YOU DON’T need the mental gift of a rocket scientist to make good in politics. There are many witnesses to that, both dead and living. Niccolo Machiavelli was sure that stupidity is not a handicap in politics, but it can blindside you. John Mills knew that low intelligence is a certain risk in a representative government.
President Duterte may have something to say about this old truism. In his latest scratch-my-back-I’ll scratch –yours back- and -forth with his Cabinet, Duterte singled out Presidential Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo as a huge asset to any with a political ambition. If only Panelo had wings. Duterte was probably obliquely addressing— pininahan, in street lingo — more a party mate known for casting a moist eye on the presidency in 2022 than a proven political stuntman.
Duterte , of course, isn’t only a popular,populist president that enjoys unprecedented approval, he’s also being pushed to become the next vice president of the more than 100 million Filipinos in 2022. There was a time, not too long ago, when one American politician derogatively said that the Philippines then was a place inhabited by more than 30 million non compus mentis headed by one SOB.
In 1986, that was validated. The EDSA People Power rudely wrapped up in glorious, historical fashion what turned to be a rapacious regime that had set back the country from being second to Japan to being Asia’s sick man. Was it stupidity? Have we learned the lesson? A contemporary question is asked why Adolf Hitler succeeded in Germany. Karl Bonhoffer, a relative of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer who was implicated, later executed, in an assassination plot against Hitler, thought the German nation then was insane.
This Duterte -as -veep idea came on the heels of another unsurprising suggestion that Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, run as his replacement — for continuity purpose, among others, so the proponents chorused. It’s seems reasonable, given the results of recent surveys that make her the top choice so far. But is it rational, given the Filipino experience in the last five years or so? Are 100 million nincompoops any wiser than 30 million nincompoops? The indications are what lawyers call non sequitur.
As far as Pacquiao’s dream of becoming the next Philippine president, he probably has to wait a little longer. Recent developments show he will not be Duterte’s bet in the 2022 run for the presidency. A photo release showing Mayor Sara and the siblings Sen. Imee Marcos and former Sen. Bongbong Marcos had multiple captions. The scare off drift is a Solid North combined with a Solid South. With a little help from China, and two former presidents in between, that would be formidable, indeed.
The meeting in Cebu of influential members of the ruling party PDP-Laban showed who still call the shots. And it’s not Pacquiao, the PDP-Laban president, whose order not to attend said meeting was ignored as mere suggestion. In politics, power is what you can do or can make others do. The damage control later came in the form of a statement affirming that Pacquiao is still the party president and a Duterte ally, whatever those meant in reality. The difference is stressed enough: Alliance is no endorsement.
Sorry, but the doors of the opposition are close to Pacquiao and his ilk. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio has said so. And not because Pacquiao is no rocket scientist but because he has been a big Duterte fan from the beginning. His misstep lately, a leap in the dark, was in making a half-hearted criticism of Duterte’s stance on the dispute with China in the South China Sea. Pacquiao hasn’t probably read Dante’s Inferno.
Conceivably, that was a big blunder for the champ, suddenly, unwittingly pushing him out of Duterte’s grace. He had it coming. Foreign policy is Duterte’s exclusive turf, meaning no one is supposed to second guess him , not even a world boxing champ on eight levels.
One tempting option now is for Pacquiao to form new party along with some disgruntled politicians and latter day patriots. That would be more desperation than inspiration. Fidel Ramos had the blessing of Cory Aquino in his time against Ramon Mitra Jr. when he formed a new party. In a democracy, the late Pampanga Bren Z. Guiao once said, every one can make a fool of himself. That may be a little late in the game for a political neophyte legendarily known for knocking opponents cold in the ring early. Politics is as contact a sport as boxing. But hitting an opponent from behind, however, is a no-no for boxers.
Pacquiao is supposed to fight a certain Error Spencer Jr. in August,against whom he is fairly warned. The fight is apparently so timed for him to get more mileage for his presidential ambition that is now very much in doubt, if not in tatters. He can call Panelo for tips following Duterte’s lavish expression of admiration for him, minus his sartorial style. Or Harry Roque, if Panelo is now inaccessible on Cloud Nine following his political beatification. Or he can publicly lick his wound and tell the President about it — on his knees. Pacquiao is a firm believer in humility and forgiveness, after all.
But the die is cast. There will be no Pacquiao as presidential candidate on Duterte’s ticket in 2022. Unless, Pacquiao wants to commit a political hara kiri by running without Duterte or Panelo on his side. He once committed a similar mistake when he lunged forward to Juan Manuel Marquez with an exposed chin, and knocked out of his senses before hitting the canvas.
“I had a dream”, wrote Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream”, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.” Can stupidity mean recklessness, too?