Home Op-Ed Columns Opinion on Page One Lost, confused and played

Lost, confused and played

ANTONIO CONTRERAS

THERE is sometimes a discernible method in madness. But what is distressing is when people are so lost in their idolatry that they begin to stretch the limits of madness.

Take the case of the diehard Duterte supporters (DDS) who are still busy attacking Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, raining epithets on her, just because she accepted the post of anti-drug half-czarina of the Republic. Yet, these people refuse to frontally call out the President for appointing her to that post. Normally, people would not just criticize the appointee they consider to be incompetent, but would also criticize the one who appointed the alleged incompetent in the first place. And even more deserving of being called out is when the appointing authority has just publicly called out his appointee as incompetent and even advised people not to vote for her, and despite this still went through with the appointment. It’s like hiring as your investment consultant someone whom you had just accused of losing your wife’s investments.

These Duterte loyalists would even go to the extent of demeaning those who call out the idiocy. They call the latter as clueless and ignorant about the genius of a President who in their eyes has been elevated to god-like status — infallible, omniscient, omnipotent and who only the loyalists can truly read. They seem not to realize the oddity of the entire proposition of lambasting Robredo who couldn’t do anything right being appointed by a President they deify as one who couldn’t do anything wrong. If they believe that there is genius in the President’s appointment of Robredo, then shouldn’t they just shut up and accept that appointment as a child of that genius? What the DDS create in vigorously attacking Robredo is to make objective observers think that she is a big mistake appointed by a President who couldn’t commit a mistake.

What’s hilarious is to see the DDS, who even include some senators and the House speaker himself, get so busy maligning the idea of Robredo recalibrating the drug war by toning down “tokhang.”And then we have the spectacle of Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo now saying that Malacañang is even open to totally abandoning tokhang if that is what Robredo wants. It is as if Malacañang has now shifted its trolling away from its political enemies and toward its loyal base. This forces many to ask how there can be genius in the President undermining the narratives of people who are willing to die for him, that they go to the extent of swimming in the shark-infested waters of irrationality and back if only to justify his every lapse, misstep and mistake, and paint these as part of some grand plan to rule the Republic or troll his political enemies.


And then you realize that perhaps the President knows that his loyal base will always be there for him. He expects them to loyally defend and justify his actions, including not criticizing him for appointing a woman they truly and genuinely hate. At the same time they keep on hitting Robredo as she mulls abandoning tokhang, even if it is something that the President would support, if we believe what Panelo said.

Many from among the Duterte loyal base maintain that President Duterte is simply playing Robredo. But, as it now appears, he might as well be playing even his loyal supporters. Duterte may be unpredictable and hard to read, but it is his loyal supporters who are so predictable. And many of them keep on insisting that the critics of the President cannot fathom his thinking and his brilliance. They dismiss all criticisms as simply coming from the naïve, uninitiated and inexperienced, or those who are woefully incapable of reading the genius in the President’s strategy.

But this simply begs the question. If the DDS are the chosen ones who can read the mind of the President, while the rest of us are simply the bitter and ignorant sore losers and rejects, then why is it that the DDS appear to be at a loss in explaining the President? Under what conditions would one qualify as somebody who is an expert political strategist, posting the usual accolade of how brilliant the President’s strategy is in appointing Robredo as anti-drug half-czarina, but is stunned that the President would agree with Robredo about the possibility of junking tokhang?

Would taking refuge in the jaded argument that he is just taking Robredo for a ride, that it is just a joke, that he is not serious, or that it is some kind of a figure of speech — maybe this time an oxymoron because of the contradictions, and not a hyperbole — be enough to lend some semblance of method to the madness? But isn’t this line of argument already so overused and so predictable, that incessantly deploying these to explain the President in turn negates the image of him as an unpredictable genius? How can the President remain unpredictable and therefore hard to pin down when the rationalizations provided by his loyal base have become a formulaic, canned and menu-like list of, well, predictable explanations?

Indeed, the art of war also dictates that battles are won by confusing the enemy. There is no question when the President trolls, takes for a ride and twits the political opposition. Deceiving a prey has been in the book since the beginning of predatory politics. Infidelity towards political adversaries is fair game. It would not be out of the grand script of political warfare for President Duterte to play Robredo and put her in a place where she can be offered as a sacrifice to the altar of the gods of failure and self-destruction.

But the DDS are not his enemies. They are there to provide him a massive firewall solid enough to thwart any moves to take him down. So why is it that they are also being played?

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