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There’s The Rub

David and Goliath

It’s looking like a battle between David and Goliath. So says Juan Ponce Enrile about the looming fight between the government-backed Liberal Party and Jojo Binay and Joseph Estrada’s coalition in next year’s elections.

The coalition is called the United Nationalist Alliance and bills itself as the unity ticket. Proof of its unity being that its prospective senatorial candidates come from the most disparate, even conflicting, political camps: Koko Pimentel, Miguel Zubiri, Mitos Magsaysay, J.V. Ejercito, Juan Ponce “Jackie” Enrile Jr., Joey de Venecia, Ernesto Maceda, Gregorio Honasan, Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Jamby Madrigal, and Ma. Lourdes Nancy Binay.

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Enrile sees UNA as David. That is because the LP has the resources of government behind it. “They hold the government, the money, the bureaucracy.” But who knows, he says, “David might win.”

I agree: David might win. But I disagree: David won’t be UNA.

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UNA in fact will be the Goliath here, its candidates being more well-known and name recall being a critical factor in voter preferences. But that’s a giant that might just end up being felled by a sling shot. Binay’s own experience in the last elections suggests so.

Binay caught up with Mar Roxas despite the latter’s Goliath-like lead because he managed to associate himself with principle. He rightly saw that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a central issue in the elections (which was what burnished P-Noy’s Edsa glow as shadow does to light), and toward the endgame hammered home to the voters that he had been anti-Arroyo to the core. While painting Roxas as having been pro-Arroyo to the last. It didn’t hurt that he also trotted out pictures of himself alongside Cory, reminding voters of his Edsa roots, and pitching to them the idea that he was a better fit for P-Noy than Roxas.

None of that is here. Principle is the last thing the grab bag of characters thrown together in the UNA “senatoriables” suggests. Politics may be the art of addition but not all additions add up. Some additions subtract, or at least bring the sum to zero, the factors negating each other. UNA might pass off its ticket as representing the politics of unity, but for many voters it can only hint of the politics of opportunism.

At the very least that is so because it includes people who have distinguished themselves only for switching loyalties apart from parties, for switching positions apart from affiliations. It’s bad enough that we are a country that has no real political party, except for the Communist Party and Ang Kapatiran, a real political party being one that is bigger than its members, that commands allegiance on the basis of political beliefs rather than mere political advantage. It’s worse that this draws in some political butterflies of the truly fluttery sort, people who put on and off convictions, or what they pass off as so, like they wear clothes.

An interesting sidelight to this is Koko Pimentel’s quandary, finding himself under the same roof as the person who made him a squatter outside the Senate for four years, who is Zubiri. In this country, lightning does not only strike twice in the same place, it often does.

Nene Pimentel presaged his son’s plight. He lost in the 1995 elections because of what he called dagdag-bawas, specifically accusing Enrile of employing it against him, and brought the case to court. Three years later, he found himself in Enrile’s company in the senatorial slate that Erap fielded. Erap being unstoppable at the time, Pimentel won. But he never recovered the stature he had when he was fighting the fight against dagdag-bawas.

Will Koko remake the movie? Abangan. But one thing is clear: Some defeats can be victories and some victories can be defeats.

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At the very most, what all this proposes is mere unity for unity’s sake. It doesn’t stand for anything other than that dubious good. In fact, not all unities are good, some unities are bad. Not all unities are a boon, some unities are a bane.

This sounds very strong echoes of the theme the Marcoses keep harping on each time they try to get their favorite patriarch buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. As Bongbong put it at one point, P-Noy is wasting a wonderful opportunity to reconcile former enemies, to unite the country.

Why so? The point of unity is to unite with the right parties, not the wrong ones. The point of unity is to unite with the oppressed, not with their oppressors. The point of unity is to unite the people, not their enemies.

Along with recruiting political butterflies, UNA brings together people who represent the regimes that have made life horrendously unpleasant for most Filipinos. Those are the Marcos, Erap, and Arroyo regimes. I don’t know why the voters, or indeed the citizens themselves, should be elated at the thought that these camps will finally find a voice under one umbrella. Threatened would be more like it.

The likely result of all this will be to drive a wedge between P-Noy and Binay and set them on a collision course. Indeed, the likely result of all this would be to draw into stark relief, not unlike the last elections, an ideological divide, between past and present, between the forces of reaction and reform, between evil and good. Not that the LP itself has distinguished itself as the leading light in P-Noy’s effort to fight corruption—the aura has so far been non-transferable—but the contrast thrusts the party in that role. It at least makes LP smell like roses. Why shouldn’t it capitalize on something that is being offered to it on a silver platter? Image is important, and symbols far more so.

So, yes, David might very well be left standing over Goliath after the smoke clears. Question is:

Who’s the David and who’s the Goliath?

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TAGS: Conrado de Quiros, Jejomar Binay, Joseph Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, opinion, politics, There’s the Rub
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