IF, as the late writer Nick Joaquin once wrote, character is the man plus his circumstances, the Binay proclamation rally the other night told much of it for a number of UNA senatorial candidates. Their catch calls, which in film scripting are known as punch lines, did speak well of what they are.
“Ako po yung nakikita ninyong sumasayaw sa ‘Lovely Ness’ sa Channel 7. Sexy po ako noon, ngayon siksik na.” This was Alma Moreno, of course. As a punch line in her reminiscences on her alluring history, Alma teased: “Pero kahit na siksik, may asim pa.” The men folk were titillated, the women giggled. Just how that “asim” had gone through the years, was depicted in her calling to the stage her entire brood: two, teenaged boy and girl surnamed Marquez, one surnamed Quizon, and, according to her, her youngest whose name got drowned out in the din; no Fernandez was around. Well, the lovely seventeen-year-old Vanessa, who would seek a quiet corner with me where to study her lines in “Daluyong at Habagat,” her first starrer, had gone on to become the President of the League of Councilors of the Philippines, her credentials for being part of UNA’s senate slate.
Popular radio commentator Rey Langit, after narrating the many awards of honor given him for his achievements in the broadcast industry, thought he was being very clever when he threw the challenge to the audience: “Ano ang pipiliin ninyo? Impiyerno o langit?” Certainly that got the crowd hooked: “Langit!” And the bearded, bemoustached radio personality who already lost in a Senate bid one time walked back to his seat smarting. Did he ever realize that he must be causing the late President Manuel L. Quezon to turn in his grave? It was Quezon who at the height of the Philippines crusade for independence from the United States of America declared: “I would rather have a government run like hell by the Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans.”
In fact, the United States unavoidably figures in the May 2016 elections. It might even do something by way of frustrating those elections if only to keep Aquino in power in order to finish his businesses at the presidency for the Americans, for instance, passage of the BBL. In such a situation, a nationalist is left with no choice but to prefer “impiyerno” to “langit.”
Princess Jacel Kiram
A revelation to me was Princess Jacel Kiram, Princess of the Sultanate of Sulu. Atrocities committed by the MILF, the most bemoaned recently being the SAF 44 carnage, have the effect of creating in the public psyche a detestation of all things Muslim. I’d be a hypocrite if I said I haven’t got such perception. So I expected the Muslim candidate to be a serious-faced, belligerent fellow who’d uphold her Muslim heritage anywhere, anytime.
But no, the moment she took center stage garbed in Muslim clothing, all right, complete with characteristic veil that covered her entire head but for the dainty framing of her face, she struck up a picture of calm and pulchritude as is the image of Biblical virgins. Such physical aspects alone, I have studied, are factors for winning in elections. And yet she spoke, endearing her to the crowd even more. Her words were simple, sincere and wise. She admitted she was born a princess but prided in having been reared as all ordinary girls have been and therefore possessed of values of being human as you and I. She declared that Sabah is a territory of the Sultanate of Sulu but that the sultanate having become part of the Republic of the Philippines makes Sabah a territory of the Philippines.
She disclosed that if Sabah is recovered by the Philippines, it would be capable of providing one sack of rice a month to each of the one hundred million population of the country today. In sum, she reiterated she is a princess, but a princess with a “K”, which is a popular contraction of the word “karapatan,” meaning she is qualified to be a senator of the land. But her punch line is a pun: “K” for “Kiram.” And it sunk into her listeners.
Political naivette was reflected in Manny Pacquiao’s assertion that he is no “politico,” insinuating that being a “politico” connotes corrupt practice. I don’t know how many of the politicians in attendance said, if only to themselves, “Aray!”
Manny said if he were a “politico” he would not be in the UNA affair. “Hindi naman sa pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko… hindi sa pagyayabang, mas malaki pa sa pera ng congressman ang ginasta kong sariling pera sa (kaunlaran ng) aming probinsya.” The crowd roared in approval.
That’s one thing about the world boxing legend. He is always true to himself so that when he speaks, his listeners believe him. Thus when he proclaimed, “Walang presidente ang maaaring mamuno sa bayan kung hindi niya naranasan ang maging mahirap,” everybody readily took this as a reference to Vice President Binay; needless to say, Jojo was born poor, raised poor, and among the presidentiables, he is the one most capable of knowing, and thus properly address, the plight of today’s poor. But as Manny proceeded with his speech, he narrated his own poor beginnings, citing those days when street sidewalks were home to him and many times he survived by just drinking water, there being no food to eat.
