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Upping the ante


THIS IS sobering, the recent merging of the country’s top political freight trains into one giant political locomotive this country has ever known:  the Marcos train, the Arroyo train, the Estrada train and the Duterte train — all locked in  for a pricey haul. Their objective: carry the biggest political load to its destination in 2022: not just a win, but a lopsided victory for the Bongbong-Sara team to presidential and vice presidential triumph, respectively.

No wonder President Duterte’s presidential candidate, Sen. Bong Go, already feels overwhelmed he thinks his time, or destiny, hasn’t yet come. Of course, the rest of them don’t say so, but they must be checking out reality in light of this political tectonic.

This gang of four, reminiscent of the gang of four  of China during Mao Tse-Tung’s waning years, has one clear message: there’s so much at stake in the coming presidential polls, not so much patriotic but personal, the result should not be left to two heirs of two political dictators.  The original fab four, however, were eventually rejected and erased from Chinese politics.

For the new Philippine political quartet, the formula is simple:the more, the better the chance of winning, and the merrier and safer, too—who knows,  happily ever after.

So, let’s breakdown what’s at stake.

For the Marcoses , it’s huge, starting with his Bongbong father’s dubious legacy to the family’s dubious, and partly declared ill-gotten, wealth. For many Filipinos, martial  law under Marcos Senior was the worst time in Philippine modern history.  Bongbong thinks it’s actually the reverse: it was the country’s ‘golden age’. Some critics agree, it was a time when a few made a lot of gold by simply cavorting with the dictator.

For the Arroyos, the last time we heard, a case involving the sale of two second hand helicopters passed off as brand new is still pending in court, and no less than the former First Gentleman is dragged into it. The Hello Garci controversy is still in many people’s mind. Has the former president and  former speaker of the house been cleared of other graft and corruption issues that marked her time as president?

It’s still murky as mud, and maddening,too ,  because only a former Cabinet member of hers, former NEDA director general  Romulo Neri was convicted of the infamous NBN ZTE deal with China in which a former mayor whispered to him some P200 million in incentive awaited him if he approved the deal, or something like that.  In addition, there was this famous extra borjer offered. GMA reportedly told  Neri to refuse the offer, which he  did. In the end, he got  quadruple whammies: passed up becoming a multi-millionaire, losing his civil service eligibility, forfeiture of his retirement benefits, and permanent disqualification from holding public office.

For the Estradas, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who’s seeking a Senate comeback, is facing a P183 million plunder case over the pork barrel scam that has snared other Senators, including the venerable (because of age) and biodegradable (because of modern science) Juan Ponce Enrile who, by the way, is also in the new freight train. Jinggoy is out on bail at the moment, meaning, it depends.

For the Dutertes, it may be true as Kirk Douglas said in the movie “Man from Snowy River” that life’s one injustice is that you can’t choose your  relatives,  Digong is still Sara’s father. It’s good and, ergo, important to her, that  the former doesn’t end up in jail when he leaves Malacanang.  She doesn’t say as much, but it is a given.  The International Criminal Court has given him a break by suspending for a while the probe on his alleged crime against humanity over his drug war. There may be other crimes that could surface once he’s out of Malacanang.

In sum, a Bongbong-Sara victory in 2022 will be a relatively safe landing for everybody in the caboose.

Another sobering fact:  The latest survey shows that only 15 percent of Filipinos favor a democratic government over some authoritarian model.  The rest doesn’t seem to mind the despots or their ilk.

As part of the  current sideshow, President Duterte has been throwing blind items left and right like a movie celebrity trying to bring down  a fast-rising star.  He has branded a presidential aspirant, who many think is no other than Bongbong, as a weak leader, a spoiled brat, a cocaine user, a rich man’s son and an inferior heir to his father all rolled into one. No one seems to have taken his bait hook, line and sinker.  It could just be , after all, terminal signs of the  political rigor mortis of a lame duck.

So where  would all this rigmarole about the presidential race bring the Filipinos in the next six years? The French have it: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Which is why people believe in miracles. The American writer and theologian Fredrick Buechner said a miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or when one plus one equals a thousand.

This is the implicit message of Vice President Leni Robredo’s in looking forward to a presidential victory.  The combined power of a huge freight train of discredited politicians should not be a decisive factor versus the will of about 60 to 70 million voters who need a better deal than the  business as usual.




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