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Team ‘No Rubber Stamp’

Thursday’s front pages presented to the nation the old and new faces to be added to the Senate — and the scene was surreal.  Most took the trouble to dress for the occasion but the baggage they carried could not but show, so that it seemed, in a macabre tweak to the tale of the emperor and his new clothes, blood from the broken body of Archimedes Trajano was staining the nifty outfit with which Imee Marcos (No. 8 in the count) kept fussing. But of course it was only an optical illusion, triggered by media cameras flashing.

The election commissioners, caparisoned like sages, took turns proclaiming the senators-elect, raising the hand of each as though presenting the champion in a boxing match — and it almost slipped the mind of the gawking observer that they had yet to satisfactorily explain the seven-hour period of ghostly silence from their transparency server on the night of Election Day, the malfunctioning vote-counting machines and defective secure digital cards, to speak nothing of the inordinate delay in the delivery of ballots to overseas voting precincts — in New Zealand, for example — despite a lengthy preparation time and a huge budget.

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It didn’t take much prodding for the President’s famous fist bump (aka the “Duterte Salute”) to be smartly executed by the lot — a (quite unnecessary) signal to the big guy that they’ve got his  back, and more. The tableau would have merited not more than a yawn, being obligatory homage to the man and his acclaimed magic. But for two: Grace Poe (No. 2) and Nancy Binay (No. 12), who announced by their act of omission an intent to desist from clambering up the bandwagon crowded by diehards, such as, say, the fashionably retro dynast Pia Cayetano (No. 4) who has more than once professed love for the President, warts, foul mouth, vulgarity toward women, and all. They bear watching in this tumultuous season, if only to see if their declaration would hold, or was indeed a beau geste .

Bato dela Rosa (No. 5) looked plain tickled to be shoving his fist up front. Though portly and giggly at the reality of his new title (“Senador na ako!”), he had, as Philippine National Police chief, been completely muscular in enforcing the war on drugs that snuffed out thousands upon thousands of little lives—petty pushers and users who perished where they were felled, and whose corpses piled up unclaimed in funeral houses. For a moment the ashes of Jee Ick-joo seemed to fleck Dela Rosa’s black jacket, but how could that have been possible when those ashes were flushed down the toilet by the Korean’s murderers shortly after he was strangled right in his own car, right (incredibly) in PNP turf, in fact quite near the then PNP chief’s official residence?

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And it seemed that it was all Bong Revilla (No. 10), grinning, could do not to break into his winning “budots” (he actually did, briefly, before going on stage). It’s said that a hefty number of besotted women voters contributed to his victory, but for some, the thought of the 16 counts of graft for which he is out on bail and the yet unreturned P124.5 million plundered in the pork barrel scam doubtless got in the way of a full appreciation of his pretty-boy looks.

Lito Lapid (No. 7) stood casually in his own skin, his swing back to the Senate an easy-peasy lope — in the name of God, why? the pained observer might ask — as though his mute, unavailing presence in the crux of history were preordained.

But there was Bong Go (No. 3), once butler cum aide to and enduring shadow of the President, showing up unaccompanied by beaming family members. The billionaire (per his boss) came  comfy in a red t-shirt — in the process making Koko Pimentel (No. 11), Sonny Angara (No. 6) and Francis Tolentino (No. 9) appear a tad overdressed. It was a clever nod to his claimed constituency of fire survivors and needy communities, into whose lives, as photographs and TV footage of the election campaign would show, he  sailed on the good ship Malasakit bearing cash and other worldly goods. (He would stick to the folksy motif with a boodle fight with select dispossessed after the ceremony.)

What else was there in that ritual highlighting the rout of the opposition? Cynthia Villar (numero uno, toppling FPJ’s girl), herself well on the way to mothering a dynasty, thanked the President and his daughter Sara for their support. Certain senators-elect mouthed things about independence from the Palace and the personal quality of stubbornness. Etc.

In those surreal moments, with the dizzying lights and the applause dinning into one’s head, one could swear their noses were lengthening.

Winter is coming.

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TAGS: 18th Congress, 2019 elections, 2019 senatorial candidates, Inquirer Commentary, Rosario A. Garcellano, Senate
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