Naughty me, for a moment I thought I was listening to Manny proclaiming his own claim to the presidency. Bob Arum said that some four years ago, “Manny will be president of the Philippines ten years from now.” Ten years thence would be 2022 – time for electing a president after Jojo Binay. That is, if Aquino holds back on his intention of frustrating the 2016 elections by whatever means and for whatever reason.
So effective was Manny’s proclaimed criterion for being president that when Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s turn to speak came, he quoted it. As to a writer, to be quoted by his peer is a signal honor, so should it be to a speaker quoted by someone not his equal really but ranks a lot higher.
Aside from host Manduluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos, Enrile was the only non-candidate onstage given the privilege to speak. He delivered a short speech that delved on the political stand of UNA, after which he told the party’s candidates, “Ikakampanya ko kayo lahat sa aking probinsya.”
Enrile’s province is Cagayan, in that valley in Northern Luzon which in my high school days I learned was the rice granary of the Philippines. I don’t know if it still is, rice smuggling from elsewhere in Southeast Asia being one of the most lucrative enterprises during the past two administrations. This, by the way, took aside from Manny who espouses, aside from inclusion of a sports development program in collegiate curriculum as a means of breeding top quality athletes, development of the country’s rice production in order to solve corruption in rice importation.
Cagayan is a neighbor of Isabela, home province of Vice President Binay. The Cagayan Valley taken together with Pangasinan is the starting point of a so-called voting corridor that traverses Central Luzon and extends all the way to Southern Tagalog. That corridor served as a rich wellspring of votes that made Jojo Vice President in 2010 and Nancy Binay senator in 2013.
At one time in the past, I gathered information that Senator Gringo Honasan was paying equal attention to addressing concerns in the Cagayan Valley as he did to his own Bicol region. I took time wondering why, and then I hit the explanation. Greg was a lieutenant of Senator Enrile in that tumultuous period of conflict with the Marcos dictatorship. Evidently their camaraderie hasn’t worn off all these years. In the UNA rally, Greg did the honor of introducing Enrile for his speech.
For his own introduction, Greg was first sung to, singing his campaign jingle, by his daughter-in-law, a contemporary rakista who is as pretty on the face as she is adept at the guitar. The jingle was a segue from a rock ditty which she dished out to the crowd’s delight. That done, Senator Honasan took the mike and gave his speech. Like General Getulio Napenas, who spent time reciting a litany of his forebears who were all military officers and who all died gallant deaths in duty, Gringo spoke in a serious tone, no effort at dishing out any degree of entertainment.
In an article that came out in this paper that day, I called the event Binay D-Day, perceiving it as the final surge toward Jojo’s capture of Malacañang, hence, an allegory to the Allies defeating the Nazis in World War II. Well, Jojo’s rally signaled such surge indeed. For if that were to be replicated over and over again the country over, it will sweep all opposition over come elections time.
What took place in Welfareville, Mandaluyong City from mid-afternoon to well toward midnight was no political rally as political rallies go.
It was a grand production show, a spectacle splurged with glitz, glow and glitter, each episode woven in exquisite order, much like segments of a fugue, intricately crafted such that no element is meant to strike up superfluity. Speeches were measured obviously to avoid boredom in the crowd and interplayed with entertainment numbers that were functional in the overall flow of the presentation. For instance, ushering in the entry of Alma Moreno were the dance numbers of two of her children, and that of Gringo Honasan was the rock performance of his daughter-in-law.
And the setting was fantastic. Magnificence was achieved by its occupation of the entire long stretch of 9 De Pebrero, from Shaw Boulevard to as far as the eyes can see toward the Pasig River end. Thousands upon thousands filled every inch of this stretch. The stage, a sturdy structure fabricated from steel with a semi-dome roof, nearly encompassed the entire width of the street, allowing only for side passages which thereby made it approximate a theater-in-the-round; those at the back of the stage sheltered with tents viewed the proceedings through television monitors. In fact, this area was reserved for the press and the VIPs.
The choice of the place as rally site was never explained at any point in the affair, but it must connote some significant foreboding. “9 De Pebrero,” the name of the street, is the very date of the event, February 9. Observing this, I recalled the homily of the priest at the necrological services for my mother some years back. She died at the ripe age of 97. According to the priest, 9 in Latin is novum, meaning new, so that her passing, far from signifying death, meant entry into a new life.
What made Jojo choose 9 De Pebrero the site for launching his presidential campaign? Was it pure coincidence that his February 9 launch of his fight took place on the street bearing exactly the same date for its name? And if, as the priest cited above put it, 9 signified entry into a new life, then the convergence of 9s in both time and space of the Binay D-Day must early on signify success of his aspiration to bring about at long last the cherished new life for the Filipino people.
And so, that being the case, bring on the show’s finale.
