‘Mano po!’ | Inquirer Opinion
On The Move

‘Mano po!’

Many Filipinos believed social media posts in 2016-2017 declaring Rodrigo Duterte as the best president in the universe. They believed much more of the same claims, to the ruin of this nation.

But they appeared to know exactly what was happening when they saw a picture of the mother of Jose Antonio Sanvicente pressing her forehead to the hand of Police Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. in the Filipino gesture of “mano po” during the press conference in which the police presented Sanvicente to the public. The public perception is that, in the end, the poor victim will be run over again, this time by the operation of that quaint Filipino version of the “rule of law.”


Sanvicente, 34, is accused of knocking down and running over security guard Christian Joseph Floralde in Mandaluyong, at the intersection of Julia Vargas and St. Francis Street last June 5. The video of the grisly incident where the vehicle drove away as if nothing happened appalled the public.

Sanvicente apologized to the victim during the press conference called by the police, but the public once again found it odd that he was not placed under arrest after he failed to submit himself to authorities. No warrant has been issued against him. In the subsequent preliminary investigation at the prosecutor’s office last week, Sanvicente did not show up while the victim, despite his serious injuries and pain, attended the hearing. Of course, the public became more incensed.


The Mandaluyong “mano po” incident is significant not only because of the wide negative public reaction, but because it happened during the transition period between the elections and the inauguration of the incoming administration. As far as the tip of the iceberg of public opinion is concerned, there are so many other signals of public restiveness and frustrations with the government at the national and local levels.

Such restiveness comes from the social, political, and economic environment that has become so VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The Putin aggression in Ukraine has created a global ripple of multilevel challenges, including the increase in the price of oil that translates into high prices of commodities and less agricultural and food production, and intramural conflicts over the proper business, education, and health system adaptation to the COVID-19 situation.

The people are hurting. Where are the reassuring and comforting words and actions from our outgoing and incoming presidents during this period of transitional confusion? Where is their “mano po” gesture to the people?

This transition phase appears neglected as an arena for building trust in the government. It is as if we are awaiting the curtain to open in a “moro-moro.” There are two stages to the event—the transparent backstage where people see the actors putting on their make-up, musicians tuning their instruments, and much nervous ribbing. Then, there is the front stage where the actors officially act out their scripted roles, and the people are expected to applaud, cry, rage, or otherwise emote accordingly as the characters reveal themselves.

The Mandaluyong “mano po” incident is significant in another sense. Like a river changing its course, the “mano po” gesture has shifted from its original meaning as a sign of respect for elders and obtaining their blessings to the mafia-like practice of swearing fealty and loyalty to a boss or patron as popularized by the lore of the godfather.

During President Duterte’s term, we have seen these “mano po” images. In July 2019, Alan Peter Cayetano, aspiring to be speaker, made a deep bow and “mano po” gesture to Mr. Duterte amidst rumors of an impending Lord Allan Velasco speakership coup.

In November 2017, former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada made the “mano po” gesture to Mr. Duterte at the start of a meeting in Malacañang. In March 2022, actor Robin Padilla made the “mano po” gesture to Mr. Duterte during the PDP-Laban proclamation rally in Lapu-Lapu City. The latest was of Irene Marcos-Araneta making the “mano po” gesture to Sara Duterte as Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Imelda Marcos looked on.

Is it possible to think that our politicians do not find these “mano po” scenes almost obscene, the way the people see the Mandaluyong incident? Cynical Filipinos, in the current lingo, will say, “Alam na this” (We know already).

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TAGS: Jose Antonio Sanvicente, On The Move
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