A GREAT American president had issued an iron-clad caveat: you can fool some of the people some of the time; you can’t fool all the people all the time.
But, it does happen, unfortunately, in these parts, where, at one time, this bully-riddled land was allegedly peopled by some 40 million non compos mentis (nincompoops) and ruled by one SOB. That has changed, though, in a manner consistent with a famous Tagalog paradox: lumalaon bumubuti, sumasama kaysa dati. There are now more than 100 million of them, but still ruled by another SOB.
And here we are, with an unpalatable salad on our plate: the son of a former dictator who fancied a so called ‘golden age’ in a ruinous era under his (in)famous namesake and a small-town despot’s daughter who vowed not to run for a national post, at least more than once, forging an alliance, holy or unholy, in the 2022 presidential and vice presidential races. Denials and lies.
Guess who brokered the unwholesome alliance? A pint-sized glorious somebody who said sorry, not once but twice, screamed a movie actress whose hero-sized action-star husband, she felt, was cheated of a presidential victory, and died heartbroken over it. Hello, whoever.
Not everybody was surprised. The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo was unfazed. Par for the course. It knew it was coming. Birds of the same feather flock together, so the saying goes. Robredo, like little Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, had a singular mission: to slay the Wicked Witch of the North in the political land. She thought. it was going to be an uphill battle. But now there are two,Solid North and Solid South, even three (Solid Central?), and it might be mission impossible.
In some way, Robredo has been defined by her opponent, or opponents. Her political narrative has revolved around BBM and the likes. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno comes in between , rebuking her for mistaking the tree or trees for the forest. There are other issues to be confronted, bigger than BBM and his allies. Robredo agrees, but she thinks unless you deal with the real problem, it’s a zero sum game. You take your eyes off Marcos, the Junior and his allies, the battle is half lost.
“The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings”, Cassius told Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceazar, whom Brutus and other honorable allies later on stabbed to death in an ambush.
There was a time, not too long ago, when former NEDA director general and economist Solida Monsod predicted that Leni will be the next president. After all, Leni beat Bongbong by a mile in the last vice presidential race which he is yet to concede in a manly way. Two peat is doable. The last time she wrote, however, she was less than certain. Fight, she challenged in what sounded like a desperate appeal, as never before, for the country. So, the 2022 polls aren’t just about Leni, stupid.
“Do I look like mockery to you,” a blushing Sen. Ronald dela Rosa asked matter-of-factly shortly after filing his certificate of candidacy for president under the other half of the PDP-Laban. He answered his own question a few days ago after he withdrew his bid to allow another presidential gofer, Sen. Bong Go (went is the past tense) to replace him as placeholder to make a room for the elephant in the room, President Duterte as vice presidential bet.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who has been praised by Bato as gifted not only with a great fist but with a high IQ as well, has sensed that Filipinos are now being made to look like fools by politicians engaged in lies after lies and denials after denials. He’s running for president, too and didn’t mind that he was sleeping with the enemy before he was ditched by the other half of his political party. Too late the hero.
According to Kathleen Reardon of the University of Southern California, pathological politics is the worst kind of environment. She says that in this environment, conflict is frequent, fractious and often long term. There’s so much distrust, and for a good reason.
Are we neck-deep in shit?
Let’s count the ways, as Reardon cites at least four tell-tale signs.
1. Frequent flattering of those in power. Exhibit A: Sen. Bato has just recently proclaimed that Duterte is the best president the Philippines has ever had. The other members of the choir think so, too.
2. Information Massaging. No one says anything that might rock the boat. Who says there was anomaly in the purchase of medical supplies from Pharmally? Who says Gordon and company in the Senate are saints?
3. There’s a good deal of “fake left, go right” strategy, leading others in the wrong direction. Duterte said he would run for vice president, decided not to because he said majority of Filipinos frowns at it, mulled running for the Senate but decided to go for the vice presidency again. Senator and Vice President wannabe Kiko Pangilinan has aptly described the political flip-flop: distractive ruse.
4. Poisoning the well and fabricating negative information about other people. Leni isn’t fit to be president, Gordon is a crook and others in the Senate are ne’er-do-well.
There seems to be no doubt we are. One journalist has this to say, resonant of what Cassius said: if we want to change the nation’s political direction, we must change our own attitudes and behavior. In the coming days, we will know if we are up to this huge challenge of changing the gaming of the political system. The stars are okay, by the way.