Surely Ai Ai de las Alas made some spiel before belting out a hip-hop ditty, but that’s routine prelude to every performance. “Wala akong talent fee dito,” she declared, and Jojo threw in amusement while the crowd lustily guffawed. “Totoo,” she said. “Tamaan ako ng kidlat kung meron. Kita nyo, buhay pa ako. Kasi totoo.”
And Ai-Ai narrated that she got close to VP Binay when one New Year Eve he visited the wake of her mother. No other visitor was around, that time being one for family reunions for those who would otherwise be there visiting the wake also. Yet, Ai Ai sounded melancholic, her voice indicating drama, who should be there but the Vice President. Whereupon she executed a perfectly-timed emotional shift: “Ang cute pala ni VP.”
Jojo’s laughter was boomed out by the thunderous unison of the laughing masses. Ai-Ai had not been Best Actress for nothing. Toward the end of her bouncy number, she got Jojo wiggling and bouncing with her like a pro. Somebody whispered to her that she should have wiggled and bounced with Vice Presidential Candidate Gringo Honosan first, at which she tugged at Gringo and shook and rattled with him before ending her performance.
So now, Ai Ai’s performance must segue to Mandaluyong Mayor Ben Hur Abalos introducing the man whom he said he had regarded like his own father, the next President of the Republic of the Philippines, Jejomar C. Binay.
Jojo’s speech lacked the bombast and braggadacio typical of political tirades, having neither flair for oratorical humbug nor touches of histrionics. It was a straightforward enumeration of what he intends to do by way of advancing the plight of the poor: jobs for the unemployed; free education for the youth, including such needs as school bags and school materials; health care for the sick, subsistence assistance to the elderlies.
Specifically, he aims to abolish income tax for wage earners with monthly incomes P30,000 and below; improve further the good benefits from the 4Ps Program, aiming to get rid of corruption afflicting it now; expand the coverage of the CCT so that it includes seniors aged 60 to 64.
Overall, he vows to eradicate the poverty of Filipinos now numbering 11 million.
Grit in his voice, he oathed: “Sobra na! Tama na!”
It was a call too familiar to be forgotten, first uttered by Cory against Marcos in 1986. There is this difference, however. From Cory’s mouth, it had one last call. Was that a deliberate omission Jojo made of that last call? Or was it a betrayal of a deep caution he was exercising. As things stand, he is on the way to victory. Any rocking of the electoral boat will disturb the trend of fair, honest and clean election, which are his winning factors. What’s three months more of waiting for the election to take place anyway? And then victory. No need to shout that last call anymore.
But that’s only true if the dictator is willing to wait for election to take place. What if he is not?
Nobody seems to have noticed it, but the minute Aquino defied the Supreme Court TRO on the GMA travel ban, the Aquino dictatorship began creeping into place. It continued to worm in through the country’s democratic system with the hasty signing by 188 members of the House of Representatives of the 8 Articles of Impeachment in a record 3-hour plenary session against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The conviction of Corona, as the late Senator Joker Arroyo had feared, not only succeeded in putting the judiciary at his bidding but also held the Senate captive as well.
Will anybody come forward and deny that beginning with the Corona impeachment Aquino had exercised an undeclared one-man rule?
Anybody who has dared contravene his wishes inevitably ended up in incarceration through the simple expedience of the Ombudsman finding probable cause for graft charges filed against him. Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla have languished in detention at Camp Crame for months now, all for that “probable cause” machination. Senator Enrile had been in their company but the Supreme Court issued an order granting his petition for bail. Everybody knows now the Supreme Court acts according to Aquino’s wishes. Did Aquino agree to Enrile’s release on bail? And why?
In any case, rulings of probable cause either of graft, corruption or plunder charge against an alarming number of solons had already been made by the Ombudsman, notably against Senators JV Ejercito and Lito Lapid. What do these rulings serve other than as Damocles swords above their heads, or else… Is it any wonder, for instance, that JV’s mother Guia, who is Mayor of San Juan, came out into the open endorsing Aquino’s protégée Mar Roxas?
The writing is on the wall. The Constitution mandates that the President may declare martial law for 60 days. This presumes that those sixty days are within his constitutionally-prescribed term. When does his term end? June 30, and sixty days to June 30 is April 30, the latest Aquino can make his planned move. But April 30 is just 9 days to election day – when Jojo’s winning the presidency shall have been quite evident and shall have become clearly the target for which the election has to be called off. If Aquino is ever going to declare martial law, it will have to be done much earlier, at a time still much way off the actual conduct of the election.
For all we know, such time can be now.
So the better for the nation that Jojo should have shouted out that ultimate punch line following the first two he uttered: “Sobra na! Tama na!Alisin na!”