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Some ‘good signs’ of 2019

/ 05:05 AM December 31, 2019

My class in political communication hosted Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto last October; the SRO forum was both confirmation and revelation.

It confirmed that the young Sotto, who defeated a member of the Eusebio dynasty to become mayor at the age of 29, was a political adept—he showed sound instincts, a grounded understanding of local politics, a gift for connection.

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It also revealed that one of the bright young stars to emerge from the 2019 elections did not have a specific plan to deal with, or take advantage of, his own demographic: the so-called youth vote.

One of the questions directed at him during the forum asked him precisely about that.

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He did not answer it directly. Perhaps he did not hear the question in its entirety, although that seems unlikely; perhaps he had a plan but was not inclined to share it (again, something that seemed then, and seems now, to be improbable); perhaps he had no plan at all.

How the young mayor approaches this youth vote may predict whether he has a future in national politics or whether he is, as some have predicted, the herald of a generational shift in Philippine politics. But on reflection it strikes me that this lack of a ready answer on the question of the youth vote adds to the promise already borne by Sotto and other young politicians like him.

He said he is focused on his work as mayor. Surely that is a good thing. He readily admitted to feeling a sense of regret, about two months or so after the elections, about failing to inform his constituents about what he was doing.

He said he only belatedly realized that in today’s saturated media environment, a sole focus on doing the work, without informing the public about the work’s progress, paradoxically created the public impression that no work was being done.

Sotto said he ran his own social media accounts—to gasps from the social-media savvy audience members (most of whom were several years younger than him, and who expected him to have an entire team managing his presence on social media). He writes and publishes his own tweets, he said, but tries to avoid the hostile environment of Facebook as much as possible.

He also said something that Pasig citizens can readily attest to: He could have conducted a campaign with celebrities from “Eat Bulaga,” where his famous parents met, stumping for him every day of the 45-day election period, free of charge, but he declined.

He said the celebrity status of his parents gave him one advantage, that he could afford to focus on the issues instead of building up his name; his decision to decline the generous offer from Jose Manalo and others from “Eat Bulaga” was early proof that his kind of politics is different.

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On the last Sunday of the year, Sen. Leila de Lima told her visitors at the Camp Crame detention center in Quezon City that, despite continuing hardship, she sees “good signs” manifesting themselves in 2019, potential seeds of change in the coming year.

She was referring to the galvanizing consequences of the Global Magnitsky measure, and to the unexpected and unexpectedly swift consequences created by the prohibition on US entry against those personalities involved in her unlawful arrest and detention.

The panic these two substantial developments provoked among Duterte administration officials and their fake-news influencers was something to behold; in my view, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s unsettled, unsettling reaction was the worst.

He said he didn’t give a damn sh*t about the prospective ban on entry, and then harrumphed: But I am not the one who has to answer to my conscience.

He was obviously referring to De Lima, the avatar of the administration’s anxieties. But in fact every single official has to answer to his or her own conscience; that is the nature of the public morality that animates public service.

How telling that Guevarra, by reputation a good lawyer before he joined the administration, would assert that only De Lima has to answer to the dictates of conscience. As young people still say these days: #alamna. Good signs.

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On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand, email: [email protected]

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TAGS: De Lima, Global Magnitsky measure, Magnitsky, New Year, Vico Sotto
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