Although motherhood statements, still they resonate with people aghast at the vitriol capriciously thrown by the other candidates. Thus, the constant negative attacks against the Marcoses, particularly at BBM, are deflected like Teflon, with the unintended effect of making him the political David — the underdog. Perhaps Leni, Ping, Manny and Isko may have to rethink their political strategies. Or, we will have the ghost of Ferdinand Macoy back.

But if the son can draw us all together and heal the wounds — why not?

 

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