Too early, too late
It’s far too early in the day to make a fuss about an election that’s still more than a year and a half away. And far too late to cry that Margaux “Mocha” Uson is going to ruin the Senate by joining the race.
You may well ask: Why is the midterm election in 2019 already being discussed at this point, as if the polls are already upon us, instead of 20 months away?
My other question is related to the first. Who’s afraid of Uson and why all this premature hand-wringing about the supposed deleterious effect of her entry into that hallowed institution called the Senate?
Of course, outside of the few remaining hard-core Aquino cult followers on all sorts of media, no one wants to make a big to-do about reports emanating from Cebu City last weekend that Uson is gunning for a Senate post. Especially since it has become plain that the administration PDP-Laban party, through an overeager House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, didn’t really move the inclusion of Uson, presidential spokesman Harry Roque or anyone else for that faraway election.
But the panic in anti-Duterte circles is real and palpable. And the personification of all the angst is Uson and her fearsome army of online followers, whom some unreconstructed elitists (and wannabe elitists) have taken to calling “the great unwashed.”
Adding to the existential woes of those who consider the prospect of a Senator Uson, with obvious glee, was President Rodrigo Duterte himself. Last Saturday, Duterte could not help but scare the Yellows some more by saying that the people should decide on who should be elected to office —thus proving to one and all that the President can troll the people who hate him even when he is making the most self-evident of motherhood statements.
But it’s really another of those tempests in the Philippine political teapot that are woven entirely out of unfounded fear. To use the Tagalog saying, the anti-Dutertes created the ghost of Mocha as senator and proceeded to frighten themselves silly using their own spectral creation.
The trouble with this new attempt to demonize Uson is that, given the huge surveyed majority of Filipinos who approve of Duterte, the Yellows are only galvanizing support for a popular but strictly mid-level pro-administration bureaucrat because of their obvious irrational fear of her plan to advance her political career—assuming that is what she intends to do. In other words, the Yellows are convincing even people who are of two minds about Uson in the Senate to back her, if only because that is what the Aquino remnants seem to fear most.
The irrelevant Yellows are actually campaigning this early for Uson. And the elitists and their sympathizers seem totally unaware that they may actually be helping ensure a victory for her that is no one in his right mind will concede is certain, this far away from the start of actual voting.
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The other thing that the anti-Duterte campaigners don’t really want to go into is Uson’s supposed lack of qualifications for a Senate seat. After all, by declaring that Uson is unfit to become a senator (or even for her low-wattage post as communications assistant secretary), the Yellows will be forced to answer questions about the fitness of their own champions—people like Noynoy Aquino and, to be more up to date, his cousin Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino.
To argue that Uson doesn’t have the qualifications to be a bureaucrat or a senator can quickly turn into an assessment of the Aquinos who got so far in the post-Ninoy period on so little. The sainted Cory’s own fitness for the highest post in the land (or obvious lack of it, really) could once again be brought up, even.
Taken as a contemporary institution, the Senate itself cannot claim to have preserved its supposed reputation as the residence of the best and brightest of our political class. The present crop of senators, in particular, will not even be able to say that they do not have among them those who would actually have a hard time beating Uson in a debate or in proposing legislation.
Ultimately, I think the attacks on Uson are really—as is usual with the people doing the attacking —intended to take Duterte down a notch or two. After the government’s wildly successful hosting of the Asean summit and the release immediately after of the amazing third-quarter GDP growth data, there is precious little that the anti-Duterte can hope to use as ammunition against the President they have vowed to destroy.
If it’s not Uson, it has to be someone or something else. Never mind if all the hubbub about her planning to secure a Senate seat is, at this point, as imaginary as Senator Antonio Trillanes’ depictions of the tattoo on Pulong Duterte’s back.
But if the Yellows ensure that Uson gets into the Senate because of their exertions to keep her out, then the people who voted for her will certainly have the last laugh. And the Aquino-lovers will just have to look for yet another means to hit at Duterte, their real target.