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All That Jazz


“IT’S SHOWTIME, folks”,  Joe Gideon said in the film with the same title as the above.  “ I don’t know where the  bullshit ends and the truth begins,” he said.

The public debate on presidential wannabes just got jazzed up this week with the official proclamation of Sen.Bong Go and President Duterte as the official presidential  and vice presidential candidates of  PDP-Laban Party in next year’s polls at, of all places, the Laus Group Event Center.

(Laus, a businessman with political savvy or vice versa, must  have been stirred in his grave.)

Not that it was a pleasant or unpleasant surprise, really.  The public knew it was coming all along. The hooplas and brouhahas were just ceremonial, perfunctory backdrop.

So, Duterte has made his promise officially that he would push his luck in challenging constitutional sovereignty. He, obviously, doesn’t  buy  or will  budge from the opposition threat that a vice presidential ambition by a sitting president circumvents the Constitutional prohibition on a reelection.  Once is enough, twice is too much and contra-constitutional aren’t part of his vocabulary at this time.

Duterte, a lawyer, appears to brush this constant caveat as mere legal bunkum, especially  coming from those who had framed the 1987 Charter like former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod. At least, it could  be gleaned from the President’s action that he was willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to argue his legal or moral premise. Considering his previous successes in the High Tribunal, he must like his chances. In the eyes of some doubting Thomases, the High Court is like a box of chocolates that, according` to Forest Gump, you’ll never know what you will get.

Two things can be speculatively drawn from the Go-Duterte proclamation. One, former Philippine Ambassador to the United States Alberto Del Rosario, a dyed-in-the-wool ‘dilawan’, must have gotten an A-1 intel when he said China was going to influence the 2022 polls. Don’t wonder then why Go suddenly is pushed in the political equation: Go plus Duterte is equal Duterte.  In the long run, so the saying goes, China will win.

The other thing, and just as vital  as the first one, is the ‘imperial’ view of  the presidency. Hubris, he admitted, may be part of it, but he impressed ‘continuity’ as his agenda for seeking a lower office to pursue  his unfulfilled promises.  The jet-ski vow to sail across the South China Sea to plant the Philippine flag may no longer be part of it considering  Duterte’s neutral view on the US-China debate on who owns portions  of the SCS.

The deeper’  meaning of ‘continuity’ is unbroken or, in a straightforward manner, ‘forever’. Duterte must have been inspired by his Chinese friend and idol, China’s Xi Ping, who has been made premier for life.   The local backdoor theory  appears to make sense.  Duterte wins as veep, he bumps off Go, Duterte is  back on the saddle again. Or, Go may not have to go, pardon the pun, at  all. He stays put but his better subordinate calls this shot while taking cues from an idol. A lawyer-friend has a legal term for it: a robot-denominated entity.

Sen. Ping Lacson, who had made an earlier official declaration to run for president with EB’s (Eat Bulaga) famous Tito Sotto as his partner, is right on the money when he said the Philippines is losing her territories in the SCS slowly but surely.  He and Sotto want to right the wrong.  In other words, enough is enough under the current dispensation, even if somehow some thought the two partly enabled it.

Duterte made clear what’s behind his veep plan . Maybe it was partly ambition, or hubris as the Greeks call it, a warning that such an overreaching idea usually ends up in the ‘kangkungan’.  The other ennobling half of it, he said, was his love of country.  Duterte is a modern patriot by his consideration. He probably hasn’t heard that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.  The President, however, has shown little,if any, interest or inclination about moral colloquy, or the burden of it in the position of leadership.  To Duterte, it’s all about control, and continuity will ensure it. The end justifies the means, as Machiavelli and is disciples believe.

The morning after the Go-Duterte proclamation, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio announced she was not seeking a national position, based on an earlier father-and-daughter pact. If he runs, she doesn’t and vice versa. Go also had disclaimed any interest in running for the top post, his party’s proclamation notwithstanding.

So, the plot is getting thicker, the debate more confused like in scenario where  blind-people touch different parts of the elephant and can’t figure out what animal it is . To skeptics and cynics, it looks like a ploy, a ruse.  Someone will suddenly withdraw as candidate to give way to another while keeping perceived enemies at bay.  Voila,the 2013  experience leading to the 2016-2022 era could work again.

There’s a visceral Kafkaesque sense to it that even the most sensible candidates  in town are weighing their options cautiously,  tiptoeing in the dark as it were  before making a plunge.  You have to undertand  presidential presumptive bets like Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno why or what’s keeping them from declaring their political plans officialy.  Politics, like business, can be tricky, perhaps even more so. Wait and watch before you leap.

It’s still very much a waiting game at this point.  You don’t step into the same river twice, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus tells us. And someone or the others may be muddling the stream on purpose like a squid squirts its dark ink.


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