With the deadline for the filing of candidacies for the 2016 elections just a month away, it’s now the season for political weirdness.
Politicians will say and do things that they would wish to walk back just hours later.
Prospective candidates articulate or test a policy in public that they soon realize will lose, not gain, votes for them.
They try to paint an attractive persona for themselves by making bold statements that, on reflection, serve to paint themselves into a corner or a box.
President Aquino got the season rolling in Cebu city last week when he declared that budget secretary Butch Abad is his Apolinario Mabini – a declaration that immediately got more brickbats than nods.
In Davao City, Mayor and prospective presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterto made a local tourist swallow a cigarette for flouting the city’s ban on smoking in restraurants – under threat of being shot in the crotch.
In Makati City, Vice President Jejomar Binay discussed at a business forum his policy agenda and made the extravagant declaration that he would appoint a dream Cabinet that will not contain a single politician.
Abad as Apolinario Mabini
Aquino’s exaltation of Abad was met with guffaws and disbelief everywhere. Only Mar Roxas appeared to agree with him.
It turns out that Aquino did not announce the tribute during the Cebu rally. It was Roxas who disclosed there that President Aquino had likened Secretary Abad to national hero Apolinario Mabini, because Abad is the “brains” of the Aquino administration’s straight path policy.
Roxas made the announcement when he introduced Abad during the People’s Dialogue on Daang Matuwid at the Cebu Normal University
He explained that Mabini is known as the brains of the Philippine Revolution against Spain.
“Abad” is the ideologue of daang matuwid [straight path]. Abad was the Liberal Party’s campaign manager in the 2010 elections that brought Aquino to power.
But then all Filipinos also remember that Abad is the “chief architect” of the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.
Mabini’s provincemates in Batangas lashed at both President Aquino and Roxas for likening Abad to Mabini.
They issued the following statement; “Comparing Secretary Butch Abad to Mabini is a mockery and a grave insult to the memory of a great hero. Mabini could have created his version of DAP and PDAF (pork barrel) during his time, but he did not.
“ Mabini is the epitome of honesty, sincerity, and dedication to public service.”
Duterte pistol-whips a tourist
The incident involving Mayor Duterte is doubly weird, because it is being circulated by his promoter and political ally, former North Cotabato governor, Manny Piñol, who seeks to drum up interest in a Duterte presidential run.
As related by Piñol in a recent Facebook post, the incident involved Duterte’s humiliation of a tourist and it happened during the Kadayawan festival in Davao City last July.
One Filipino tourist was at a restaurant when he decided to smoke while having drinks.
Told by the owner of the establishment that smoking was prohibited in public places in Davao City, the tourist reportedly asked whether it was Duterte who was paying for his cigarettes.
The restaurant owner reported the matter to the police and within minutes, Duterte was at the restaurant.
Duterte “calmly sat beside the smoker, pulled out a snub-nosed .38 revolver and poked it at the man’s crotch.”
“Papiliin kita: barilin ko ang b…g mo, i-preso kita o kainin mo ang upos ng sigarilyo mo (I will let you choose; I will shoot you in your balls; I will imprison you, or you can eat your cigarette butt,” Duterte told the tourist.
The smoker picked up his cigarette butt and swallowed it.
“Never ever challenge the law,” Duterte told the man before he left the restaurant.
The entire incident reads like an elementary lesson in Fascist government. Fascism is a way of organizing society wherein government exercises dictatorial control over the lives of the people and people are not allowed to disagree with the government.
Do we want Davao’s experience of order and discipline to be replicated in the rest of our country?
Binay vows dream Cabinet
The incident involving Vice President Binay took place in Makati last Thursday, September 3.
He appeared in The Wallace Business forum at the Makati Shangri-La.
In his remarks, Binay told his audience: “We shall make sure that all Cabinet officials are the best and brightest in their area of specialization, with vast experience in professional and public management, and guided mainly by competence, integrity, and decisiveness.”
“We shall bring in former Cabinet and senior government members.”
But then his press officer issued a press release that said Binay will not appoint a politician to his Cabinet.
“Under a Binay administration, there will be no politicians in my Cabinet.”
When apprised of the statement, Binay said in an interview with reporters. “Hindi ko sinabi yun (I did not say that).”
But the harm was done. All media quickly reported the dream cabinet without politicians. And broadcast media played the story over and over.
When you commit a gaffe
What is to be done when you commit a gaffe or make a statement that is plainly erroneous and harmful to you personally?
You can grin and bear the consequences.
Or you can tough it out and pretend that the act does not hurt you at all, but even paints a good image of you.
In Duterte’s case, the stories about his being tough to crime and criminals are a key part of his persona and popular appeal. But he has also pushed the envelope too far. He has promised to throw criminals into Manila Bay.
And he has vowed to declare a revolutionary government if he is elected President.
It has gotten to the point where he scares not only the criminal-minded but ordinary and thinking citizens.
Roxas, by swallowing hook, line and sneaker Aquino’s exaltation of Abad, reinforces the perception that he has no mind of his own, or one original thought in his head.
Binay continues his practice of being off-the cuff in discussing policy. He has yet to deliver one coherent speech on his policy agenda. He just takes potshots at the Aquino administration and Roxas. And the object every time is publicity.
Not all publicity is good. Some stories bite you back.