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Instructive farce

I almost fell off my seat laughing after reading that item about Bong Revilla being determined to push through with his presidential run in 2016. If he can’t get vindication from the courts, he proposed, he will get it from the electorate. Toward that end, he has been going around the communities pleading his case.

Revilla’s lawyer, Joel Bodegon, is bullish about his chances in 2016. To begin with, Bodegon asserts, the reason “he is in trouble now” is this: “His announced intention before [to run for president] earned him the ire of Malacañang. He was perceived as one of the contenders. If the clamor for him to run grows louder and snowballs, he will go for it.”

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How’s that for being delusional? If there’s a clamor for Revilla to do anything, it is not the one he believes and his lawyer imagines. That is patent in the clamor, or collective derision, that greeted his privilege speech last week where he claimed to be a victim of political persecution. Jail is the least of your worries when you start hearing voices.

It is a farce, but one that allows us to see some not very farcical things along the way.

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The first drives home the point about how worlds apart the Erap debacle is with the one of Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. Revilla of course hopes to do an Erap II, journeying from rise and fall to rise again. But, alas, all he will prove is that desperate dreams, like history, repeat themselves twice, first as tragedy, second as farce.

At the very least, that’s because Revilla never had the kind of popularity Erap did, not in politics and not even in the movies. Erap, by the time he entered politics, was already a movie icon, next only to Fernando Poe Jr. And Erap, by the time he got thrown in jail for corruption, had a following of loyalists who were willing to ignore, or forgive, him his trespasses—which they promptly showed with the phenomenal, if aberrant, “Edsa Tres.” If Revilla enjoys idolatry as a movie star or politician, only he knows about it.

But far more than that, Revilla’s indictment, and possible conviction, won’t labor under the same cloud of doubt as Erap’s. The reason Erap was able to run for president again in 2010—and nearly win—wasn’t just the lack of inexorability of the law, it was also the lack of credibility of the president who jailed him. The reason Revilla won’t be able to, let alone come remotely close to winning, won’t just be the credibility of the president and the process that will jail him, it will be the hilarity of his effort to surmount it in this wise.

The second thing is more interesting. It is how the Estradas’ political sun is sinking fast in the horizon, if it hasn’t yet sunk completely. Like Revilla, Jinggoy also had ambitions to run either for president or vice president, although he seemed to have settled for the latter once he reckoned Jojo Binay was it. But that was before all this. Now he’s fighting for his life and it’s all he can do to avoid Muntinlupa, never mind barge into Malacañang. Will he want to do an Erap II, too, or in this case a “like father, like son”?

Arguably, he has a far better chance of getting farther than Revilla—he is Erap’s son, after all. But so only in theory. Being Erap’s son is a double-edged sword. In practice, the only way he can do a “like father, like son” routine is by showing the world that like his father, he has also been indicted, and probably will be convicted, for graft and corruption.

That isn’t just damaging to both their political careers, that is lethal to them. It won’t just cripple their political careers, it will end them. Taken singly, those two things can be excused away in some way. Taken together, it cannot. The one will reinforce the other. Nowhere will that saying “like father, like son” ring more loudly, and darkly, than here. Like father, like son: Pareho kawatan.

Erap was already at pains to win as mayor of Manila. He’ll be lucky to win another office after this. As will Jinggoy.

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And three, all this talk about 2016 reminds us that with only a couple of years to go before P-Noy’s term ends, we’re still at pains to find someone who can replace him. It’s a political void, or chasm, we’re staring at, the current choice simply being between one who cannot win and—at least from the point of view of the anticorruption camp—one who shouldn’t win. If the presidential election were held today, Jojo Binay would win hands down, as shown by the beeline that has been forming toward his camp, which includes some of P-Noy’s top officials.

A friend of mine told me recently, not entirely in jest, that he had a perfect solution to the problem. That is for P-Noy to run as vice president in 2016. Nothing forbids him from doing so. If Gloria Arroyo can run as congresswoman after her term as president and Erap as mayor after his own (aborted) one, P-Noy can certainly run for vice president. That way, once they win, which is a cinch, P-Noy can watch Binay to make sure in particular that the convictions of Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla are not overturned, and in general that the treasury is not ruthlessly raided.

What can one say? Nice work if you can get it.

There’s another alternative, of course, and that is to find an alternative while there’s still time. That’s certainly far more realistic than Revilla finding a happy ending outside of “Ang Panday,” and the Estradas finding redemption from double jeopardy. I’ve always had one in mind, but I’ll leave the active campaigning for her after she decides to run. Which should be perfect in December during the 10th death anniversary of the most famous guy in Philippine movie history.

Meanwhile, I’ll be savoring the hilarity of Revilla’s farce, and mourning the tragedies that go with it.

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, Janet Napoles, Jinggoy Estrada, Joel Bodegon, Juan Ponce Enrile, pork barrel scam, pork scam, Ramon Revilla Jr., Revilla, Senator Revilla
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