Frenemies
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2016 - 10:00am

As early as polling precincts opened today, we would be among the millions of Filipinos who voted for the new President and Vice President we have chosen to lead our country for the next six years. Incidentally, today also marks the last 52 days in office of outgoing President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III.

At the homestretch of election day, we were surprised with a sudden, last-minute offer of “unity talks” from former interior secretary Mar Roxas II, the anointed presidential candidate of President Aquino. Despite being the administration-backed candidate, Roxas has been trailing in the pre-polls surveys among the five presidential bets.

Out of the blue, the presidential standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP) announced his offer of “unity talks” with independent candidate, Sen. Grace Poe. In a hurriedly organized LP press conference last Friday, Roxas urged Poe to sit down with him for “unity talks,” citing the need for two of them to unite “for the sake of the country’s future.”

Roxas’ offer came at the penultimate day of the official 90-day campaign period. Naturally, the offer of Roxas as announced to the media was flatly rejected through the same mode. She swore she “won’t sell out” her supporters.

Actually, the announced “unity talks” merely confirmed earlier rumors of purported joining of forces to foil the possible win in the presidential election by front-running Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. This after the presidential standard-bearer of PDP-Laban dislodged Poe from the top as voters’ most preferred candidate during the crucial last survey periods.

A visibly irritated Poe immediately called for an unscheduled press conference. She vehemently denied and doused cold water on the rumored joining of forces with Roxas to stop Duterte’s feared victory in the presidential race.

Poe minced no words to lash back at the “daang matuwid” of President Aquino as a road that she won’t take, contrary to claims, and perhaps hopes of those behind spreading such idea.

As subsequent events unfolded the next day, it turned out the bright idea came no less from President Aquino. In exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, President Aquino confirmed he had raised the idea with Roxas and Poe, the latter through text messages he sent to her. He admitted his efforts to bring Roxas and Poe together, however, were “inconclusive.”

Duterte has been the leading presidential candidate in the past four survey periods of both the Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations. As of May 1-3 survey period of the SWS, Duterte firmed up his lead to 33 percent. Statistically tied are Poe with 22 percent and Roxas at 20 percent. Vice President Jejomar Binay had 13 percent and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago 2 percent.

Despite a barrage of attacks by his rivals from alleged unexplained bank deposits and properties, Duterte’s hold on the top spot remained solid. Duterte’s lead widened even after his controversial campaign pronouncements. Lately, Duterte’s publicly admitted communist links were now being used against him and raising the specter of dictatorship in the country if he is elected to the presidency.

Obviously in panic mode, the Roxas-Poe “unity talks” were the last-ditch administration tack against Duterte. They stepped up the ante when Duterte was officially announced as the endorsed presidential candidate of the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Adverting to Duterte’s more than 30 percent of the voters’ most preferred presidential candidate, President Aquino cited this could be more than offset by bringing Roxas and Poe together. The objective of which is to thwart Duterte’s march to Malacañang at all cost.

With no less than President Aquino at the forefront of the LP campaign against his presidential bid, Duterte smilingly dismissed them all. In ambush interview last week after appearing at The Star’s roundtable with presidential candidates, Duterte’s terse retort to P-Noy: “Tulog ka na lang, Tapos ka na.” (Just sleep. You’re over.)

The latest political developments at the national level are best replicated at the local level right here in the city of Manila, the premier capital of politics in our country. The rivals of re-electionist Mayor Joseph Estrada have switched forces after the former president solidified his lead in the mayoral race.

Rivals out to wrest leadership at Manila City Hall, namely, comebacking Mayor Alfredo Lim (LP) and Congressman Amado Bagatsing found themselves at each other’s necks instead of ganging up on Estrada. The switching of forces came after Lim decided to adopt as vice mayoral candidate Manila councilor Ali Atienza, the runningmate of Bagatsing. Atienza is the son of Buhay party-list representative, ex-Manila mayor Lito Atienza.

During our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, Lim and Atienza, now back in each others arms as allies, attacked Estrada’s re-election bid as something that would further worsen the present poverty situation in the city.

Atienza used to be Lim’s vice mayor until the latter decided to run for the presidency. But it was Estrada who won the presidential elections in May,1998 against his rivals who included Lim. Atienza ran and won as mayor of Manila.

Lim made a comeback bid at City Hall and challenged Atienza. But Atienza won his re-election bid for a third and last term. Fast forward. Lim and Atienza are back again as friends.

To justify the re-alignment of forces in the Manila mayoralty race, Atienza paraphrased during our weekly breakfast forum a popular proverb with his own twist: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Actually, it was a takeoff from an ancient proverb that remains immortal: ”The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

This simply means that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy.

But in the case of P-Noy’s proposed “unity talks” against Duterte, it sounded like Roxas is a “frenemy” of Poe, or are they not?

“Frenemy,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.

Actually, “frenemy” comes from the blend of the words friend and enemy.

According to the same dictionary, “frenemy” is not at all a new word but its popular use first started in 1977.

As a fact of life for politicians, here’s another word of wisdom. “I say: Keep your friends close, and your frenemies closer.”

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