What is happening in national politics today is not just a muscular spasm or twitch. It is a nervous breakdown of Philippine democracy and our political culture.
In the wink of just two days – Monday, November 30 (National Heroes Day) and Tuesday,December 1— and with one turn of the wheel of fortune, the race for the presidency has undergone a bewildering shakeup, and we Filipinos are now waking to a completely changed and potentially unstable situation.
It’s as if all the corruption, abuse, deception, dishonesty, thievery, hypocrisy and all the humbug finally converged this week to create the equivalent of an earthquake that would shake up Philippine democracy to its foundations, challenging it to live up to its ideals or cease to exist altogether.
When the wheel turns
One day, we looked all ready for next year’s ritualistic show of our democracy at work, and for the installation of a new president. With one turn of the wheel, we are now left in wonder whether we have seen the last of the shocks in the runup to the 2016 elections.
One day, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares was pacing the field of presidential candidates as the odds-on favorite in the surveys. With one turn of the wheel, she has been disqualified from the race, for lack of eligibility and her bogus credentials as a foundling. Amidst the hullabaloo, she looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
One day, Mayor Rody Duterte looked like the conquering hero, who would bring sanity and choice to the presidential balloting. With a turn of the wheel, and with one speech announcing his candidacy, he imploded in front the TV cameras, detonating himself in a torrent of profanities and obscenities. And now, his strategists and supporters are struggling to put him back together again
One day, Mar Roxas looked like an administration favorite whom no one wanted to listen to. With one turn of the wheel, he has suddenly become one of the candidates who will likely survive up to the day of the balloting in May,
One day, Vice-president Jojo Binay looked like a mere shadow of the early-favorite for the presidency, whose prospects had been forcibly pulled down by an aggressive demonization campaign to paint him as a corrupt political dynast. With one turn of the wheel, he is returning to front-rank status, with chances to win it all if he can survive further shocks to his candidacy.
One day, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago looked like a feisty, if late entrant, in the presidential race who could barely make it to the Comelec to file her certificate of candidacy. With one turn of the wheel, and with one last spurt of energy and resolve, the big C permitting, she could become again the mouth that roars, spewing fire and sound bites, rising as the dark horse in the presidential race.
It’s not just individual political fortunes that are in a state of flux. The collective political life and prospects of the nation are also in transition now.
The situation is pregnant with possibilities and implications for the future of Philippine democracy, for breakdown as well as transformation.
Snapshots of the candidates
To guide the reader in assessing the evolving political situation, I will take a snapshot of each candidate, and where they each stand today.
Sadly, it’s all over for Grace. Her incredible bid for the presidency has flamed out, before she can even be included in the ballot. All her legal remedies and arguments will be of no avail.
The Comelec will rule with finality that her certificate of candidacy is void. If the matter is raised to the Supreme Court, the court will rule that she is not a natural-born citizen, and therefore not qualified to run for president.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) may doggedly sustain its original and mistaken ruling. When brought to the SC, the high court will overturn the SET ruling. MS. Poe will then be forced to vacate her Senate seat.
Grace Poe’s political career in this country is finished. Her story will become a cautionary tale of the catastrophe of overweening ambition.
Mayor Duterte’s run for the presidency is also finished. He committed political suicide on national television. There will be no resuscitating his candidacy, unlike his on-again-off-again statements.
From being the potential savior, he is now the anti-hero.
His attack on Pope Francis will not be forgotten by his countrymen, let alone forgiven.
His defense that he was abused as a young boy by a Jesuit priest, is crude and desperate.
There was a time when Duterte represented a fresh voice of honesty and vigor in the presidential race.
Now, he is simply a foul-mouthed and power-hungry politician.
Manuel Roxas II
Manuel Roxas will be the biggest beneficiary when both Grace Poe and Duterte exit from the race.
The reduction of the field to just him and VP Binay will automatically raise his support base and poll standing, because of the mathematical probabilities.
This is big for Roxas because he has basically been a cipher in the campaign so far; he does not register as a candidate.
It will also enhance the advantage conferred by administration support and public funds.
Vice President Binay will also benefit from the reduction of the field to just him and Roxas.
The staging of Binay-vs-Roxas part II favors Binay some because people will recall that he won part 1.
But this is a new contest now.
Being the leader of the opposition does nothing to erase the biggest issues against Binay: 1) the allegations of corruption against him; and 2) his dynastic politics in Makati.
It ‘s awkward to include Senator Santiago in this analysis, because she doesn’t seem to be running at all.
This candidacy, although registered and announced, badly needs “proof of life.”
Outrage and civic activism are needed now
This time of breakdown for our democracy should not only open minds to the field of candidates. It should also focus national attention on the obstacles to free, fair and credible elections; such as:
1. The role of Smartmatic again in the correct recording of votes in the precincts, the correct transmission of precinct totals to the canvassing centers, and the tabulation of the votes, having already screwed us in 2010 and 2013. An attempt to cheat by the administration could destabilize the nation.
2. The false choices being presented to the electorate because of the lack of serious candidates with serious programs and policy ideas; and
3. President Aquino’s evident determination to stop at nothing to ensure victory for his party in the balloting.
Only public outrage and citizen activism can stop wholesale administration cheating in the 2016.
The kryptonite is a broad coalition of business, religious, military, labor and citizen groups that will make clear to Aquino that they will not allow the rape of our democracy.
Muscle speaks louder than words.