BY way of an erratum, I begin this piece with a side discussion on what I’d call “mental cheat syndrome” among writers—or at least in me. It is this tendency of my fingers typing something else than what my mind originally intends for me to write. Take for example this phrase from my past article, A Day In The Lives of One-Time Communist Rebels: “Kintanar’s proposal, which was approved by then CPP Chairman Rodolfo Salas, alias Kumander Bilog … was for a quick, urban-based insurrection in the genre of the Sandinista uprising in Panama.” I knew, all right, Sandino was from Nicaragua, but why my fingers typed Panama is beyond me. I just thought, while ruing that I had incurred the chagrin of one reader over the mistake, I was a victim of a cheating by my mind. For my fingers could not have typed that erroneous information if it had not reacted to an impulse generated by my brain. So a piece of advice to writers—or at least, to me: be very careful in copy reading your article. Mental impulse that produces cheat is like a thief that attacks when you least expect it. Deadline pressure should not be an excuse for incorrect writing.
Better said than done, for here I go again. Breezing through my column yesterday, I cringe in self-shame as I read: “By this I do not mean to motivate the president into campaigning against the abolition of capitalism. He won’t do it; he can’t. Like the character of the proliferation of drug in Old China which came about as an offspring of capitalism, the Duterte presidency is an offspring of capitalistic funding.”
The original intended thought was that Duterte, being himself funded by capitalism, won’t campaign for its abolition. But the draft that got printed said Duterte won’t and can’t campaign against the abolition of capitalism. By this phrasing, Duterte becomes anti-capitalist, which was not the original intended thought; Duterte is pro-capitalist. In mathematics, when you multiply two negatives, the product is positive. Duterte’s “campaigning against” (a negative) the “abolition” (another negative) of capitalism makes him pro-capitalist.
Pardon such lengthy dissertation when all there is to say is mea culpa.
Now to the present point
“Napabilib niya ako (He got me admiring him), went my son’s reaction, talking about Duterte’s SONA just past that early dinner. Simple oversight had me missing the event on television, but goaded by my son’s appraisal of the presidential performance, I would hie off thereafter to town where to view in a computer shop the occasion on Youtube; Smartbro, our internet connection, is very erratic in our vicinity, as it is, says my other son, elsewhere, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t, making your watching on the internet a more-than-an-hour extravaganza such an ordeal that you’d throw up in exasperation. Youtube’s coverage of the affair was best for continuous viewing, complete with subtitles on salient points on the President’s speech.
In any case, my son’s perception of Duterte’s SONA indicated the popular inclination among the younger generation toward Duterte early on in the past presidential campaign, and his high approval rating of Duterte’s SONA was a mere carryover of his bias for Duterte during the elections. As a matter of course, however, democratic centralism is practiced in the family, and my son had to abide by the family consensus on who to vote: Jojo Binay.
Nothing personal in my distaste for Duterte. It is an honest alarm at having the delicate task of statecraft entrusted in the hands of someone who couldn’t quite make his mind up on whether he wanted to be President or not. Remember that he was wishy-washy on the idea at the beginning, all of a sudden withdrawing from the presidential race after making a big start with a rally at the Quirino Grandstand attended by 50,000 followers. After that he appeared to stand pat on the decision to withdraw, even cussing supporters who urged him to fight on.
“Sinabi nang ayoko, e. Ang tigas ng ulo nyo (I said I’m not running. Such hard-headed you)!” he told them.
His daughter Sarah did a grandstand act of her own, having her hair shaved in protest of her father’s withdrawal from the presidential contest. A photo of the bald-head pretty mestiza (who was lucky to have gotten her lovely Caucasian features from Duterte’s estranged wife) just enthralled the nation as it went viral on the social media, definitely adding much to the public-relations’ brilliant stroke of creating the image of a man so desired by the nation to be President.
But everything appeared doomed for Duterte, since he had failed to file his certificate of candidacy and the period for filing such COC was way past. But, again, lo! As fate would have it, a presidential candidate of PDP-Laban had withdrawn his candidacy and under Philippine electoral laws, Duterte, as member of PDP-Laban, can substitute for the withdrawn candidate. Never mind that the position for which the withdrawn candidate had filed his COC was as mayor of Pasay City, NOT AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES. And, lo! for the umpteenth time, COMELEC bent its rules, declaring that it was an honest mistake that the withdrawn candidate entered the position of Mayor of Pasay City instead of as President of the Republic of the Philippines, for, it ruled, if the intention was to run for the former position, why file it in the Comelec central office, which is site only for filing of COCs for national positions. But COC for the position of President is not the only category for filing in the Comelec central office but also that for Vice President and Senator. So why not rule that the “honest mistake” was for the intention of running either for Vice President or Senator? On what basis reflected in the COC of the withdrawn candidate could the Comelec have correctly ruled that the “honest mistake” was for the intention of running for President alone and not otherwise?
That’s how so trivialized has Duterte made of the presidency even from the filing of COC—nay, earlier even, as early as the stage of declaration of intent to run. By what genius had Duterte done it, but at every twist and turn of the presidential campaign, he had increased his following into legions, which went every which way he pulled their noses to. Every inch of the way, he threw in classic shenanigans that, mysteriously, had become hallmarks in the making of heroes. Remember the Beatles when they proclaimed themselves greater than Jesus Christ or Mohammad Ali declaring, “I’m the greatest.” And yet amaze how throngs were enamored. So there was Duterte, for instance, cussing the Pope and yet proceeding to enthrall Catholics, who come election time proved themselves no better than nitwits by voting President somebody who had no qualms about proclaiming his supreme blasphemy: “I don’t need Catholic votes.” The Philippines is unquestionably a Catholic country, so imagine the ultimate masochism by a people voting President somebody that had no need for them.
“Pasensya kayo, nilagay nyo ako rito (Just your luck, you put me here),” was Duterte’s favorite adlib in his SONA. It was an oft-repeated expression of a self-serving justification for his actions that had met with disfavor from the moral sectors of society.
Alluding to the Catholic priests particularly, he said, “While there is a separation of Church and State, there is no separation between God and government.”
He paused after making the utterance, conscious that he was mouthing a philosophical brilliance and expected a lusty applause for it. He made no elaborations on the statement, however, indicating that it was all there was to it, a saying meant purely for audience response. If this were so, then he achieved little, no louder than a ripple of handclaps.
(To be continued)