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The circus comes to town

"Nothing can stop it, even as people die by the day with vaccines in short supply, and jobs continue to be lost, lives on the verge of despair."

It came late, waylaid from its traditional path into the public consciousness by this pestilence called a coronavirus.

In early 2009, candidates from billionaire politicians like the NP’s Manuel Villar and the LP’s Manuel Araneta Roxas had already been posturing for the elections of 2010.  As early as 2008, they had been revving the campaign machinery they would use to achieve their political dreams, along with media and PR consultants.

Latecomers but “hot” personalities included Sens. Chiz Escudero and Loren Legarda for the NPC, the former the “darling of the colegialas” who would turn 40 by October 10, 2009.  Thus, if he had become president, he would have been the youngest elected in our political history.  The latter, a senatorial topnotcher and before that a well-known TV journalist, was the legendary FPJ’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, derailed by her fellow at ABS-CBN, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s team-mate, Noli de Castro.

Lurking in the shadows, readying himself for a vindicating run, was then deposed and detained president Erap Estrada, whose best friend FPJ was “Garci-fied” in 2004. 

But a cataclysmic event derailed everyone of these wannabes—former president Cory Aquino’s death in August 1, 2009 sent paroxysms of national grief that brought her only son Noynoy, then a lackluster senator, to the fore, in what many described as a case of necro-political resurgence of dynasty.

The political landscape in 2015 was dissimilar.  A man who came from behind in 2010, snatching victory as vice-president from relative obscurity, Jejomar Binay, mayor of  Makati since Edsa Uno, was touted as the man to beat.  In the middle of 2014, however, a barrage of accusations of grand larceny against the vice-president was unleashed in the Senate, and dented his 41-percent approval rating. Eating dust from behind him was the incumbent president’s chosen successor, party-mate Mar Roxas, DILG secretary after a stint as transportation czar.

This situation brought forth the emergence of two options: Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of the legendary FPJ and the famous doyenne of Philippine movies, Susan Roces, and from far-away Davao, the city mayor who tamed a wild South in the almost three decades that he and his family held sway.

On January 8, 2015, some 16 months before the scheduled presidential elections of 2016, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte decided to try his political luck on a national setting.  The result was a “listening” tour which really was a fascinating monologue from the tough mayor espousing federalism.  For the rest of the year, he toured the country mesmerizing people with his pledge to kill the drug lords in two-hour long speeches punctuated by snatches of historical references, the most memorable of which was 1521 when Magellan was killed by his favorite hero Lapu-Lapu de Mactan.

In the first quarter of 2015, Duterte’s survey numbers were single-digit.  By the second quarter, they had climbed to respectable double-digits, statistically tied up with PNoy’s anointed Mar Roxas.  Leading the surveys was Grace Poe, followed by a slipping VP Jojo, then Mar, then Duterte.

But the trajectory was in favor of a slugfest between Duterte and Grace.  And with the cunning of his “jele-jele”, he drew more and more curious interest in his campaign.  Meanwhile Grace Poe was hobbled by questions about her Philippine loyalty after taking American citizenship.  She was slipping gradually while Duterte steadily gained ground.

By the end of 2015, after a dramatic no-show at the Comelec deadline followed by a volte face some month and a half later, the wind beneath the Duterte sails had blown strong.  As we went into the formal campaign period starting February, as far as those of us who worked with the Duterte campaign, the prize was well within grasp.

Yet now, because of COVID-19, the political circus came late in the day.  Up until the month of May, early speculations about who’s running and who’s not were doused by a resurgence of infection in April.

Then came May 31, coincidentally the 43rd birthday of Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, mayor of the City of Davao, a post held by her father for two decades before he became the first Mindanaoan president of the land.

On the same day, DOE Sec. Al Cusi, as vice-chairman of the humongous (and soon to be sundered) PDP-Laban, called a national council in Cebu, upon the direct instructions of the incumbent president.  To be sure, the meeting was contested by the acting president of the party, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, but with little if any avail.  A “strange” resolution was approved on both live and virtual floor—President Duterte was to be the party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016, with the privilege to name who would be his head. 

By the way, in my Wednesday column last, I doubted if DOF Sec. Sonny Dominguez, who made an online cameo appearance in PDP’s coming-out party, was even a member.  He corrected me and said he had been a PDP member since 1984.  

With characteristic cool, the President gave no comment to the strange proposition by the political party he never bothered in the past to give much importance to.  But his spokesman who wants to be senator of the realm enumerates five choices: The daughter Sara, the favorite Bong Go, the dictator’s son Bongbong, the pugilist Pacman, and the mayor of the nation’s capital, Isko Moreno. On even date, traditional politicians trooped to Davao to greet the lady mayor on her birthday. The speaker of the HoR with a tacky portrait signed by his flock, the majority floorleader bearing 43 Ecuadorian roses, even potential competitor Bongbong Marcos and his sister, Senadora Imelda Junior.The economist-politician from Albay tried aping the baptist John in proclaiming the lady mayor’s certain run for the presidency.  Not to be outdone, a former congressman from neighboring Camarines Sur flew to the city with a forgotten presidential candidate and his glamorous wife to implore her to run, forthwith claiming a done deal, with her running for president and his ward, the once gentleman from Tarlac as her running-mate.

 Meanwhile, the lady mayor, wearing an atypical yellow tee, was the picture of serene imperturbability, and like her father six years ago, neither confirming nor denying.  Aha, the same template!

In the parade of the elephants, the trapeze artists and the clowns, the political circus has arrived.  Even as people die by the day with vaccines in short supply, and jobs continue to be lost, lives on the verge of despair.

Nothing, but nothing, can stop the circus.

Topics: Lito Banayo , COVID-19 , political circus , presidential elections
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