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Isko on fire!

The wholesale defeat of the Estrada politicians in the last elections points out the extreme difficulty with which Filipinos tell off their errant politicians that the time has come for them to retire from politics.

For instance, imagine the gall of Emilio Aguinaldo, having squandered the opportunities that Rizal, Bonifacio and other heroes created for the country in the Philippine Revolution, to insinuate himself in the new Commonwealth era, trying to wrestle from Manuel Quezon the presidency in 1935.

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Or Imelda Marcos, chased out of the Philippines in 1986, running for president in 1992 and, again, in 1998. Or Juan Ponce Enrile, who, despite his rehabilitation during the first Edsa People Power Revolution, has moved in and out of the Dark Side since. As for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one can never tell what is up her neck sleeve.

As for Erap, one would imagine that a sinner who has been given a golden opportunity to repent and pay back society for his sins would use it to rehabilitate his sullied image. But no — he continued on his fixation on privatizing public resources. The Filipino term “dugyot” sums up the image of Metro Manila, and of its previous mayor that earned the image for the city.

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How can we convince the politically dead to stay dead? This reminds me of an episode in the 1960s television series “Twilight Zone.” The story went this way: Grandfather has been dead for a week but continued to come downstairs for breakfast with the family of one of his sons he was staying with. The family had been at a loss how to make grandfather realize he was dead, and stay dead in bed so they can arrange for his funeral and for the family to move on.

On this particular breakfast, the precocious youngest kid had a brilliant idea. He helpfully sprayed a generous dose of black pepper on grandfather’s eggs, bacon and toast. Before anybody realized what was going on, grandfather let out a mighty sneeze. His rotten face came off instantaneously, plastering bits of it all over the table and on everybody.

It was gross, and everybody was shocked. But it did the trick. Grandfather finally realized he was dead. He slowly stood up and went upstairs to stay dead in bed.

Isko Moreno’s victory over Erap has the same visual and dramatic effect as this episode. Isko just served Erap a powerful dose of political pepper. His election as mayor of Manila is a dramatic changeover that has not been witnessed in a long time. As people are wont to say about some marriages, it is a match made in heaven. Isko Moreno was destined to be mayor of Manila despite, or because of, his salt-of-the-earth beginnings in Tondo, Manila. A lesser person would have given up, but Isko dogged on. It was not only poverty that he had to overcome. He had to overcome a lack of education, pedigree and political dynastic lineage.

And he had to overcome the duplicity of traditional politicians, those who promised they will give him his turn at the mayorship. He had his revenge — he has jumped and soared from the pathetic depth of despair Joseph Estrada has brought Manila into, in six years of mis-governance.

Already, there are resistance and attempts to waylay him. But Isko is marinated in the problems and politics of Manila, and he has shown extraordinary resilience and true bearing. The good news is, the turnaround project for Manila is doable. This has been demonstrated by Jesse Robredo in Naga City, and by Bayani and Marides Fernando in Marikina City. Isko does not lack for enthusiastic allies and institutions to support his transformative agenda.

Meantime, let’s savor this exquisite moment. Isko’s moves are bold and calculated. He went after the low-hanging fruits and delivered the blows with shock and awe. He recited specific details of streets, arrangements, incidents, conditions like he knew the whole city at the back of his hands (he does). In his recent meeting with jeepney drivers and operators, he showed a remarkable range of leadership skills from persuasive to authoritative.

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The political pepper Isko has sprayed about, magnified by the appreciative media and public opinion, has wider repercussions. President Duterte has been ranting about the intractability of the traffic problem in Metro Manila. In one fell swoop, Isko Moreno cleaned Recto, Divisoria, Soler and Carriedo and the Bonifacio memorial near city hall, areas the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has failed to control. In being a charismatic mayor himself, Isko Moreno just made a malingering and mumbling Duterte, surrounded by fawning retired military and police generals, look like another “curiously flabby strongman.”

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TAGS: Isko Moreno, Joseph Estrada, Manila mayoralty, On The Move, Segundo Eclar Romero
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