Hijacked by families and personalities
The last-minute decision by the PDP-Laban faction dear to President Duterte’s heart to field Sen. Bato dela Rosa as its standard-bearer shows what the public can expect from the administration in the crucial 2022 elections. The decision was made two hours before the 5 p.m. deadline of the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) on Oct. 8 and relayed to him in a phone call, Dela Rosa said, recalling that he was worried about the traffic. His usefulness to the faction’s plans was clear, he being the only one available and, most important, avowedly willing to let Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte substitute for him if and when.
Imagine: Having formalized the filing process, Dela Rosa and Sen. Bong Go are now the faction’s candidates for president and vice president. These most true-blue of Mr. Duterte’s men presume to be qualified to hold the lives of 110 million Filipinos in their mortal hands: one his longtime associate and enforcer of his war on drugs, and the other his longtime aide—both neophyte senators, unencumbered by any compunction to offer themselves to the electorate, and prepared to make the moves necessary to bring about a desired outcome.
But who forgets that in 2015, Rodrigo Duterte ditched his purported reluctance to seek the presidency and substituted at the last minute for the PDP-Laban standard-bearer Martin Diño? A similar game plan appears to be in effect relating to Mayor Duterte, who has so far played deaf to a “clamor” for her to run to succeed her father. (The projected green wave to greet the Davao “eagle” that would take flight on Oct. 8 fizzled; on top of everything else, it was announced that the mayor had come down with the coronavirus.) There’s plenty of time before the Nov. 15 deadline for the substitution of candidates. Asked about that possibility after he filed his COC, Dela Rosa gushed that Mayor Duterte substituting for him as presidential candidate would be so much the better: “’Di mas maganda.” As for her father, analysts do not put it past him that he may in time substitute for Go despite his announced desire to retire.
Even Lakas-CMD is unabashed in admitting that place-warmers are in place until the 11th hour.
With public health and the economy in crisis, with “our politics … hijacked by personalities and by families,” as former Ateneo School of Government dean Tony La Viña told CNN Philippines, the future is frightening to contemplate.
For the senatorial contest, the Palace has endorsed a motley group that includes the likes of ex-action star Robin Padilla, whose loyalty to the President is legendary; Mindanao Development Authority chair Manny Piñol, who will be remembered as having persuaded the Filipino captain and crew of the Gem-Ver 1 to back down and say that the ramming of their fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the dead of night was accidental; and Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, one among the 70 House members who voted to kill the ABS-CBN franchise.
Among the Palace-endorsed nominees of party-list groups are Mocha Uson, who, in her stint at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, managed to spread disinformation, and Celine Pialago and other members of that Red-tagger of activists, the billion-peso-budgeted anti-insurgency task force.
Elsewhere, the terrain is inhospitable to hope for better governance. Apart from entertainers trying to parlay faded celebrity for the perks of public office, accused killers and charlatans see no shame in running. Joel Reyes, graft convict and fugitive ex-governor of Palawan who is the subject of a warrant of arrest for the 2011 murder of environment activist Gerry Ortega, has filed his COC as governor through a proxy and seems confident that he can continue to hack it through the legal thicket. “Pastor” Joel Apolinario, arrested for syndicated estafa in July 2020 with no bail recommended, and the certificate of registration of his Kapa Community Ministry International revoked a year earlier, is running for senator, as is notorious lawyer Larry Gadon, whose foul language caused his suspension by the Supreme Court.
Everywhere spouses, siblings, parents, and progeny are merrily exchanging posts as if these were a family inheritance—from the Valeras in Abra to the Dimaporos in Lanao to the Duterte siblings renewing their lock on Davao City. Ad nauseam.
In this prevailing system, ordinary folk earnestly seeking to enter politics in order to uplift their lives and others’ don’t stand a chance. It’s time to boldly upend it, break the cycle.
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