YOU just have to turn it into a joke, which is typical of our Filipino predisposition to turn stressful, sometimes tragic events into moments for laughter. We use parody as a form of resistance. We are living and breathing exhibits of what James Scott has theorized as everyday forms of resistance. Mikhail Bakhtin was probably thinking of us when he theorized about the carnivalesque, where court jesters use humor as a way to criticize tyrants and escape their wrath, for in the end who would take clowns seriously.
The problem is this. It seems that it is not us who are becoming clowns, but our politicians, or at least that is what they have become. They seem not to take seriously the rituals of democracy, such as the electoral process. And here, I am not just referring to people we have officially labeled as nuisance candidates, like the one who promised to electrocute Covid-19 out of existence by making those infected sit in a chair charged with 12,000 volts of electricity. We might as well take that remedy, actually, for us to be spared the spectacle of how a president and his allies have now turned our 2022 elections into, at best, a comedy show, at worst, a farce.
Or we can be serious about the ramifications and ponder on how low President Rodrigo Duterte and his political party look at us that they would even think of playing games with one of the fundamental cornerstones of constitutional democracy.
First assault was when the President trifled with term limitations and declared his intention to run for vice president, a matter that could face serious constitutional challenges and push our country to the precipice of a crisis. While Duterte has withdrawn his plan, there is nothing in his imaginative mind that can stop him from changing it once again and decide to run. It is still possible that he would file as a substitute for Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go come November 15, the last day for filing substitution proceedings. Few doubt that Go is an obedient pawn, a senator who declared his undying loyalty to his president that one cannot imagine to what extent and limit, if there is a limit, he would follow his orders and his wishes.
The second assault is this obvious exploitation of the same loophole in the election laws, of a political party deliberately putting up a placeholder for a candidate, a bench warmer who is purposively placed not as a serious candidate. We can safely say that Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa is a real and breathing nuisance candidate, simply because he obviously filed his candidacy for president not for the purpose of running as a serious candidate, but simply as a strategy to go around the rules.
Whether the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng bayan (PDP-Laban) is unable to field a candidate because Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio remains recalcitrant in her refusal to run for president, or this is just the same strategy to keep us all guessing or give more time to raise funds and strike a commitment with funders, one thing is certain. This is a callous, audacious and very obvious act of impunity to trifle with election laws just because there is a loophole, and because they can.
The only reason a political party is allowed to substitute their candidates is if something unexpected happens — that is, the candidate dies, is incapacitated, withdraws due to personal reasons, or is disqualified. It is not supposed to be used as a planned strategy deliberately designed to circumvent rules, or game the system. It is one thing to file a candidacy with the intent to finish the race but is forced to withdraw due to circumstances beyond the control of anyone. It is another to file a candidacy simply to warm the bench for someone. The first is a legitimate cause, while the second is a perfect example of a nuisance candidate.
Bato dela Rosa, in filing his candidacy, is nothing but a nuisance in the electoral process. He fits the legal definition of a nuisance candidate as someone who files his certificate of candidacy to put the election process in mockery. He may not be as delusional as the usual nuisance candidates that we love to make fun of, but he and his enablers, particularly his political party PDP-Laban, has certainly mocked not only the Commission on Elections, the electoral process and the democratic process. He most definitely mocked all of us and took us for fools to fall for this travesty.
People are now speculating about the many possibilities. There are those who anticipate that eventually Sara Duterte-Carpio will relent and run for president. This is a very real possibility, considering that the bench of PDP-Laban has suddenly become too shallow. The mere fact that they are doing these things while former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has filed his certificate of candidacy indicates that President Duterte has very little respect for Marcos. Either that, or Marcos is also part of this mockery, and that the alternative plan is to put in Bato as a benchwarmer in case Sara decides to run but for vice president, de la Rosa can just withdraw, and Marcos can then assume an alliance with PDP-Laban for a Marcos-Duterte tandem. A Duterte-Marcos tandem is no longer in the picture since Marcos cannot file for the vice presidency as a substitute candidate for Go since he is not a member of PDP-Laban and he has already filed for president.
And then there is the ultimate travesty — the Duterte daughter runs for president to replace dela Rosa, and Duterte the father takes back his withdrawal and becomes a substitute for Go and runs for vice president.
"Sara na, naging Bato pa." We may just have to hope this is all just a farcical comedy because seriously, the alternative is frighteningly offensive.