"Here's their latest gimmick."
With the May 13 elections just five weeks away, the opposition’s “Otso Diretso” senatorial slate has started plumbing new depths in their desperate efforts to catch up.
The latest surveys have either Mar Roxas or Bam Aquino dropping in and out of the Magic 12. Online observers have noted how the eight no longer always wear their trademark yellow colors and have been experimenting with all sorts of outlandish hand gestures. Roxas, the ostensible standard-bearer, seems to be making himself scarce from his teammates’ public appearances.
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In their latest questionable campaign gimmick, the eight solicited endorsements from certain princes of the local Church in order to try and whip up a “Catholic vote.” They even included images of the Crucifix and the two species of the Eucharist in their posters—an outrage bordering on sacrilege that offended even some of their diehard Catholic supporters.
This is what happens when you unmoor yourself from “first things” of the faith: You never know in what outlandish precincts you’ll end up. One of the Otso’s archbishops even went so far as to describe federalism—of all things—as an un-Christian concept. He may have taken his theological cues from former Chief Justice Davide, who says that under federalism we will all “go straight to hell.”
It reminds me of how the yellow clergy and religious used to fawn over PNoy, the godfather of the Otsos—who during his term actually bribed legislators to pass the Reproductive Health law—after they had bedeviled GMA throughout most of her term, despite her very Christian opposition to RH and the death penalty.
Thankfully, lay observers who’re more mindful of their theology have pointed out that many, if not most, of the Otso candidates in fact sided against the Church on issues about which the Church is pretty clear that we can go to hell, e.g. same-sex marriage, divorce, contraception, abortion. Do these guys really deserve to have the Church stake Her reputation on their political ambitions?
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With the prospects of a “Catholic vote” as dim as ever, the opposition has now launched a blitzkrieg campaign against the popularity and credibility of Duterte himself, whom they—rightly—see as their main obstacle.
Scurrilous videos have appeared on social media that talk about alleged drug links of various Duterte family members, unexplained increases in wealth, shady bank transactions—even going so far as to drag in the name of Duterte’s youngest daughter. These anonymous videos remind me of nothing else but the same systematic slander that was launched in 2012 to try and impeach the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. Yep, it’s the same authors, the same yellow motives.
Even something as mundane as the 2019 budget has been used as a political football to damage Duterte’s credibility—as well as that of his close ally, Speaker Arroyo—by forcing delays in budget approval and thus the start-up of many infrastructure projects and new social services. The culprits behind this conspiracy in the Senate may have an even longer-term objective: to destroy a rising young political star like Mayor Inday Sara in preparation for their own presidential ambitions in 2022.
The straw that may have broken the camel’s back was the invitation issued by the opposition’s grise—not greasy—eminence, Senator Frank Drilon, to bring to his office any complaints about malfeasance by the administration. This impertinent attempt to set himself up as a co-equal chief executive prompted Duterte to threaten to declare a “revolutionary government.”
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This latest Presidential tirade of course provoked the usual counter-response, which in fact may have been what Drilon wanted to happen. But if Duterte’s critics are counting on a Marcos-style overreach on martial law that will eventually lead to a Cory-style EDSA uprising, they may be gravely mistaken.
There are of course many differences between the present and what happened decades ago. But one of them is worth mentioning here: Today’s military enjoys a far higher degree of respect and popular regard than they may have before—ironically, in part because of the role the post-Marcos military played in those pivotal events of EDSA 1986.
Since then, people have come to understand that what may qualify the military even for civilian administration is not only their discipline, leadership and management skills learned under stress, but—perhaps most of all—their single-minded focus on mission. Exemplars who’ve successfully made the transition under Duterte include former generals like Ed Año at DILG, Roy Cimatu at DENR, Carlos Galvez at OPAPP for the peace process.
Lina Santiago, the first PNP woman general, eventually silenced even her leftist critics with the even-handed way she managed the distribution of martial law human rights victims benefits claims last year. And why is General Bato safely among the likely senatoriables even if “Operation Tokhang” was introduced on his watch at PNP?
With this kind of proficiency and credibility of those in uniform, we shouldn’t wonder why martial law in Mindanao has succeeded in holding the peace there, enough to prepare for the peaceful transition of a Bangsamoro autonomous region.
And if this kind of authoritarian firmness—exercised, say, through indefinite suspension of habeas corpus—were implemented nationwide, I’m fairly sure most of our people will be thinking that there’s no lack of drug lords, crime lords, political warlords, plunderers and rebellion leaders who can fill up the 9,800 unused beds in the 10,000-bed drug detention facility in Fort Laur, Nueva Ecija.
At least the infrastructure money won’t be wasted.
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When the Israelites began complaining about what would be their forty years of wandering the desert under Moses (Numbers 21: 4-9), God lost patience and sent serpents among them. But after the people repented, again He forgave them and told Moses to cast a bronze serpent on a pole which would heal anyone who looked upon it. This image foreshadows the salvific authority of Jesus as He hung on the cross.
In the Gospel (John 8: 21-30), Jesus explains that the origin of this authority of His is the Father Himself: “…If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins”. He foretells how the salvation of sinners can be accomplished only by His death: “Where I am going, you cannot come.”
And He reveals how it is His obedience to the Father that allows Him to contemplate His fate without fear or regret: “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” It’s a prescription for belief and behavior that should reassure us as we take up the crosses in our own lives.
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.